Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cape Blanco

We started our day pretty much as usual.  I sat sipping coffee too long to get everything done before the morning campground coffee hour, so Gene went down for that while I got my shower and fixed our picnic lunch.

We headed south today along US 101 stopping at almost every pullout.  We didn’t rush, but rather savored the fresh air, sunshine, and great ocean views.  We’re not much for crowded, white sand beaches with seemingly miles of burnt flesh, but these mostly deserted short stretches of sand and the contrasting rugged rocks are delightful.  We drove as far as Gold Beach before turning around.

Just north of Port Orford is Cape Blanco State Park.  We drove out there to tour the lighthouse.  The folks in these parts say the Cape is the westernmost tip of the 48 contiguous United States.  Residents of Cape Alava, Washington dispute that claim.  Seems to me in this day of high technology someone could say for sure.  For sure, Cape Blanco is the westernmost point in Oregon.  It’s lighthouse is the oldest (built in 1870) and the highest (256 feet above sea level) along the Oregon coast.  Surprisingly, it’s 6 foot tall Fresnel lens is still warning sea captains of the dangers of offshore rocks in this area.  Being a working light, it’s maintenance is the responsibility of the Coast Guard, but it is open for tours through the administration of the state park.  We also had the added treat of high winds today.  The volunteer in the gift shop confirmed our guess of 30-35 mph winds.  He also included the 40 mph gusts.  We could hardly stand up as we walked up to the lighthouse.

After the tour of the light, we stopped at the nearby historic Hughes House, also operated by the state park and open for tours.   This Victorian style home was built in 1898 and was the home of Patrick Hughes, a rancher in the area.

Our tour guide at the Hughes House was quite informative, not only about this historic structure, but also in regards to the weather here.  We have been enjoying sunny days with temps in the mid to upper 60s and cool nights in the 50s.  We have been surprised at the wind, however.  Since we thought the wind was just a passing weather pattern we have been expecting each day to see it’s demise.  Our guide made a few statements about the weather along the Oregon coast.  The first, I thought was the most enlightening--we have 9 months of rain and 3 months of wind.

Although we had packed a picnic lunch, we were very close to home when our stomachs began to need attention so we spread our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on our own dining table.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cape Arago

Yesterday we basically vegged out.  I spent some time getting my photos organized and labeled and Gene washed the bugs off the truck and Everest.  We certainly didn’t do anything worth writing home about.

Looking for sea creatures
Today we drove about 50 miles north to the small town of Coos Bay and concentrated our efforts on the coastline of Cape Arago.  We found the sea lions sunning themselves at Simpson Reef.  The big guy on the rock alone was making such a noise that we continued to hear him bellow the whole time we were exploring the tide pools about a half mile farther down the beach.
Tide pools

The tide pools were fascinating.  We had never seen them before and we were like little children searching for something exciting in each pool.  We saw several starfish, but I think our favorite find was the sea urchins.  There were several anemone, as well.  The water in most pools was so clear it was almost like there was no water at all.  In other pools it was a little cloudy.
Purple sea urchin

Purple starfish
Sea anemone
At the top of the cliff from the tide pools was a small picnic area which was perfect for our lunch.  The weather was great, really.  The sun was shining in the big blue sky and the temperature was somewhere around 60.  Anywhere that was sheltered from the wind was very pleasant, but in the wind was a bit cold.  Luckily, the tide pools were sheltered, making this a very nice first experience.
View from our lunch spot
We can always find a trail, of course, and today we walked a couple miles along the Oregon Coast Trail.  This trail, like the name implies, is a linear trail which runs the entire length of the Oregon Coast--some 350  miles.   We got some great views of the Cape Arago Lighthouse as well as the sea stacks just south of the lighthouse.  It was amazing to see how high the spray reached when the wave came crashing into the rock.
Sea lions at Simpson Reef

Tomorrow, we will drive south along the coast to check out the views from some of the pullouts along US 101.  We were unable to do that when we were towing the Everest the other day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Humbug Mountain

This has been yet another beautiful day in Port Orford.  The sun has been shining all day with a steady breeze.  Right now, my thermometer registers 68 degrees.  The wind makes it a little chilly in the shade, but in the sun it is very pleasant.
Wild iris

Tiger Lily

After morning coffee with the gang, we drove the short 5 miles or so to the Humbug Mountain State Park.  Our trail head was located at the back of a parking lot right off US 101, so it was easy to find.  We started our 3-mile, 1500 feet uphill climb about 8:30.  This was a forest hike and we only got one little glimpse of the coastline on our ascent.  The summit was almost completely treed in not offering a view there, either.  We knew the ocean views were very limited before undertaking this hike, so we were not disappointed nor surprised.

