Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Couple of Weeks in Portland

I don't have a lot to show from our two weeks in Portland. Sure, my camera had an issue and had to be sent back for warranty repair, and I really don't like taking photos with my cell phone. But the reality is I just wanted to enjoy our stay without the pressure of blogging hanging over my head. We're now five years into our life on the road and I find it harder and harder to blog about places we've visited multiple times.

But that doesn't mean we didn't have fun! We met up with local friends: Bob (college buddy and former band mate of Hans) and John and Kym and their sweet daughter Simone. RVing friend Susan from San Antonio was in town visiting family so she joined us for lunch with Linda (blogging and hiking friend we met up with in Astoria). Thanks to the blog we also made some new friends in our RV park and had a nice dinner out with them (Hi Julie and Casey!).

Our stay was plagued by heat the first several days followed by smoke from the awful fires ravaging the Columbia Gorge off and on for the rest of our stay. We were grateful we hiked Eagle Creek last year with Linda, it's going to take decades for parts of the Gorge to recover from the fires.

Fortunately there are miles of forested trails in the hills throughout Portland. On our very first hike we had an amazing animal encounter. While walking through Hoyt Arbortem I saw something large and gray fly past through the trees. Rounding a corner we came upon a barred owl eating a small snake! This beautiful creature was so engrossed in its meal Hans was able to get about ten feet from it to take a photo.

Barred owl eating a small snake in the tree...via cell phone in poor light.

Once the owl finished eating the snake (which took a good ten minutes) it posed for us for a few minutes more,
meanwhile Hans had inched close enough for a decent, though unusual looking, photo.

Columbia River RV Park is pretty well located for getting around Portland, but any time you want to go downtown parking can be awful, so this time we took a cue from fellow RVers Jim and Gayle and drove to the nearby Expo Center where we hopped on the MAX light rail system to downtown. Portland Spirit Cruises offers a variety of river cruises on both the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, we chose the Thursday Early Escape cruise on the Willamette, it's an afternoon ride with a live band...great fun with beautiful scenery!

Candy-O plays Cars covers.

Floating homes on the Willamette River.

Riverfront mansion with a plane and watercraft.

Smooth waters and downtown views.

Canada geese are highly habituated to people in downtown Portland!

Former San Diego friends Chuck and Cynthia had recently moved to Chehalis, WA, an easy drive from Portland. We took advantage of the excellent weekend car rental deal offered by Enterprise ($10/day and 100 miles/day for a 3-day weekend after Labor Day) to visit them. Hans was all excited when we arrived at the rental office and they had run out of compact cars...for the ridiculously low price noted above we got to drive a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee with only 13 miles on it!

Hans living it up in a fancy new car!

We had a grand time visiting Chuck and Cynthia, seeing their new home, eating a delicious Indian buffet lunch at Great Cuisine of India and walking cute downtown Centralia.

Centralia, WA turned out to be a lovely little town midway between Portland and Seattle.
Lisa and Cynthia and Hans and Chuck flanking one of Chuck's paintings.
Someday when we have a house again we'd love to hang some of Chuck's amazing art!

There were plenty more fun experiences in Portland; excellent Vietnamese happy hour at Luc Lac, an incredible hamburger at Ecliptic Brewing, delicious tiki drinks for Bob's birthday at The Alibi, a wonderful hike at Powell Butte Nature Park (thanks Allison for bringing this place to our attention)...but no photographic evidence exists...just good memories of a city we enjoy every single time we visit!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Wrapping up Seven Weeks on the Oregon Coast

The final stop of our summer on the Oregon coast was at Fort Stevens State Park, which occupies the north west corner of Oregon. The fort was active for 84 years, from the Civil War to World War II, and its military history is visible at sites throughout the 4,300 acre park. Nine miles of paved bicycle trails and six miles of hiking trails allow for extensive exploration of this beautiful setting bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the western terminus of the Columbia River.

The state park has about 500 camp sites which are spread out among 13 loops, making the large number of campers seem not so oppressive. Of the three state parks we stayed at along the coast, our site here was the least pleasant...the water pressure was terrible and the site wide open to the road with no privacy whatsoever. But, thankfully, we once again had a hidden trail into the forest right behind the rig allowing us to escape the fishbowl feeling and walk Rosie in a serene, inviting, safe space.

Despite the fact that our campsite was less than perfect, we still loved this park! We spent a single night here three years ago and vowed to come back. The extensive trail network is exceptionally beautiful and lightly traveled, the history is fascinating, and the lovely town of Astoria is just a few miles away.

