Lone Pine

November 10 – 16, 2018

We’re seeking some warmth after the damp cold in Lassen and also saying farewell to the Cascade Mountain range.  Of course it’s hello to the Sierra Nevadas, so not a bad trade.

On The Way

What a difference a few hours makes.  We left a shady secluded campsite at over 5,000 feet among towering firs in Northern California and drove 150-ish miles to the Nevada desert to camp at a casino.  We’d been pretty cold and welcomed the sun and warmth.  Of course this is high desert so the nights are even colder here and our low plunged to about 20.  But the big bonus was full services, a dog park for Jackson and a surprising grassy patch.

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Jackson thoroughly enjoyed his grass for two nights just over the Nevada border outside of Reno.  We put a new state sticker on the camping map, too.

Lone Pine

Lone Pine, California is right at the foot of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48.  Boulder Creek was our campground just outside of town with views on all sides.

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Here we are all settled in with Mt. Whitney rising in the background.  The Sierra Nevada range is very toothy at this spot and there’s a good bit of mountain above the tree line.

This turned out to be the location where we threw our best laid plans out the window.  We passed right on by Yosemite National Park thinking the road would be closed at this time of year due to snow.  Just like Lassen, we could have gone, but we weren’t camping close enough.  Rather than make a 2.5 hour drive to get there and just scratch the surface, we decided to table that one for anther time.

Manzanar

Manzanar National Historic Site was right up the road and a place we’d never even heard of before.  It wasn’t in the plan, but we read about it and just had to go.

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This was one of ten internment camps for the Japanese during WWII.  I was so ashamed to learn how we treated those people, many if not most of whom were US citizens born in this country.  All their property and most of their possessions were taken away and they were held captive for over three years.  We toured the museum and the grounds which included a reconstructed barracks and mess hall.

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The over 10,000 residents of the camp made the best of it and built a school, this monument, and even cultivated gardens in each block.  A sobering place to visit, but the exhibits were extremely well done and worth the time.

The Alabama Hills

Next up was a drive to Movie Flats, a road outside of Lone Pine, to see the Alabama Hills named for a Civil War ship.  They’ve filmed everything from How The West Was Won with John Wayne, to Star Trek in this other-wordly landscape.  The most recent filming was one of my favorites, Django Unchained.  There aren’t any movie sets to see, but there are lots of odd shaped boulders.  They’ve been described as potato-like.

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The pile of potatoes is actually the same age as the pointy Sierra Nevadas in the background.  They just formed from different kinds of rock that eroded away to these smoother mounds.

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Moon rising over the Alabama Hills.

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Our goal for the Alabama Hills hike was to find the mobius arch so we could look through it to see the peak of Mt. Whitney.

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We found this arch first and I actually liked it better.

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Found the mobius arch and I was able to frame Mt. Whitney as I’d seen in other photos.  It was a warm day and we had to shed some layers.  Just mid-70s, but warm in the sun.  Then we drove the Whitney portal road about 9 miles up the mountainside to the trailhead.

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At the trailhead is a frozen waterfall!  I was so delighted, just like a little kid.  I’ve never seen anything like it with the water rushing underneath the perfect ice layer.  Speaking of layers, the coats go right back on, as well as my hat and gloves.  That’s what a 4,000 foot elevation change will do for you.

We tramped around for awhile to get a look at the icicles and frozen mist from all the angles.

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Looking back at the Mt. Whitney “teeth”.  Time to head back down as the sun slips away and the toothy mountain shadows claim the valley.

Death Valley

Originally we were going to drive across Death Valley in the motorhome to get to Nevada.  Then I read about the road.  9-10% grades for miles up and down and a twisting, turning hairpin road over another pass with steep dropoffs on the narrow stretches.  I talked us out of that one.

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We took the car for a day trip instead and we’re glad we didn’t go that way in Lucy.

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Gas was $5.14 at Panamint Springs just after the first mountain pass!

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We lunched at Stovepipe Wells after we stopped at this overlook.  We just missed seeing the Canyon Jedi.  That’s what the locals call the military jets flying through the canyon for practice.