The hike was very nice without views.  The treadway was mostly dirt, typical of mountain sidehill cut trail building.  There were very few roots and only one rocky place, but it was so short you hardly noticed (if, indeed, it is possible not to notice rocks).  With the dense forest, rhododendron, and fern, the hike was actually quite reminiscent of a trail we might find in the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.  

There were several wildflowers in bloom. We saw tiger lily (which might be called Oregon lily here) and wild iris.

This evening, we are gathering with many of our fellow campers to enjoy a spaghetti dinner together.  I am getting the impression that, besides the morning coffee and afternoon social, there are covered dish dinners on a regular basis here.  What a fun place to be.  Of course, I’d have to hike everyday to work off all those extra calories.

We don’t really have a plan for tomorrow, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find us just hanging around the house and relaxing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oregon Coast at Port Orford

We were busy little beavers today.  Right off the bat, I forgot about the morning coffee at the coffee room which is adjacent to the 4 pm social hour room.  I had my feet propped up enjoying my second cup of coffee when I remembered about the 7 AM event.  We raced around throwing off pajamas, throwing on cloths, and brushing teeth and managed to get there before everyone left.  We probably won’t go to every coffee just like we probably won’t go to every social hour, but we want to go these first few days to get to know our neighbors.  This is a very friendly park; everyone stops to speak if they see you outside.  We want to know who we’re talking to.

After about 45 minutes with the java junkies, we went to the grocery and then I spent a little quality time at the laundry facility.  After a little lunch, we went exploring.

We came to the Oregon coast to see the Oregon coast so that is where we started.  And that is pretty much where we stayed all afternoon.  We were on our way to the Port of Port Orford, but got distracted by large letters painted on the road which pointed the way to an “ocean view”.  It turned out to be on the hill above the Port.  How convenient.  This port is different from what you would expect a small port to look like--there are no boats in the water around the pier.  Port Orford has a very short jetty and is largely unprotected from swells, so the boats using this port (mostly commercial fishing boats) have to be hoisted up on the pier when not in use.  While on the pier, each boat has a wheeled trailer it sits on.  Very unusual.

From the Port we went to the Visitor Center to inquire about hikes in the area.  The Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is located at the end of the parking lot for the Battle Rock City Park.  This enormous rock which sits right on the coastline was the site of the conflict between the local Native Americans and the first white settlers to come to the area.  There is a little path which leads up and out over the rock.  We didn’t do that, but we did walk along the beach for a way until the wind got the best of us.
Battle Rock

The Port of Port Orford
Our next stop was the Port Orford Lifeboat Station Museum.  After a short chat with the lady manning the information station in the museum who happened to also be a full-time RVer, we toured the small museum.  There are a couple trails near the museum which offered fantastic views of the coast line.  We followed two of these trails to their respective viewpoints.  Great views, but the wind was incredible.  We’ll have to go back later for a more pleasant stroll.

Tomorrow, we plan a real hike to the highest point around here--Humbug Mountain.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Port Orford Village

We are settled on the Oregon Coast for our 11 day stay in the area.  We arrived here in the early afternoon after a 2-day drive from Fort Klamath.

Our first travel day was a 130 mile run to Grant’s Pass.  This was a relatively easy day.  We didn’t leave Fort Klamath until about 11 AM.  Since we had a short drive, we didn’t want to get to our overnight parking lot at Wal-Mart too early.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the warmest days this season.  Since we had a few groceries to pick up, we spent more time than really necessary enjoying the air conditioning and browsing the deli.

Today, we followed US 199 from Grant’s Pass south into California to US 101.  We then followed 101 north along the coast to Port Orford.  The scenery was breathtaking, especially after we got to the coast.  However, the drive along US 199 was, though scenic, a bit hair-raising.  In California the road passed through redwood groves where these giant trees were growing right at the edge of the roadway.  One tree had been hit so many times that it had a gouge in its trunk about where our Everest would have hit.  This huge tree was also sitting at the inside of a blind curve.  We happened to be at this exact location at the same time that a Cardinal 5-wheel came around the curve.  Somehow, we all got by without a scratch.  I spent the rest of the trip trying to avoid a panic attack.  Somehow, I escaped that also.  Thank you, Lord.