Before we could explore Fort Stevens in depth we had a meetup planned with Linda, a hiking buddy and wonderful photographer from Portland whom we've met up with on a previous trip to the area. She was gracious enough to drive out to the coast to join us on a hike followed by lunch.

Linda suggested a hike she'd been wanting to do for some time and meeting us allowed the three of us to do a shuttle hike. The Fort to Sea Trail is a 6.5 mile (one way) trail from Fort Clatsop National Memorial to the ocean. Fort Clatsop was Lewis and Clark's winter encampment from December 1805 to March 1806 and this trail is a route they used to explore the area between the fort and the sea.

The Fort to Sea trail begins at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center which has a replica of the Corps of Discovery fort.
This photo shows half of the entire fort that housed about 25 people.

Lewis and Clark River, near Fort Clatsop.

We hiked through a variety of terrain, from rain forest to farmers fields to dune forest to the ocean.

The trail starts off in lush rain forest where Linda and I start taking pictures of each other.

Still smiling as we near the end of the hike, now through dune forest.

Linda doing what she does best!

The rest of our stay at Fort Stevens was spent hiking and biking the various trails in the park. The terrain includes a lake, lush forests, marshlands, dune forests and grasses, defunct military installations and the ocean with a's a wonderful park!

One of many batteries at Fort Stevens.

We came upon this bull elk on a lovely single track trail near Battery Russell.

And this cow elk munching away in the bushes nearby.

Lots of solitude on the park trails.

I loved the mid afternoon lighting as we rode through the forest.
Not another soul on the trail on a Thursday afternoon, so peaceful.

Grasses and tall trees...enchanting!


Old train trestle crossing marshland to the Columbia River.

Gun replica pointing toward the Columbia River.

Hans took this awesome shot of the morning sun shining through the remains of the Peter Iredale,
run ashore October 25, 1906.

So ends a glorious seven weeks on the Oregon Coast. We are now in Portland under orange lit smokey skies and approaching 100 degrees...we miss the coast already!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Heading North on the Oregon Coast: Nehalem and Seaside

Our next stop was a few nights at Nehalem Bay State Park, another place we've stayed before (Sept. 2014). The park was practically full every night, with lots of folks on the move along the narrow roads, so we were grateful for a peaceful dune forest right behind our site where we could escape the hustle and bustle around us.

Deer walking nonchalantly through the busy state park campground.

Our neighbors left their trash hanging on a tree one night,
the next morning we scared several coyotes away from the trash now strewn all around the tree.

The peaceful forest right behind our site was perfect for Rosie.

Even though Oregon state parks are extremely popular and very busy, we still love the fact that there are always trails right from the campground. A morning walk around the spit dividing Nehalem Bay from the ocean gave us solitude and beauty without having to drive at all.

Low tide along Nehalem Bay.

Nehalem Bay channel.

Horses on Nehalem Beach.

Oswald West State Park lies just a few miles north of Nehalem Bay State Park and offers several miles of trails along stunning coastline through typical lush coastal rain forest. We hiked the lovely Cape Falcon trail, happy that conditions were dry...the last time we hiked here it was wet and slippery.

Morning reflections on Short Sand Beach.

Shoreline view from Cape Falcon.

View from highway 101 towards Manzanita, OR and Nehalem Bay.

When the weekend arrived we moved north to Circle Creek RV Park just outside Seaside, OR. Little did we know when planning our stops for the summer that the Hood To Coast Relay was happening this particular weekend. Seaside, OR is the finish line for this very popular event and tens of thousands of people would descend on this small beach town over the weekend.

Our RV park was full, but being on the outskirts of town was just outside the edge of the high traffic zone. If the park had any trails it would have been perfect, but fortunately we found a couple of trails to hike that took us away from the craziness of town.

We hiked a 2.5 mile loop at nearby Ecola State Park along with a walk on Indian Beach. The loop trail is a segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and leads to a fantastic view of decommissioned Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Indian Beach is a very popular place on beautiful summer weekends...arrive early to snag a parking spot!

Indian Beach.

An old military battery near the Tillamook Light viewpoint.

Oyster mushrooms look like roses growing on an old tree stump.

Tillamook Rock Light (1881 - 1957) sits 1.2 miles off Tillamook Head.

Nicknamed "Terrible Tilly" due to the erratic weather conditions and treacherous commute.

Currently privately owned, the structure was once a columbarium...a respectful public storage place for cremains.

We did venture into Seaside for a couple of walks. The town has a lovely 1.5 mile ocean front promenade and an old timey beach town atmosphere (before the relay participants overrun the area!).

Classic carnival rides including Tilt-A-Whirl and bumper cars.

Morning calm along the Necanicum River as it flows through Seaside, OR.