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Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level and the lowest point in North America.  Not totally stunning views in my opinion, but you just have to go there.  And you’ve heard the saying “but it’s a dry heat”?  Well here’s the quote we read on the signpost about that…

“It was so hot that swallows in full flight fell to the earth dead and when I went out to read the thermometer with a wet Turkish towel on my head, it was dry before I returned”.  — quote by Oscar Denton, caretaker of the ranch on the record hot day of 134 degrees, July 1913

More Badwater Basin, named after a prospector’s mule refused to drink the water.  Not just being stubborn this time.  A view of people strolling way out into the valley, the salty, crusty ground and that sea level marker way up above our heads on the canyon wall.

Our final stop was Dante’s View, reported to be the best view in the park.  I wholeheartedly agree with that claim.  It was a lot of driving, but worth it to get there.

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Dante’s View

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This isn’t the place for wildlife viewing as you can guess.  I think we saw two birds, maybe?  And then there’s this sign.  Bees perhaps?  We’re not sure what that’s about, and we didn’t see any insects at all.

That’s it for Death Valley and the cute town of Lone Pine.  With our new travel plans we’re headed back to Nevada the long way around.

Next Up – NOT Valley of Fire.  Story to follow in the next post.  See you on the way!

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Valley of the Rogue & Lassen

November 1 – 9, 2018

We camped right on the bank of the Rogue River between Grants Pass and Medford, Oregon for this stop.  I know we’re retracing our steps, but we had to be strategic going through California due to the mountains.  You have to go down one side or the other and there’s not much opportunity to cross-over along the way, at least not in a motorhome.

Valley of the Rogue State Park

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Enjoying our peaceful riverside spot at Valley of the Rogue State Park.

We didn’t go anywhere to see anything, just relaxed for the week.  It was lovely on the bank of the Rogue River listening to the water rush over the rocks, and geese flying overhead honking out their commands to the rest of the V formation.  Down the path there was a huge dog park at the next door I-5 rest stop.  Jackson really liked that surprising find.  Originally I was concerned about being right next to the interstate, but we didn’t hear much road noise in our spot by the river.

With no particular agenda for this stop, we just ate out, did laundry, shopped, went to church in Medford and Grants Pass, and found out that we LOVE Hawaiian food.  We had some dynamite pupu at Orchid Grill in Grants Pass that consisted of Kalua Pig Rolls and Maui wings.  We even bought another order of those delicious pig rolls to eat for lunch when we left.

Lots of yellow and red leaves rained down on our heads and we did plenty of shuffling walks through the piles.  I even took a break from my picture taking and only snapped a few of the colorful trees with my phone.  And Jackson got plenty of attention from the little campers.

We met Tippy the state park cat a few times and generally did a whole lot a nothin’.

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Frosty ground on that last morning… Time to go.

On The Way

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On our drive, we enjoyed some great views of California’s Mt. Shasta at the rest stop.  The peak is over 14,000 feet, but it’s not the tallest peak in the state.  That one’s coming up.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

The visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park required dry camping in the Manzanita Lake campground.  Dry camping because the water was turned off back in October and we’re supposed to be in the 20s at night.  Brrrr.  I really wanted to visit this park, but it has an extremely short season due to the altitude.  We figured it would likely be closed by the time we arrived due to snow, but I held out hope.  I watched the webcams everyday in Valley of the Rogue and determined we would be ok and the campground would still be open.  No snow to be seen yet.  We burned a ton of propane keeping us warm, had technical difficulties with the refrigerator and the generator, but I got my wish to see the place.

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Just up from our campground is this picturesque spot with Manzanita Lake mirroring Lassen Peak. It was cold, but the days were clear and bright.

Lassen is supposed to be similar to Yellowstone with it’s steam vents and hot gasses bubbling up through the gray mud.  No geysers, though.  We took the scenic drive through the park to see the sights.

