Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cruzing the Cascades OR & CA

From the Oregon coast we take OR Hwy 22 eastward. This route takes us through Salem, the state capitol of Oregon. As we pass over the bridge on the Willamette River, we see the Willamette Queen at dock in Riverfront Park. Another time it'd be fun to take one of their cruises.
Back across the Willamette Valley

Willamette Queen at dock in Salem OR


We stay on Hwy 22 out of Salem as it follows the north fork of the Santiam River up into the Cascades. From the Willamette Valley there are three major routes up into the Cascades:
  1. Hwy 22 from Salem
  2. Hwy 20 from Albany/Lebanon
  3. Hwy 126 from Eugene
Of these three we've found Hwy 22 to be the easiest to drive. All three have beautiful scenery. Hwy 22 runs past the Detroit Dam and Lake. Unlike those in California, all of Oregon's rivers and lakes look pretty full this year.
North Fork of the Santiam

Detroit Lake


The trees get taller as we climb higher. That night we camp at Belknap Hot Springs, one of our favorite stops in this neck of the woods (see visits in once, twice in 2011 and then again returning from Alaska in 2012).
Tall trees along Hwy 22

Camped at Belknap Hot Springs

Morning inside van

The next morning our first stop is Larry's RV in Redmond OR since Peter wants to check out a 4x4 camper {sigh}. It has some nice features, but eats considerably more fuel than the Free Spirit.
Mt. Washington

The Three Sisters

Tiger Bengal TX

We camp at LaPine State Park along the Deschutes River. We're delighted to find a campsite along the river banks. It would be fun to raft the Deschutes sometime on another trip - it looks very scenic.
Deschutes as it flows from the north

LaPine campsite

Deschutes as it flows to the south

During a snack before dinner we have a unexpected guest at our table.
Hi there - I'm very friendly and very hungry

Ooooo nuts - I LOVE nuts

Chomp - chomp - chomp

In the morning we drive into Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The caldera itself is over 50 miles wide and contains two lakes - Paulina Lake and East Lake.
OR Hwy 21 towards Newberry Caldera

Entrance to Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Obsidian boulder and volcanic bomb outside Visitor's Center

The salesman at Larry's RV recommended our seeing the Big Obsidian Flow while we're at in the Newberry Volcano caldera. Both of us love obsidian, so of course we have to see it. The square mile flow is only 1300 years old (young geologically speaking). The flow only is only 10% obsidian while the rest consists of a mix of grey and black pumice, which is also a type of volcanic glass.

Why is obsidian black? Tiny black particles of iron oxide act like a drop of black ink in a glass of clear water. To the native tribes in this area obsidian was the same as money in the bank. It was highly valued as a trade item for making tools. In fact, even today obsidian blades are superior to even surgical steel.
There it is - turn in here

Ohhh - that's a nice bolder

6 flights of stairs to the top of the flow

Obsidian rocks in rail wall to stairs

View from the top of the flow over Paulina Lake

Rain water pond collects below flow

Trail through flow

Glassy crystals formed in taffy like obsidian

Obsidian rocks


Large outcropping of obsidian stands out in the flow


The day is wearing on and we're decided to make a run for home. So it's time to get back on the road if we want to sleep in our bed at home tonight.
Big bear sells sporting goods in the Cascades

Lumberjack advertizes motel

There's the fire in the Trinity Alps

Klamath Lake

Large flock of White Pelicans

Summer hay's stored for winter

Mount Shasta's up ahead

Recent forest fire

Grass Lake

We stop at a Vista Point and are treated with an excellent view of Mount Shasta which dominates the surrounding landscape. This large volcanic mountain can be seen from over 100 miles away. It rises 11,000 feet from the base to the summit for a total elevation of 14,162' above sea level. It has a 17 mile diameter with 5 glaciers including the largest one in California.
Mount Shasta



Castle Crags from the north

Shasta Lake is still alarmingly low

but the Sacramento River looks full.

Some farmers are still growing rice in the Central Valley

while others just plow dusty fields


Late summer in the East Bay hills

Full moon rising - we'll be home tonight!



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pacific Northwest Coast WA & OR

By Monday morning on Labor Day, most of the WetWesties have gone their separate ways.  We were planning to take a ferry to Whidbey Island and then move onto North Cascades National Park, but problems with the ferry system on one of the year's busiest days is forcing a change of plans. To avoid being stuck waiting hours for a stand-by spot on a ferry, we decide to go to the coast instead. Sigh - it seems like our trips to any of the San Juan Islands are doomed. Maybe the third attempt on another journey will do the trick.

