Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ashland, OR, Worth a Longer Stay

Last year we arrived in Ashland, OR in the middle of October and caught the magnificent fall foliage in full swing. This year, three weeks earlier, the towns centerpiece, Lithia Park, is still mostly green but is no less enchanting. You can read about our 2012 Ashland stay here and here.

Once again we are settled into a wonderful site at Emigrant Lake County Park. Site 19 has expansive and unobstructed views of the lake and only one close neighboring site that is behind you. Our giant window and outdoor sitting area looked out on the view below.

Site 19.

Emigrant Lake is used for irrigation during the summer so every year it goes from full in the spring to very low by the end of summer...right now it is at 20% capacity. The low water level did not detract from the beauty of our surroundings. From our site we could observe the comings and goings of the local rowing teams, as well as fishermen, SUP, kayakers, kites, flocks of geese, and wonderful cloud displays flowing over the mountains all around us.

We enjoyed this site so much we extended for an extra day. We've heard this place is crazy busy during summer weekends and holidays, but fall is a very peaceful time to stay here, the park was never more than half full. The best sites do reserve well in advance, but almost every site has a very good view of the lake and hills.

The RV park seen from across the cove. There we are just right of center foreground.

There are plenty of deer hiding around the park, you'll see them wandering around early or late in the day, but on a mid afternoon walk we spied them resting among the oaks, those big ears always give them away!

One day we needed to do some shopping in Medford, just 15 miles North of Ashland, so of course we included time for a hike. Upper Table Rock is a short trail to an interesting geologic area with excellent views of the Medford valley.

The shiny brick red of this manzanita really stood out against the gray sky and silvery green lichen and leaves.

Table Rock is a large lava plateau standing several hundred feet above the valley.
The rock formations along the edge are amazing!

Fog still blankets much of the valley below as we ponder the enormous rock formation we stand upon.

Puffy clouds line the horizon, rivers of golden grass cross the lava studded plateau. 

Walking the South edge of the plateau above the clouds.

We hiked Grizzly Peak once again, this time on a cloudy morning. The trail took us above the clouds for a different kind of view.

Looking South from Grizzly Peak trail, Mt Shasta is somewhere off in the distance.

Last year we enjoyed the wide flat trails through the center of Lithia Park, this year we discovered the single track trails traversing the South hillside of Lithia Park.

The main trail through Lithia Park is a lovely green oasis.

Oaks provided a bit of fall color along the hillside trails.

We also discovered a myriad of trails in the hills immediately West of Lithia Park as well as some trails on the South edge of town in the Oredson-Todd Woods. These trail systems are fairly well signed and do connect so you can hike for many miles if you so desire. Be prepared to hike some steep terrain through well managed mixed forest. Though the trails are steep in spots, there are some well engineered switchbacks to keep you moving and some very nicely situated benches to catch your breath.

All of the trails around town had signs warning of both bear and cougar sightings within the last month. You can bet we were on high alert for critter sightings, but all we saw were a few deer and some big fluffy gray squirrels.

I should also mention some of these trails are popular mountain biking trails, in fact the BTI trail is for bikes only. Personally I found these trails way too steep for biking, some of the downhills were so steep and on decomposed granite, that you would be braking and sliding constantly...no fun in my opinion...but I am no daredevil on the bike, either! We only hiked these trails on weekdays, weekends may be very busy due to the close proximity to town.

Oredson-Todd Woods

One of several wonderful rest stops on the hillsides overlooking Ashland.

Emigrant Lake is a wonderful place to stay when visiting Ashland, especially if you can get site 21 or 19. Next time we come through we'll probably stay for a week or two. This town has a lot to offer in the way of interesting shops and restaurants as well as the local trails we spent so much time on.

Sunset glow over our site.

Tomorrow we head a little South and East to Tionesta, CA where we'll spend a few days exploring Lava Beds National Monument. Then on down the 395 corridor...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Leaving the Oregon Coast for Time with Family

Our last few days on the Oregon coast were spent at Bullards Beach State Park in Bandon along with friends Dennis and Sheryl and their sweet puppy, Phoebe. Lots of beach walking and some delicious dinners together rounded out our time together. While we moved on to Roseburg and family, they moved South towards home in Tucson...we look forward to meeting up again somewhere, sometime and are grateful we had these few days of travel together.