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First stop was at Cold Boiling Lake.  It gets it’s name from the gasses bubbling up from underground vents, even though the lake itself is almost frozen over at this point.  We saw a little bit of bubbling and lots of ice.

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At Sulfur Works, we saw some of the steaming vents and bubbling mud firsthand.

No off-trail hiking here, and a really stinky spot with the sulfur smell.

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The Bumpass Hell Trail showcasing the best mud pots and steamy stuff was closed for refurbishment the whole season, but we were content with just the Bumpass Hell overlook featuring the Cascade mountain range.

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The sun is sinking fast and we have to head back before the light is totally gone.  I pulled over quickly for one more shot of a distant lake and the fading light.

Two nights in Lassen was plenty and we’re ready to move along to warmer locales.

Getting Gas

Oregon is one of those states where you can’t pump your own gas.  It’s weird to sit in the car while someone else does it, but brings back memories of getting gas with my mom when I was a kid.  She always did Full Service and never pumped her own.  Back when they had such a thing and actually checked your oil and cleaned your windshield for you.  You can pump your own in California, but you don’t want to.  At over 4 bucks a gallon, we were strategic and made sure to fill up in Oregon and held out until Nevada to fill up again.

Next Up: More California to visit the Alabama Hills and the highest peak in the state.  See you on the way!

The Mighty Redwoods

October 28 – 31

We like big trees and we cannot lie.  Although we didn’t really appreciate just HOW big until our journey to Crescent City, California to visit Redwoods National Park.

California Here We Come!

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We made the hairiest drive in Lucy yet to get to Crescent City in the tippy top of California.  A very twisty road with steep grades and hairpin turns, made more treacherous by the light rain.  Pat did a great job, even when we rounded a curve to a car sideways in the road and still sliding into our lane.  We got around them and then pulled off to let traffic pass and the nerves settle.  There were happy honks from the truck behind us since we probably saved him from an accident.

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Fortunately we made it safely and got to put another state sticker on our camping map, bringing our grand total to 31.  Here we are all tucked into our secluded Redwood campsite.

Trees of Mystery

Our server at dinner gave her recommendation for the place to see in the area.  She gave us a brochure on Trees of Mystery and told us about the gondola ride up to Ted’s Ridge where you can see not only the Redwoods, but the Pacific coast.  Sounded great, so that was our first outing.

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It was fun to ride the gondola and still be shorter than most of the trees on the hillside.

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Redwoods and the ocean.  An amazing combination.

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We read that you could hike down instead of ride the gondola so we thought we’d give it a try.  It was only a mile long trail, but the gondola operator asked why we’d want to do that.  He described the trail as steep, muddy, and slippery.  We wouldn’t listen and tromped right off.

In the end, the gondola would have been so much easier.  They had rope strung along on posts for most of the way down so you had something to grab when your feet when out from under you.  That’s a ‘when’, not ‘if’.  Pat and I both had to hang on tight to keep from going down.  I think it would have been faster in the long run for me to turn around and just lower myself down by the rope.  It really was that steep, and I had the rope burns to prove it.

There were wood carvings and Sasquatch sightings, too.  Pat is a Sasquatch fan, and posed for all the silly pictures.

 

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There was a downed tree that had to be laying there for over 3,000 years.  They based that estimate on the age of the tree growing out of the top of it.   It’s hard to imagine a living thing that is so old.  This cross section shows the tree dating back to the Crusades starting in 1090, making it 686 years old by the time we celebrated our first Independence Day in 1776.

Paul Bunyan and Babe were also featured in the wood carving department.  I’m a big fan, but I have to say that I liked the version in Bemidji, Minnesota better.  Plus, this place talked about Paul’s dog “Digger” and had a carving of his head.  Pat says they just made that up.

Big Tree

After Trees of Mystery, we drove a bit farther down the coast to get to Big Tree.

 

Along the way, we were treated to some pretty great coastal views.  I still can’t get enough of the Pacific and cliffs.

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Yep, pretty big.  Bigger at the base than Bitsy.  You simply can’t take a whole picture of one of these enormous trees.  This one is over 286 feet tall and even so, is only the 15th largest of the coastal Redwoods.