The Ukelule Ladies and Fred recommend we see the viewpoints on nearby Mt. Walker. Sounds like a good idea, so we drive up the long winding road to the summit and are treated to magnificent views of the Quilcene area of Puget Sound.
View of Puget sound from the summit of Mt. Walker



Back on Hwy 101, we continue north as it snakes around the top of the Olympic Peninsula towards Port Angeles and the Hoh River Campground in Olympic National Park.
Fueling up at 7 Cedars Casino

Great classic car


Main square in Port Angeles WA

Shoe store

Road up the Hoh River

Just after we enter the National Park, we are greeted by two members of the famous Roosevelt Elk herd that freely roams the park.
Entrance to How River Rain Forest

Young bull (son ?) with sword like antlers

Older cow (mother ?)


We are delighted to find the campground only 25% full and we settle into sites alongside the Hoh River, very close to where we camped returning from Alaska.
Campsite next to the Hoh River

Phil & Sue across a meadow

Evening clouds

Photographer sets up below our camp in the evening

Morning fog


The weather report is forecasting rain by 11am so we move on leaving this beautiful and peaceful rainforest behind. Of course on our way back to Hwy 101, we have to stop at Peak 6 and check out their end-of-the-season sales.
Goodbye Hoh River

Peak 6 Outdoor store

Inside Peak 6

Wow - the weather prediction was right on the money as rain starts to fall at 11am reminding us we are in a rain forest. The cloudy skies and drizzle add a sense of foreboding to the area. It's easy to see why the first Twilight Saga movie was filmed here. At one time, almost every store in Forks WA had the word "twilight" as part of their name. Since the movie came out several years ago in 2008, the twilight craze has faded and along with it stores have gone back to their original names.
Rain drops on windshield

A little rain doesn't slow down the log trucks

Perfect location for "Twilight Saga"

Since we didn't have time on our last visit, we elect to have lunch at the historic Lake Quinault Lodge in their scenic Roosevelt Dinner Room. Although, a little pricey we were delighted with both the wonderful food, view, and friendly staff. One of the head waiters told us much about the local history making this lunch truly memorable.
Peter at entrance to Lake Quinault Lodge

Main fireplace

Comfortable lobby chairs

After lunch we search for the world largest spruce trees (one of many largest of several species in this area). It's pouring rain when we park, so Sue and I wait in the vans while Peter and Philip set out to find the tree. Turns out it's not far away.
Bridge to big spruce

Peter & Philip at the base of the world largest Spruce tree

Traditional Native cedar shelter

We continue south on Hwy 101 along the Washington coastline through lumber and fishing towns.
Raymond WA

The lumber industry is still strong in Washington

Looks like a another great lunch stop

As the sun is starting to peak out behind the clouds, we pass ocean inlets and bays perfect for shellfish.




That afternoon we share a campsite at Cape Disappointment State Park, home of The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Camp Canby, and at least two lighthouses. Camp Disappointment has an interesting history. Some say it was named in 1788 by a British fur trader John Meares who was turned back by a bad storm thereby missing the mouth of the might Columbia River. Others say it was named by the Lewis and Clarke Expedition when they were disappointed to end their long trek to the Pacific Ocean only not to find any ships to sail them home.

Across from our campsite is an informational placard illustrating how the land we're standing on was formed. The enormous boulders we're camped by fell off a nearby cliff. The whole campground was under water in the 1800's until jetties were built around the mouth of the Columbia which caused sediments to accumulate forming the ground where the campground now stands.  
Campsite at Cape Disappointment

Scar on cliff

Hugh rocks from cliff above

In the morning, we walk the trails to the beach. On our way we meet a couple from Portland who are just folding up their tent and whole camp into a SylvanSport Go - Mobile Adventure Gear Camping Trailer. We've never seen anything like it before and pepper them with questions. Fortunately they don't mind our curiosity and happily indulge us. They explain while this camper trailer isn't cheap (~ $9000) it does allow them to haul all their gear and provide a comfortable shelter in a small enough trailer they can easily pull it with their Subaru.



The beach itself is classic Northwest with stretches of long white sand littered with drift wood. Some scientists contend the abundance of driftwood along these beaches may be due to a gigantic tsunami generated by a large earthquake on the Cascadia Fault a few hundred years ago. Indeed native legends do tell of such catastrophe. Word to the wise, keep your coastal properties on high ground in the Pacific Northwest.
Trail to beach

Driftwood shelter

Long sandy beach with large driftwood logs

Speaking of coastal properties, this beach does have some cheap beach fronts available. Actually, I do know why people build these shelters. The weather isn't very beach friendly for most of the year so beach goers need shelters to escape wind and rain.
Driftwood shelter in a rock crevasse

Can we get a good price on this one?