Young Phoebe learns about all sorts of unusual goodies on a cloudy morning at the beach.

The Coquille River lighthouse shines under bright morning sun at Bullards Beach State Park.

Our home of record is Myrtle Creek, OR, specifically my daughters house, just on the outskirts of Roseburg, OR. Once again we are staying at On the River Golf & RV Resort, a pretty little private park just a couple of miles from Chantal's house.

The RV park sits at the base of a small mountain and their property encompasses about 135 acres, including about a third of said mountain. Some years ago the owners purchased a few Scottish Highlander cattle because of their reputation for clearing brush, including blackberries and poison oak. The cattle now number 20 and do a decent job of eating away the mountainside brush and RV park visitors are welcome to walk the property. Well, it's climb the property actually, as the dirt roads on the mountainside are very steep! We'll huff and puff up the nearly vertical dirt roads on the lookout for cattle and deer and enjoy expansive views of the surrounding countryside.

This young Scottish Highlander was curious about us...as he approached Hans,
Hans backpedaled, not quite sure of his intent!

Tackling the final, nearly vertical, ascent to the top of On The River RV Park's property.

The RV park includes lots of pretty landscaping, we enjoyed these lily's just steps from our site.

Our time with Chantal and James includes a yard work fix for me. At the end of summer Chantal has had more than enough of her gardens bounty and we get to help her get rid of some of it. We got to do some gardening and some canning together, good mother daughter bonding time!

This is just a portion of our take from the garden during our stay!

Our big project this year was to bring water down from the house to Chantal's veggie garden, about 75 feet away and down a slope. We spent one morning trenching and another morning buying and assembling the system...mission accomplished!

This was the fun part...not!
The goal was to bring water to the small gate on the left of the photo.

Son in law James gave us a tour of his place of employment, where a variety of aluminum boats are built.

James and Hans inspect a just finished boat.

Chantal and Hans and I took a day trip to Eugene where we did a bunch of shopping and enjoyed a beer tasting at McMenamins High Street Brewery.

Hans drove to Eugene while Chantal gave me a crochet lesson in the back seat!

The Mid-Valley Brewfest event included 5 McMenamins beers and 5 seasonals from other local breweries.

For the third year in a row we played our favorite disc golf course at Whistlers Bend Park, just East of Roseburg, OR. (Here's a post from the first time we played this course.) This time was a little different; more campsites are being constructed which caused some havoc with the first few holes and threw off the numbers for the following holes...but we still had an excellent time and shared the course with no one but the local deer on a Monday morning (though we've heard the place is very busy on the weekends). We learned some of the new camp sites will have hookups.

Note Hans, on the left, throwing his yellow disc over the deer who is in front of the basket!

North Bank Habitat Management Area is one of the few hiking spots around Roseburg. This year we hiked a fantastic six mile loop that took us up over rolling hills covered with golden grasses to big views and down through oak and pine, cedar and madrone forests. We hoped to see wild turkey and deer which are abundant in the area but instead saw a black bear! He was about 100 yards in front of us, paused briefly to see what we were, then moved quickly into the brush.

You can even see a smidgen of the North Umpqua River in this shot.
Clouds were moving in for a storm that would start that night.

From open vistas to deep green, cedar scented forest, the variety of habitats on this hike was wonderful.

And this bear sighting was the icing on the cake!

Fall seems to have arrived, the first good rain storm is happening today and this area really needs it. We'll have one last dinner with Chantal tonight, then head South to Ashland tomorrow. Once again we've had an excellent stay, visiting with Chantal and James and her dad and step mom too (thanks Sue for the smokey chipotle chutney!). Though it is always hard to leave Chantal, we'll take away massive amounts of home grown produce and, even better, good memories.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Few Days in Newport, OR

We've spent the past three nights at South Beach State Park, at the South end of Newport, OR. Just like our last two Oregon state park stays, this large park has been busy every night and especially on the weekend; September is really popular on the coast! Note for those with tall rigs, there are plenty of low hanging branches to watch out for at the state parks.