Saddle Mountain trail is a popular hike due to its proximity to both Portland and the coast. This 5.2 mile out and back trail climbs 1,600 feet to expansive views atop a basalt formation. On a clear day distant snowy peaks are supposed to be visible...unfortunately smoke haze limited our views. Thank goodness we arrived at the trailhead by 9am...this really is a popular trail!

A unique formation about halfway up the trail.

Aptly named Saddle Mountain, we have to drop to the saddle and climb to the top of the opposite peak.
The trail is extremely steep with lots of small, loose rock. Wire grating has been placed across the steepest sections of trail to provide traction. We were glad we brought our trekking poles! 

We can see Astoria and the Columbia River from the top.

Next up: our final stop along the Oregon coast for this summer...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Continuing Along the Oregon Coast: Newport and Lincoln City

In my last post I mentioned we'd continue up the Oregon coast spending week days at state parks and weekends at private parks thanks to the extreme popularity of Oregon state parks in the summer. Our next stop was a few nights at South Beach State Park in Newport, OR.

We've stayed at this park before (Sept. 2014) and this time around enjoyed lovely perimeter site D5. Though the park was full every night and the roads are packed with an almost continuous stream of vehicles and people walking and biking, having a quiet area facing a forested sand dune right behind our rig gave us a bit of a reprieve from the masses surrounding us.

Forested dunes separate the campground from the ocean, so it's just a short walk from camp to the beach. With several miles of trails in the park, both paved and natural, plus a very long lightly used beach, it's easy to spend time in nature without having to drive at all. Bonus: the mosquito's our friends ran into in June were pretty much gone by the time we arrived in August!

Rosie watches squirrel TV from the RV.

Rosie staring down a squirrel behind the RV.

Gull working on a difficult meal.
Kite surfer taking advantage of breezy evening conditions at South Beach State Park.

We did do a couple of hikes outside the park, the first being a nice little combination forest and neighborhood hike along Big Creek at the north end of town.

Pretty Big Creek trail.

The second being a few miles at the Beaver Creek section of Brian Booth State Park just south of town.

Beaver Creek has both hiking and paddling trails.

Ona Beach State Park turned out to be an interesting beach walk when I found shell fossils.

Fossilized shells.

Shell castings.

More shell castings.

Many months ago when we made our reservations on the Oregon coast we weren't even thinking about the eclipse, so when our reservations in Lincoln City happened to fall in the path of totality we considered ourselves very fortunate. There was no price gouging at Wapiti RV Park and the park was not as full as they had been expecting.

Lincoln City, like the rest of the country along the path of totality, had been preparing for massive eclipse crowds for over a year. We were scheduled to leave Lincoln City on the day of the eclipse but when we got an email from the Oregon State Park system asking us to cancel our reservation on August 21st and to stay off the roads if possible we elected to spend an extra night at Wapiti.

The best hike we did in Lincoln City was Hart's Cove. It's a 5.5 mile out and back that starts out going down, down, down through typical lush coastal forest to a wonderful view from Cascade Head. Of course, what goes down must come back it was a terrific workout with some fantastic coastal views.

We started the hike all bundled up in a stiff breeze.

Some massive old growth trees along Hart's Cove trail!

After 2.5 miles of forest we break out onto the headland.

We expected to come out onto a meadow...but found ourselves wading through waist high and taller  grasses.
Our distant view included a couple of arches.

Pretty Hart's Cove...

even has a small waterfall.

Beautiful example of a tree growing on a nurse log.

Sometimes when hiking an out-and-back trail I see things on the return that I missed the first time through,
these bright orange fungus were impossible to miss as we made our way back through the forest.

Another log was covered in shocking orange shrooms!

Walking among giants.

We had gorgeous sunny days leading up to the eclipse, but the morning of dawned foggy. We anxiously awaited the 9:05am start...and the skies cleared up just in time! Excitement built as everyone in the park watched the show overhead and all around us as the skies darkened and the temperature dropped dramatically. The temperature drop made the fog approach once again...but fortunately not enough to obscure the eclipse! Though my final photo does not do the big event justice, we did get a fantastic view of the corona through our binoculars.

The sun came out right on time for the eclipse to start and a party atmosphere ramped up
as the moon began covering the sun.

Total eclipse via point-and-shoot camera!

The coast did not receive as many eclipse visitors as they'd hoped and feared...probably due to the high potential for clouds and fog. Leaving Lincoln City on August 22nd we did endure quite a lot of traffic heading north, but that was due to a four car accident blocking the two lane highway. It ended up taking us 4 hours to go 76 miles! But that's all behind us now...