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We got such a kick out of this sign near Big Tree.  It’s funny to say you’re going to see the big tree when they’re all pretty massive.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Originally we wanted to camp in Jedediah Smith State Park, but had to pass since they had a length restriction.  We did check out the campground and it would have been a pretty tight squeeze for Lucy.

Our scenic drive through the park took us to an old growth grove that had never been logged.

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That’s Pat behind the wheel of Bitsy to help me with a little scale.

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How about this fallen giant?  I can’t imagine what it’s like when one of these trees goes down.

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My favorite of me at the gnarled base of one of the Redwoods.  Like standing on the toenail of a giant.  Jackson didn’t like me climbing up in the tree.  Pat thinks it’s because he couldn’t follow.

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The boys on the bank of the scenic Smith River that runs through the park.

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Looking up…

 

A few more from the day.  And do you know that the cone from a Redwood tree is only about an inch long?  Guess they don’t have anything to prove.

When it was time to leave, we took that same hairy route out and came upon yet another car in the road, this time with a blowout.  Not an easy drive and we now know why it isn’t highlighted as an RV friendly road in our atlas.  You can do it, but the question is, do you want to?

Next up – Back to Oregon for a rest before we attempt to camp at Lassen National Park.  See you on the way!

Oregon Coast & Crater Lake

October 18 – 27, 2018

Time to enjoy the Oregon coast and marvel at the Pacific again.  We have two coastal stops and then a trip inland to see Crater Lake.  So, one bigger post to catch all three.

Waldport

We reserved a spot on the bay at this location, and we weren’t disappointed.  We backed right up to the edge of a cliff overlooking the Alsea Bay Bridge.

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The view from our site.  A foggy day so we didn’t see much of the coast on the drive, but we can imagine that it’s beautiful on a clear day.

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And here’s day 2.  The fog refused to budge all day.  We know the bridge is there, but hidden by the pea soup.

 

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Now that’s more like it.  The fog finally clears on day three and we are treated to the blue sky.

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I think this sunrise shot is my favorite.

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The bridge called to us, so we took the pedestrian walkway to get a photo looking back.  Lucy is parked about halfway down that ridge to the left.

Chores and rest time occupied us during the foggy days, and Jackson got to frolic on the beach without a leash.

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This is why we can’t do the off leash stuff very often.  He’s looking, we call, so he heads in the other direction.  But he can’t resist doing the “wacky wild” in the crisp surf, and eventually comes back our way.  For a cookie of course.

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Honestly we’re tired of the relentless fog, but it does have its beauty.  We never noticed all the intricate spider webs until the morning they looked like a string of jewels.  Every strand was completely covered in tiny droplets.

Speaking of the relentless fog, we also drove 50 miles to the nearest Home Depot to purchase a fabulous beastly dehumidifier.  It’s working overtime, but keeping our windows dry and free of the dreaded mold.  Even feels warmer in the motorhome, too.

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Sunset at a roadside stop near Waldport

Sunset Bay State Park

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I’ll start off with this one.  On the last night here, I trudged back through a tunnel under the highway to the beach for the sunset shot.  I just made it before the sun dropped out of sight completely.

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This is the time I wish I had so many more adjectives besides, beautiful, gorgeous, stunning.

This state park is aptly named and was a very peaceful location.  We took a hike to see that coast from a higher vantage point than the bay.

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The Cape Arago Lightouse, ocean cave, and the rugged coastline.

Pat cautioned me as I was stepping gingerly to the edge to take my pictures.  He saw what I had missed.

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The edges were all undercut like this from erosion.  A few more steps and I’d have been off the edge.  I stayed well back after that, not wanting to be the subject of a 48 Hours mystery program.  Did she fall?  Did he push her?

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I wanted to see at least one Oregon lighthouse up close, so we took a drive on our clear day to the Umpqua Lighthouse.  At a viewing platform across the street, we did some whale watching with no whales.  We looked through binoculars, though, so it counts.