South Beach State Park is bounded on the West by the Pacific Ocean and on the North by the jetty to Yaquina Bay. From the jetty you can view the impressive Yaquina Bay Bridge and watch a steady stream of fishing boats enter and exit the harbor.

Sunset along the jetty with the Yaquina Bay Bridge as a backdrop.

A long liner returns to the harbor after a day on the ocean.

About a mile from the state park is Wilder Disc Golf Course. This turned out to be the most challenging course we'd ever seen, with the best signage ever! You play through thick forest, across deep, steep ravines, surrounded by dense undergrowth. We learned to stage ourselves so we could (hopefully) see where each others discs went...the foliage was so thick it was extremely difficult to find the discs at times. Very tough course!

Lots of trees, notice the dense bushes to Hans right...we spent a lot of time searching for our discs!

South Beach State Park has a wonderful trail system with options that will appeal to every activity level. There are easy paved trails, wide, mostly level bark trails, and our personal favorite, the single track trails that took us into the rolling dune forest. And, there's the beach to walk on too.

Walking through the dune forest.

Looking South towards the jetty.
Notice the crowds on the beach on a Friday afternoon!  ;-)

One evening we went out to dinner with our friends Dennis and Sheryl at Local Ocean, a really wonderful seafood restaurant on Yaquina Harbor. We enjoyed everything we ate and I bought some fresh caught tuna from their market as well.

Walking the harbor after an early dinner.

Lots of California Sea Lions in Yaquina Harbor.

Brian Booth State Park is just a few miles South of Newport and within its boundaries is the Beaver Creek Marsh and several miles of trails. We parked at the welcome center on Beaver Creek Road and hiked about 4 miles that included marsh land (on a seasonal trail), forest, meadows and rolling hills. There are also water trails for kayakers.

There are a variety of forest trails in the reserve.

Beaver Creek.

We tried to go to Rogue Brewery on Newport's South Bay but at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon they were so busy there was a 30 minute wait just to have a beer! Even though they had dozens of people waiting we still saw an unused dining room/bar that would have accommodated another 50 customers...looks like a business that could use better management of their resources.

Fortunately our trip to the South Bay harbor was not a waste. Just outside the Rogue establishment is the Port of Newport Fishing Pier in the shadow of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. This long pier is a very popular place on a Saturday afternoon. Dozen of people were crabbing off the pier and sea lions were cavorting in the water too. We spent an hour enjoying the action all around us.

We watched a young woman pull crabs out of several traps with no gloves!
Red Rock Crabs are so prolific around here that crabbers are encouraged to take all they can.

Dangerous looking claws!

Playing and fishing along the pier.

This morning we played the 9 hole disc golf course at South Beach State Park. By far the easiest course we have ever seen, this wide open, short hole course is great for families and beginners. It has posts instead of baskets.

Each hole has a long and short tee and very few tree obstacles.
You can see the white pole that is the "basket" just beyond and to the left of the red tee.

This afternoon we'll set up camp at Bullards Beach State Park for a few nights. Friends Dennis and Sheryl will join us for our last stop along the coast before we head inland to visit my daughter and son in law. We've been extremely fortunate in the weather department lately and will have a couple more gorgeous days before the rain begins. September truly is a perfect time to visit the Oregon coast!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Making Our Way Down the Oregon Coast and We've Been on the Road for Two Years!

Summer may be winding down but you wouldn't think so along the Oregon coast. The State Parks are still full on the weekends as folks try to grab some beach time before the rainy season sets in. That's why we made sure to make reservations at several State Parks well into the month of September.

A couple of weeks ago when reviewing our upcoming reservations we discovered we'd missed a single night, a Friday night no less. Fortunately we found a site large enough for our 5th wheel at Fort Stevens State Park, conveniently located between Long Beach, WA and our next stop Nehalem, OR, for the one night.