Container ship putting out to sea from the Columbia

After packing up we drive a mile or two to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse parking lot which gives us three attractions to explore:
  1. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
  2. Lewis and Clarke Interpretative Center
  3. Fort Canby
 We first explore the old fort as it's first as it's closest to the parking lot. This fort was built in 1863 along with two others, Fort Stevens and Fort Columbia to guard the shipping lanes in and out of the Columbia River. These forts were updated during World War II to guard against a possible strike by Japanese forces. Today Fort Canby has long since been decommissioned and is slowly falling into ruins.
Ferns along trail from parking lot

Fort Canby

Foot thick concrete walls

With the fireplace and painted walls it's almost homey

Give up nothing!

Base for anti-aircraft gun turret ?


Salt air makes lace out of steel doors

These doors must have been strong once

Rust never sleeps


After admiring the views from the terrace over the Pacific, we explore the Lewis and Clarke Interpretive Center. On the side of the building is a quote from Thomas Jefferson:
"The object of your mission is the Pacific Ocean."

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Lewis & Clarke Interpretive Center

Native Americans made their mission possible

Sacajawea helped lead the way with baby in tow

The expedition crossed wide expanses of uncharted territory

Replica of a dugout canoe they used

Replica of their sextant

and their chronometer.

Caches enabled their return


The Center also houses exhibits on the US Coast Guard, which has a training center nearby. The mouth of the Columbia River is so treacherous that over 150 ships have been lost in these waters. The combination of rough stormy waters, shifting sand bars and rocky shores continue to challenge the best sailors even with today's technology. This footage from Coast Guard rough water training illustrates:



A series of lighthouses along the rocky shores has saved countless ships from disaster. Fresnel's inventive lens use a series of prisms to bend and focus a light source making it visible to mariners at sea. Each lighthouse uses a different frequency of light flashes so sailors can tell their location at night.

Early US Coast Guard boat


Inside a Fresnel lens

Side prisms

After exploring the Center, Peter and Philip take a short trail to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse while I dog sit and Sue finishes up with Lewis and Clarke.
Cove by lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cliff below Lewis & Clarke Center

Jetties protecting the mouth of the Columbia River with hills in Oregon visible to the south



We all climb back into the vans and drive towards our next destination on the Oregon Coast, but first we must travel through the small town of Ilwaco WA and then over the Astoria Bridge.
Ilwaco WA

looks beautiful today

with old pier pilings stretching.

Astoria Bridge from North to South


Big sandbar at the mouth of the Columbia River

Looking back from Astoria OR

We stop for lunch at Mo's in Cannon Beach. The seafood's just ho-hum with lots of breading and frying, but the view is spectacular, especially from the outdoor patio on a such nice day.
View to the north from Mo's

Sue & Philip waiting for lunch

View to the south

Much to our delight, we're joined by a white rabbit (the waitress tells us many of them live around town - probably escapee Easter rabbits) and of course a bold ever hungry seagull.
Where's Alice?

Handouts? I'm hungry too.

View from Hwy 101 south of Cannon Beach

Later that afternoon, we set up camp at Nehalem Bay State Park and walk the dogs on it's amazing beach.
Nehalem Bay beach



The campground is protected from the coastal winds by low lying sand dunes covered with vegetation. Signs abound warning beach goers about debris washing ashore from Japan's devastating 2011Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Vegetation covered dunes

Looks like the tide's coming in

Tsunami debris warning

The next day we set our sites on touring the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Even though my family lived in and around Tillamook for two years, I've never seen it.
Small haystack rocks by Hwy 101

Tillamook Bay

Garibaldi OR

Tillamook Cheese Factory



Philip in a VW bus - of course

Me and Peter moo it up

Early cheese maker at the factory


Modern factory floor

Sue tackles a mega ice cream cone

Sunny window in cafe

After feasting on ice cream in the Tillamook Factory Cafe, we split up. Philip and Sue head back home in Eugene while we turn toward the Cascades. First we need to drive a little south through the small town of Hebo OR. During my freshman year in high school my father was commander of a radar base on top of Mount Hebo. The housing area was two miles below the station which meant it was a 45 minute drive one way to the town of Hebo. It was a lonely existence for a young teenager.

Mount Hebo gets over 200 inches of rainfall a year. Consequently the surrounding forests grow thick and covered with moss. Ferns that only grow to 2' high at our home in California grow over 6' on Mount Hebo. Once while we were living there, a young family went out for a walk on a rare sunny day. The forest was so thick they got lost and couldn't find their way back to the road even though they could hear cars on it. Fortunately, a search party found them early the next morning without their suffering too much from spending a cold night in the forest. Needless to say, this part of the Oregon coast tends to make me uncomfortable even to this day.
Green grass for dairy cows

Hebo Inn

Thick surrounding rain forest

Onwards to the Cascades!

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Retired and enjoying life to the max.