We’d missed the Oregon Dunes area on the way in, so we kept driving just a bit farther to see it.  Just as my friend Nancy said – “they are huge”.

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We took a mile hike to the ocean and let me tell you that hiking in deep sand is not easy.  Two miles of that was plenty.

 

The beach here reminded me more of the Atlantic since there were no rocks to give it away.  But towering evergreens told the real story.

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Pat waits patiently while I do a little beach combing.

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The views up and down the deserted stretch of beach.

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Jackson does his best good boy pose at Sunset Bay on our last morning.  A fitting good-by to this great place.  His favorite part was barking wildly at the crashing surf at high tide.

Crater Lake

Joseph H. Stewart State Park was our pick for camping relatively close to Crater Lake.  It was about a 50 mile drive, but we read good things about the place.  Loved the state park as we usually do with all its open spaces, grass, and huge Christmas trees of every kind, shape and color.  They even had a giant dog park for Jackson.

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We picked what we thought would be the best day to drive the 50 miles to Crater Lake.  Our first overlook with the phantom ship.   And that, my friends, was our only glimpse of Crater Lake itself.

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Here’s the view from all the other overlooks on the rim drive.  All fogged in, but we did make the entire rim drive.

And Pat got to “hike” for at least a few more steps on the Pacific Crest Trail that goes through the park.

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One advantage to visiting on a cruddy weather day.  We had the place practically to ourselves.  We originally thought we’d get here too late and it would be closed for the winter.  So we did get more than we thought, but still disappointing to be there and not see it.  The ranger movie made it sound so beautiful.  Another time.

Our consolation prize was the view at the Rogue River overlook just outside the national park.  Quite a raging, roaring river.

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When I think of Oregon, I’ll always think of trees.  Huge evergreens dripping with the moisture that makes them so beautiful.

Next up – California here we come!  See you on the way!

 

Trail of Ten Falls

October 14 – 17, 2018

For this stop, we stayed at Silver Falls State Park outside of Sublimity, Oregon.  Great campground, and the area certainly is sublime, but there is no waterfall named Silver.  We asked.  There are plenty of other waterfalls, and seeing them all is the goal for this stop.

Trail of Ten Falls

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The best way to see all the falls is to hike the Trail of Ten Falls.  There’s a difference of opinion on just how far this trail goes.  Posted signs said 8.7 miles, while maps showed 7.2.  The ranger told us upon check in that it was a “solid 7 and a half”.  We believe the ranger based on how quickly we clipped along, even with a stop for snacks along the way.

South Falls

South Falls and North Falls were quite impressive with the trail looping around behind both falls.

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Looking down at the first one – South Falls.  You can just see the teeny trail fence behind the falls.  It’s hard to get the scale in these shots, but know this was a biggee.  A “real” waterfall we say at 177 feet tall.

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South Falls from the bottom.

Other visitors behind the falls and then our view looking out through the cascading water.

North Falls

It was hard to say which one was more impressive – North or South Falls.  I tend to go with North Falls, but that was after we had hiked most of the seven miles, so could be I just didn’t remember South quite as well by then.

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It isn’t as tall as South Falls at a mere 136 feet, but it has a very deep cave behind it for viewing from all sides, and it’s in a prettier setting.

From behind the veil.

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And the look back shot as we climbed back out of the canyon.

All The Other Ones

There was definitely a naming trend with the 10 falls.  Besides the biggest ones I mentioned, there was Lower South Falls, Lower North Falls, Middle North Falls, and Upper North Falls.

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Here’s Upper North that we almost didn’t get to.  This one involved a spur trail and with the great mileage debate, Pat didn’t think we’d have time.  I, of course, always lobby heavily for the longer, harder, get absolutely all of whatever we’re seeing routes, and this was no exception.  By the time we got to North Falls, we realized we’d hiked the majority of the trail already and this little junket was nothing.  So, I get all 10!

As for the others, they were called Drake, Twin, and Double Falls, but I can’t swear to which was which.