US 101 was one curve after another, but the road was wider and we did not encounter a single tree in the road.  There was a detour in the small town of Brookings which we misunderstood and ended up having to turn around in the driveway of a vacated house.  Thankfully, there were no trees or even shrubbery so we were able to combine lots of yard in our turn and soon got back on track.

Port Orford Village RV park is a beautifully landscaped small RV park.  The owner’s, Cindy and Tim, are constantly looking for ways to make their guests feel at home and have what they need for an enjoyable stay.  There are several planned social activities, one of which is the daily 4 pm social hour.  Many of us gathered around in the semi-outdoor social room and we met several of our new neighbors.

Also here, just arriving today, are Gordon, Juanita, and their furry companion, Bodie.  We have followed their adventures through their blog, Seeing the USA in our Chevrolet, for a couple years.  We finally got to meet these good people last winter while we were in the Rio Grande Valley.  We were excited to see them again today.  In fact, Gordon came out to meet us as we were getting registered at the office.

After social hour, we needed to fill our tummies.  Upon high recommendation, we ended up at the Crazy Norwegian for fish and chips.  Yummy.  We were not disappointed.  Behind the Crazy Norwegian was a fantastic view of the rugged Oregon coast and the Pacific Ocean.

We are anxious to get started with our exploration of this area.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake was given National Park status in 1902 to protect the deepest lake (1943 feet) in the United States.  Crater Lake is fed only by snow and rain, not by any streams or rivers.  Therefore, it is considered to be the world’s cleanest large body of water.  The lake was created when the volcano, Mount Mazama, collapsed making a huge caldera.  Over time, rain and snowmelt filled that 6 mile wide basin.

Today was a clear, bright sunny day--perfect for our tour of the park.  Only the west rim road is open; the east rim is still covered in snow.  It takes a long time for 44 feet of snow to melt.  The scheduled park activities such as ranger talks and the boat rides on the lake don’t even get underway until July.  But we are here to see the lake and that we did.

We drove directly to Rim Village where we had outstanding views of the lake.  It was incredibly blue, as it is, I guess, all the time.  Near the edge there was a film of pollen floating on the surface; otherwise, it was perfect.  We walked back and forth along the paved path to get as many different angles as possible.  Before leaving Rim village, we went inside the historic Crater Lake Lodge.  The lodge, which overlooks the lake, originally opened in 1915 and was renovated in the 1990s.

Still searching out that best view, we drove around the west side of the lake along the rim drive, stopping at every overlook.  I don’t know if we ever got the perfect view, but every one was spectacular.  We were able to get a short distance along the East Rim Road, but soon turned back.  We stopped again at Rim Village and took our picnic to the stone wall at the rim’s edge.  Not a bad view for lunch.

On our way out of the park, we stopped at the Visitor Center.  I picked up a book of John Muir’s meditations on nature and we watched the short film about the history of the lake.  We also stopped in at the Mazama Village Camp store--the first campground in the park.  It has a better supply of grocery and camping items than the General Store in Fort Klamath.

This evening we will be getting ready to move tomorrow.  We will be stopping at a Wal-Mart for the night somewhere between here and Port Orford on the coast.

Monday, June 22, 2009

From the Cow Pasture

This is my new internet “hot spot”.  While it is a little inconvenient, it is such an adventure.  The view is far better than Starbucks, but it doesn’t smell quite so nice.  This is actually a scenic view pullout on Oregon 62 just past Fort Klamath.

Yesterday, when we came up here, we pulled off the road and almost immediately a car pulled in front of us with Tennessee (Nashville, Davidson County) tags.  Wow, I couldn’t believe it.  Gene went out to introduce himself, but it turned out that the car was a rental and the folks were Canadians.  Before Gene could get back into the truck, another car stopped to inquire directions to a scenic byway he wanted to travel.  During the 20 minutes or so we were parked there, almost every car that came by pulled over to take a look.  A few took pictures of the cows.  When we left there were 2 cars still there.  In the first car, a picnic was going on; in the second the driver was on the phone.  Perhaps this is truly the local “hot spot” for a cell signal.

According to the local weather forecast, tomorrow (Tuesday) is supposed to be the best day for bright sunny skies.  We decided to hold off until then for another visit to Crater Lake.  As you can see from the photo above, clouds and fog do no offer the best views of the lake.  We’ll wait to make the 25 mile drive when we will have the best chance for great views.