We packed a lot into our 24 hours at the Fort! A 2.5 mile hike around Coffenbury Lake. A sunset drive to see the wreck of the Peter Iredale on the beach. A 17 mile bike ride that included the tip of the peninsula to view the mouth of the Columbia River as well as a visit to the historic military sites in the park. There are extensive bike paths throughout this enormous park that take you through beautiful forest and salt marshes. This turned out to be an excellent stop over and would be worth a return visit.

Moon rising over the Peter Iredale.
On a warm summer evening it was impossible to get a shot without people on it!

We've spent the last few nights at Nehalem Bay State Park. For our first outing we wanted to make a loop hike out of the peninsula we are camped on. Bordered on the West by the Pacific Ocean and on the East by the Nehalem River, the peninsula is four miles long and is home to deer and elk, we even saw a sign about a recent bear scat sighting.

We ended up hiking 7 miles, a lot of it on sand (both hard packed and very soft), plus some bushwacking when the shore disappeared along the river or near the jetty. We did see fresh elk scat, but unfortunately no animals in the flesh. It was a tough 7 miles, but we really enjoyed the bushwacking and wayfinding parts!

On the river side of the peninsula we had the beach entirely to ourselves.

Taking a little used trail through the interior of the peninsula...on the lookout for wildlife!

Back on the river...

The jetty was packed with driftwood for us to clamber over to get to the beach side of the peninsula.
The dots above Hans' head are fishing boats hanging out at the intersection of river and ocean.

Our friends Dennis and Sheryl met up with us at Nehalem and we got to meet their new puppy, Phoebe.

Phoebe is a five month old ball of fire!

The four of us took at hike at Oswald West State Park, just a few miles North of our campsite. We first checked out the beach at Smugglers Cove then took the Cape Falcon trail hoping the foggy, drizzly conditions would clear up by the time we reached the viewpoint.

We were a little too late for tidepooling but the colors on the rocks were interesting.

Dennis and Sheryl crossing a stream.
The damp conditions made for some very slippery spots on the Cape Falcon Trail.

Burls and plants growing on trees.

Hans goofing around on the edge of a cliff!

Sea foam art.

We took a drive into Tillamook one day, stopping along the way to do a little hike at Kilchis Point Reserve. This is a new reserve and trails are still being built but we were able to walk a couple of miles through pretty forest and out to the edge of Tillamook Bay. Lots of interpretive panels on these easy walking trails.

An unusual start to the trail!
The first quarter mile is very fancy, but turns into a pleasant gravel path, then further in becomes dirt track.

In Tillamook we visited the famous cheese factory and enjoyed reading about the history and process of cheese making...and noticed most people went straight for the free cheese samples without even stopping to read the information panels! The place was packed and very touristy.

We also visited the much nicer Blue Heron French Cheese shop, where there are plenty of samples plus wine tasting. During the drive between our campsite at Nehalem Bay and Tillamook we passed the charming towns of Nehalem and Wheeler...in retrospect it might have been more pleasant to walk those two cute towns than deal with the crowds in Tillamook!

Our last full day, today: September 10th, is our two year anniversary as full time RVers! What a blast we've had these past two years and no end in sight yet. Today was no exception. We started the day with a hike up Neahkahnie Mountain.

Neahkahnie tops out at 1600 feet and can be accessed from two trails. We chose the shorter 3 mile round trip South trail with 900 ft elevation gain. It's a relatively easy ascent through beautiful coastal forest to a viewpoint, just below the rocky summit, looking South over the quaint town of Manzanita and Nehalem Bay State Park.

Manzanita in the foreground, with Nehalem Bay to the left and the Pacific Ocean to the right.

We were excited to finally see a rough skinned newt on the trail!
As much as we wanted to touch him, we did not...these newts exude a strong toxin!

Afterwards we celebrated our On-The-Road Anniversary with an excellent lunch at San Dune Pub in Manzanita. Seriously good Chipotle Bacon Burger and Sweet Potato Fries, plus we tasted the Fort George Vortex IPA for the first time and it is a winner!

Nehalem Bay has been a wonderful stop and tomorrow we continue our coastal crawl, moving on to South Beach State Park. Here's a few more shots of this beautiful place we got to call home for a few days.