Twin Falls was disappointing since we could hardly see it from the trail.  It was only 31 feet tall, so nothing much to write home about anyway.  Finally, there’s Winter Falls.  There’s a reason it’s called Winter Falls.  It’s not winter, so you may know where I’m going with this.

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We had to hike down two steep switchbacks for this trickle.

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Winter Falls was fed by this.  Just about as much water coming out, and no switchbacks required.

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A few more views from the hike.

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It was a really nice Fall day and a long hike that felt good.

Rows And Rows…

…of Christmas trees!  We found big ones all sculpted and ready to go and lots of little guys still growing for a few more years to come.

It looks like they plant them pretty close together and then thin them out as they go.  Of course that’s the sort of wild speculating we do when we know nothing about something.  Fun to wonder how it really works and picture all these babies decorated.

And it’s true, no falls named Silver, but all ten are fed by the Silver River.  That’s where the park gets its name.  A relaxing area and we’d definitely come back, especially at this time of year.

Next up – The Oregon coast and Crater Lake.  See you on the way!

 

Cape Disappointment

October 10 – 13, 2018

Our last stop in Washington for the year is at Cape Disappointment for another view of the coast and not one, but two lighthouses.

Cape Disappointment State Park

I had a few people ask about the name of this place.  It’s a bit unusual and comes from fur-trader John Meare’s disappointment in 1788 when he did not find the Columbia River.  It’s there alright, he just didn’t find it.  As for the rest of us, we saw it and the place is far from a disappointment.

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A short walk from our campsite takes us right onto Bensen Beach with this view of the Pacific and the North Head Lighthouse.  It’s a dog-friendly beach, too, so Jackson got his walk down there every day.  The smell of salt in the air and the roar of the surf – so relaxing.

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A short, but steep hike takes you to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.  The Coast Guard runs this one now, so you can’t go inside.  The North Head lighthouse was closed, too, for renovations.  I’m still counting them both and have the stamps in my lighthouse passport.

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Views of the mouth of the Columbia River from the Cape Disappointment lighthouse.  It doesn’t look it in these photos, but this is a particularly treacherous inlet.

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The fingernail moon rising at sunset was breathtaking.  Normally I have to be quick to get my sunset shots as the sun plunges beneath the horizon.  With the Pacific Ocean stretching out ahead and nothing to block our view, it seemed to last forever.

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We couldn’t get enough of strolling along this beach, morning and night.

Leadbetter Point State Park

Cape Disappointment lies at the bottom of a skinny little snip of a peninsula right at the southernmost point of Washington state.  The only way to get to that farthest tip was to drive the 20 or so miles in and out of the tsunami warning areas up that little snip of land.  There’s a state park there that was the goal.

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Leadbetter State Park lies at land’s end and has a short hike to the bay side and another one to the ocean.  The bay side wasn’t all that spectacular, so I’m only showing my favorite Pacific shots.  Hard to tell where the sky ends and the ocean begins.

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View the other direction on the beach.

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I thought we’d get a good look at the very tip to see both bay and ocean together.  And we would have, too, if it hadn’t been for the snowy plovers.  The area is off limits for nesting of these endangered birds.

In spite of the birds spoiling my imagined view, we had a nice hike through the woods to the coast.  I’ve never seen red mushrooms before and assume they are truly dangerous.  The white ones were growing right out of a tree in a colony of tiny umbrellas.

Long Beach

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This place just up the coast from the cape boasts that it’s the longest beach in the world.  We come from some pretty long beaches, so we’re not buying it.  But, they are home to the World Kite Museum and the Washington State International Kite Festival.  Luckily they were having an event, so we got a chance to see some big, beautiful kites in action.

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Jinkies!  We even saw this, which made me feel much better about those meddling plovers on the beach.

Next up – heading to Oregon and the Trail of Ten Falls.  See you on the way!

 

Mount St. Helens

October 7 – 9, 2018

Rain and gloom for two straight days.  We’re so damp from this stop and the last one that the window sills are growing mold.  As usual, we picked a perfectly shady spot, so no drying out to be done.  But then the sun isn’t out anyway.  Hope springs eternal though, and we’re crossing our fingers for just a glimpse of Mount St. Helens.