We are staying in the tiny village of Fort Klamath.  About the  only thing here is the General Store, our campground, the Post Office, and a small motel.  This was really an army outpost to protect the settlers during the early 1800s.  It is beautiful, flat farmland nestled between the mountains.  Today it is large cattle ranches.  Our weather has been cool with a low temperature last night of 34.  It is supposed to get to 70 this afternoon, but it better hurry.

Since we didn’t drive up to Crater Lake today, we used the day for chores.  Gene spent most of the morning working on our travel plans for the next couple months.  I did the house cleaning including the dreaded freezer defrosting.  Peanut hates the vacuum so he ran from one end of the Everest to the other trying to escape that monster.  After the vacuuming was completed, having exhausted himself, he napped the rest of the morning.

It has actually been nice to have a couple days to hang around the ole home place and get caught up on chores and rest a little.  We where on the go almost nonstop while at Lassen.  It was time for a more relaxed schedule.

So, I’m sending this to you from the cow pasture hoping you are having as blessed a day as we are.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Campground Comments

Our plan for today was to drive to Crater Lake, stop at the Visitor Center, stop at the overlooks, and view the lake.  We did that, but with a cold wind blowing and the snow falling, we left after a very short visit.  The forecast is for sunnier skies tomorrow.  We’ll go back then.  We came home and enjoyed our picnic lunch in the warmth of our own home.

This seems like a good time to make a few comments about the last campground we were in--Hat Creek Resort.  Don’t let the word “resort” fool you.  Now, I know I’m just an old country girl and haven’t been around much, but when I see “resort”, I think of pools, tennis courts, and elegant dining.  This place had none of the above, although they did sell BBQ out the window on Friday nights.  Even with a tablecloth you can’t make BBQ elegant.

Hat Creek Resort is a very old campground established sometime in the 30s.  Within the last 30 or 40 years they have added a small motel and 6 or 8 cabins.  The campsites are scattered about to fill in all the available space.  The dirt roads wind in and out and all around to access the campsites that don’t seem to be arranged in any particular pattern.  They have no regular size nor shape, either.  There are a few pull-thrus, but the electrical lines are too low for the tall rigs (those who would want a pull-thru) to pass underneath.  That was how we ended up in a back-in site.  The site was huge and on the far side from the cabins and motel area away from traffic.  We had a nice view of the forest beyond.  Because the campground is old, the trees are giants making it more like a forest service or National Park campground than a private place.  It had a real rustic feel, which we like.

What we didn’t like was the road system.  The dirt roads were too narrow for today’s RVs.  The park is trying to save the trees, and I can really appreciate that effort, but at the same time, I feel like they should take out those which are growing up into the side of the road.  They really ought to consider making a loop or some sort of pattern for the campsites to help eliminate so many twists and turns to get parked.

The worst part about the park were the seasonal sites.  Apparently, there are either no regulations or no regulations enforced, because there were sites that might have been landfills.  According to the camp host who parked us, they will no longer offer seasonal sites after this year.  Everyone has been asked to clean up their site and move along.  Also according the the camp host, the new owners want to fix the place up.  We did see efforts being made to clear out the dead wood and make some repairs.

To its credit, it is a fishermen’s weekend paradise.  Hat Creek runs right through the park and there were fishermen out at all times of the day.  On the weekend, the place fills up.  We were shocked on Friday afternoon to see the number of campers (mostly young families) coming for the weekend.

We had a site with full hook-ups (30 amps), cable TV (not many channels), and free WiFi, but there is no cell service.  We are rarely without a phone, so that was a bit inconvenient.

The internet was a learning experience.  The campground was using Nomad ISP.com for their service.  Each guest got 2 free hours every 8 hours.  When you log onto the internet, you get a greeting from Nomad which explains that your campground is offering this limited time service because there were those of you (and you know who you are) that misused the free service.  Now if you want unlimited access, you have to pay.  If you don’t want to pay, then you get 2 free hours out of every 8 hour period.

I learned on the first day, that you have to read every word on every screen in order to fully understand what you get.  Since I’m not one to read every word carefully, I didn’t quite grasp the full implication of the word “continuous” which was stuck in there before the “2 free hours”.  That first day, I logged on and checked my email.  Took about 10 minutes.  Then we went off to see Lassen.  When I came home, I wrote my story and downloaded my photos.  When I went to log on again, I was denied.  That was when I remembered seeing that little word “continuous”.    I had to wait until after 9 PM until my 8 hours had expired.  After that we planned our internet time a little better.  It worked out fine.

We actually liked this old, rustic campground and the staff were very friendly and eager to accommodate.  But we won’t stay there again in a rig this large.