Seaquest State Park

This park is strategically placed almost directly across the highway from the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument visitor’s center.  Exactly what we needed to plan our visit to the mountain.  There’s a path from the campground that goes through a tunnel under the road and dumps you out along a wetlands area.

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On our first walk to the visitor’s center, we were told to stand right at this spot for the best view of Mount St. Helens.  The clouds and fog just won’t budge so we don’t see anything but the wetland area.  Picture a volcanic peak in the background.

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Fall is here, though, and the non-evergreen trees are showing off.

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Jackson says “Happy Fall ya’ll”.

The Visitor’s Center

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That same visitor’s center view two days later.  Looks promising that we might actually see the mountain in all its glory.

We weren’t prepared for just how fascinated we were with the place.  We remember the big eruption from 1980 of course, but didn’t remember or probably never knew the details.  Pat remembers the ash falling in North Dakota a few days later.  That ash made it to the east coast in a matter of days and around the world in about 15.

In addition to the the side of the mountain blasting off, huge barges ran aground in the Columbia River due to ash and silt clogging the outlet to the Pacific.  They had water shortages as far east as Spokane, WA when everyone tried to wash off the ash that blanketed everything, and power transmission lines were short-circuited.

57 people were killed, over 200 homes were destroyed and miles of roads and railways were damaged.  The most striking story I read was about photographer Robert Landsburg.  He took some amazing photos of the eruption only a few miles away and realized that he couldn’t outrun the ash cloud.  Instead, he took what last photos he could, rewound the film,  put it back in the camera, put the camera in his backpack, and then lay on top of the backpack to protect it.  National Geographic published those important shots in 1981.

The Drive

It’s our last day here and we’re taking the drive to the Johnson Observatory site no matter what the weather.  Our first stop was at an overlook for a silt retention center.  It was built to keep all that ash and silt with the consistency of pudding from clogging all the waterways leading away from the mountain.

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Next stop, Hoffstadt Bridge.  This is 14.8 miles from the crater and at the edge of the blast zone.  Hard to imagine that everything that far out perished or was knocked flat during the eruption.

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Toutle River Valley on the way to the mountain.

We were fortunate to meet a couple at the Elk Rock viewpoint who were from the area.  They told us stories from that day and brought the history to life.  He was a logger working about 11 miles from the blast and his crew dropped everything and hauled it out of the area when they felt the eruption.  Eleven miles out and they still had to book it to survive.  She was home with the kids and sent them to the coast with the grandmother until she could find out about her husband.  Fortunately their home was out of the blast zone and out of danger from the killing mud flows.

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The mountain played peek-a-boo with us while we listened spellbound to the couple telling us about that day when the skies turned dark with the ash cloud.  I’d read at the visitor’s center that local people didn’t hear the blast and I just couldn’t believe it.  According to park signage “sound waves were directed upward and debris in the cloud muffled the blast creating a ‘zone of silence’ within 50 miles of the volcano.  However, people as far away as 575 miles heard it”.  The couple we met confirmed that was true.  No sound for them.

The Mountain

Mount St. Helens did not disappoint and showed herself completely at the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

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Mount St. Helens with 1,000 feet blasted off the top, and a look inside the crater.  A bulge inside continues to grow from smaller eruptions as recent as 2008.

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The surrounding terrain forever changed.

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A few more from the hike above the observatory.  In the end we couldn’t have asked for a better day.

The Cascades Volcano Observatory issues a weekly update on the active volcanoes in the Cascade Range.  We checked before we got to the campground and were happy for a ‘green/normal’ activity report.  I think I’d be a little nervous to live in the shadow of this mountain, but then Glacier Peak and Mt. Rainier are also considered active and we didn’t even realize it while we camped in their shadows.  I guess every place has something to keep you up at night and you just get used to it.  A highly educational and beautiful spot and we enjoyed it very much.

Next up – Cape Disappointment and our last Washington stop of the year.  See you on the way!