While I’m onto campgrounds, let me quickly say that Crater Lake Resort has no Cable TV, no cell signal and no WiFi.  This morning as we were driving to Crater Lake we found a place on the side of the road by the cow pasture where I can get a signal for my air card.  Photo of my internet hot spot tomorrow.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crater Lake Resort

After a little twisting and turning to get out of the Hat Creek Resort Campground, we started our run for Oregon.  Hat Creek is on CA 89 and that is where we stayed until we got to Mount Shasta.  There we took a slight right onto US 97 into Oregon.  Now we are safely tucked away in a beautiful site in the tiny community of Fort Klamath just south of Crater Lake National Park.
US 97 with our view of Mt Shasta
Our drive today was very pleasant.  All the highways were in good condition and we only passed one area of construction which we hardly noticed.  US 97 had a few rough spots where the patches didn’t come flush with the pavement, but this didn’t last long and they were really very minor.

The scenery along the way was pretty special with Mt Shasta’s snow capped peak rising 14,000 feet toward the sky.  In oregon, US 97 passed along the eastern edge of Lake Klamath.  We did not lack for beautiful landscape to feast our eyes upon.

Crater Lake Resort is a very small campground with only 20 sites.  Interior roads and sites are gravel and everything else is covered with freshly mowed green grass.  Our site backs up to a crystal clear shallow creek suitable for canoeing.  The office has canoe for free, if we so desire.  Being afraid of water, there are few places I would feel comfortable in a boat.  This is certainly one of them.
View out my back window
There are a few small cabins for rent, in addition to the tent and RV sites.  The office contains a very small grocery stocked mostly with snacks and ice cream.  There is a small playground and a rec room, making this a kid friendly place.  The rate of $25/night is very reasonable for a campground this nice, especially only about 20 miles from a National Park.  We will enjoy our 4 night here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cinder Cone

It would have been so easy to laze around this morning, but Cinder Cone was one of our primary objectives here.  I put my coffee cup down and donned my hiking boots.
Cinder Cone with trail up the side.
Cinder Cone is on the eastern side of the park about 20 miles from our campsite.  On the way we stopped at a “scenic vista”.  We pulled in there on a whim and are sure glad we did.  It was an awesome view of Lassen Peak and of Mt. Shasta 85 miles to the north.  On our way again after a few photos, we located the dirt road that led to Butte Lake and Campground inside the National Park.  Our trailhead was just past the boat launch area.

This trail is relatively short--just over 2 miles one way.  The first mile and a half is relatively flat.  The going was somewhat difficult, however, because the foot bed was crushed cinder about the consistency of sand.  I found it difficult and tiresome to walk on.  On the way to the Cinder Cone we passed the Fantastic Lava Beds and got a glimpse of the Painted Dunes.  This area has been very slow at revegetation and there are still very few trees surrounding this cone that erupted about 350 years ago.
Lave Beds
As Cinder Cone came into view, and shortly thereafter, the trail up Cinder Cone, I wondered why I hadn’t stayed home with my coffee cup.  The trip up was slow and labored.  A “two steps forward and a step backward” sort of hike.  We exchanged the sand-like cinder for some of a little larger caliber, but still very small, loose, and conducive to sliding.  It may have been worse than the snow we hiked in yesterday.  The trail was VERY steep. I started out by taking 10 steps, then resting for 5 count.  I increased my steps by 5 until I was able to do 50 before the resting 5 count.  Eventually, I reached the top.  Gene managed to move along a little faster than I and got the first view of the top.

Cinder Cone has two rims--an inner and an outer rim.  We hiked down to the inner rim to cross to the other side of the crater.  There was a trail that went down into the center, but I could see it just fine from where I stood.  No need to go down there.
Lassen Peak as seen from top of Cinder Cone
Hikers have the option of descending by the trail they came up or using the trail on the opposite side of the cone.  We chose to go down this other trail which was, if anything, steeper than the one we came up and only about half as wide.  We both fell once.  I got to where I would just put my foot down and then ride out the slide.  When I stopped, I’d take another step.   We finally reached the bottom without major injury.  By coming down this side, we had fantastic views of the painted dunes.  We also had great views of Lassen Peak from the top.
Painted Dunes with lava beds in background
This was a new experience for me and I am glad I went.  But once is enough.  I’m glad Mount St. Helens is still covered in snow.  I wont be tempted.

Tomorrow morning we hit the road again.  Our destination for tomorrow evening is Crater Lake.  Oregon, at last.