Yosemite Winter Wonderland

Fresh snow at Yosemite National Park

An early storm in December brought snow to the mountain areas around California. For many years, I wanted to go to Yosemite National Park in the winter to take snow photos, but it never seemed to happen. This year, I went for it. The weather forecast showed a couple of clear days in between storms and with two days of lead time, I planned the trip.

Yosemite is about a four-hour drive, with most of the travel in the Central California region. The last 80 miles would climb to an elevation of about 4,000 feet at the floor of the Yosemite Valley. One of the members of my local photo club shared lots of useful information about visiting Yosemite in the winter, so I felt ready for the trip. I had not visited Yosemite for 17 years, so I was motivated to go.

I left on Friday morning and arrived at the hotel around 1:00 p.m. The Yosemite View Lodge is in El Portal, CA, about 2 miles from the Yosemite Park entrance. After a quick check-in at the hotel, I drove into the park and entered a winter wonderland. The winter storm had cleared about 24 hours prior to my arrival, so plenty of fresh snow was still abound.

Tunnel View
The tunnel entrance at Tunnel View

My first stop was Tunnel View, which provides a magnificent panoramic view of Yosemite Valley. It was also my first of many encounters with icy roads. When driving on ice, the general advice is to, “Slow Down!” I took that advice seriously and still noticed a considerable amount of sliding. (For the record, I was carrying chains, but did not install them.)

After leaving Tunnel View, I made my way back down to the valley floor and began navigating the various roads that meander around the area. I noticed the amount of road ice was significantly less at this slightly lower elevation. This made driving less nerve-wracking. However, walking on ice was still a hazard. The travel information from the photo club stressed the importance of wearing “ice gripping cables” on my hiking boots. I bought some just before leaving and they were a life-saver, in every sense of the word. I saw many people without these ice grips precariously trying to maintain their footing while careening across a frozen patch of ice on the ground. I wore mine full time, except when entering a building.

I spent the rest of Friday driving from spot to spot, taking photos of the beautiful and moody scenes around the park. I probably circumnavigated the main loop several times, each time finding a new perspective, or better lighting or just simply, another beautiful discovery. As dusk approached, a layer of ground fog moved in to provide yet another way to enjoy this place.

The view from Sentinel Bridge
The view of Sentinel Bridge

I ate dinner at the base food camp, a cafeteria-style restaurant in the park. After dinner, I planned to return to the hotel. Instead, I noticed a magical glow of light on the valley floor as a nearly full moon rose. Appreciating the numerous layers of warmth I was wearing, I enjoyed spending a little more time during this silent and dreamlike environment.

A full moon rises above the valley floor. Photo taken from Valley View location.

Fulfilled, I drove back to the hotel for a warm night’s rest.

On Saturday morning, I returned to the park for more photo adventures. It was obvious that more people were visiting the park that day. I was more confident driving on ice yet remained cautious. At one point, another vehicle was rounding a curve a little too fast and began to slide sideways into my lane. I was sure we would collide and braced myself for the impact. I steered slightly to the right until I could feel my car rubbing along the snowbank. For some inexplicable reason, the driver of the other car regained traction and narrowly drove past me without contact. The entire incident happened in less than 3 seconds and then was over. Over, except for my racing heartrate and my clear verbal displeasure with what had just happened.

A little while later, I passed a damaged truck that had apparently struck a tree and spun around.

These were two additional reminders to take my time and keep my speed down.

Early morning at Valley View

During this day, I ventured farther from the roads and walked out into the open spaces for better vantage points. The ice grips on my shoes worked great on the packed snow. I hiked toward the Merced River at one point to get a better view of the river and Half Dome. This location turned out to be a jewel, with no one else within sight or earshot. Quite a feat during a busy Saturday!

Half Dome and Merced River
Silence along the Merced River
Bridalveil Falls

I leisurely hiked and made photos throughout the day. Several times, I realized I was taking photos from the same viewpoints I used on Friday. With later comparisons, the photos were still different enough to appreciate the differences in lighting, timing and color tones.

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

After Saturday dinner at the cafeteria, I returned to the hotel and spent the rest of the evening viewing and editing the photos I had taken. I realized I had captured the beauty I experienced and decided not to re-enter the park on Sunday. It was check-out day at the hotel anyway, so I packed and began the journey home.

Now, more storms are stacking up, so I expect Yosemite to receive much more snow over the next few weeks. I’m sure I’ll have another chance to visit again during a fair-weather window; I’m sure I’ll make the trip.

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Pacific Northwest Photo Slideshow

I assembled a photo slideshow of photos I took while on my road trip in the Pacific Northwest in May and June of this year. The video is about 5 minutes long and the musical soundtrack is the Cat Stevens song, “On the Road to Find Out.”

For the best enjoyment, click on the “Watch on YouTube” link below and choose to watch it in full frame mode.

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Dry camping at Spicer Meadows – what could go wrong?

Friday, July 30, 2021

On Sunday, July 19, I headed out to Spicer Meadows Reservoir campground for a four-night camping trip. This was the second year I was able to join my brother and his families for their annual campout at the group campground at the lake. Last year was my first year and it included a bit of tragedy – my drone decided to drop into the lake and sink to the bottom. I was able to fish it out and return it to the manufacturer for an exchange, so it had a happier ending. While planning for this trip, I wondered, “What could go wrong this year?” I left the new drone home so I removed that possibility from the equation.

The drive to the lake is about 3+ hours for me and the temperatures were already climbing as I navigated the gold country roads up toward the lake. I knew this would be a dry-camping adventure, so I wanted to be sure I would have good clear days for solar recharging of my batteries. I also knew the nearest town was 45 minutes from the campground, so I didn’t want to run any errands unless absolutely necessary. And for good measure, cell service was non-existent at the lake.

The view on Highway 4 driving toward Spicer Meadows. This is the Tamarack Fire near Markleyville.

Seven different camping parties converged on the campground in the middle afternoon and we all arranged our tents, trailers, Class-C and fifth-wheel among the campsites. My brother suggested we share a trailer pad and we managed to fit both of our trailers without too much trouble. We had a good view of the lake, receding shoreline and all.

Two trailers in one site, with a lake view.
Beautiful campground

The first full day, Monday, was cloudy with a little bit of sprinkles, so solar power was not an option. I was not concerned as my battery levels were pretty fresh from Sunday’s drive and recharge session.

I brought a couple of books and magazines and reminded myself not to stress my shoulder on this trip. My bicep tendon had completely separated a couple of weeks prior and it was still painful. I knew I would not be kayaking, swimming, throwing a javelin or chopping wood on this trip. I was OK with limiting my activities to reading, light hiking, taking photos, making S’Mores and napping.

The water level is much lower than previous years.
The dam shows the lake level.
Looking back up toward the campsites, this area is usually underwater. I’m guessing my drone was lying near here under 25 feet of water last year.
Blue skies, after the smoke blew out.

The rest of the week brought warm clear weather. I enjoyed relaxing in the campground and devoured one of the books I brought. “Mary Jane” by Jessica Anya Blau is an interesting and humorous coming-of-age story about a 14 year old girl who works as a summer nanny for a neighboring household in the 1970’s. Her guarded childhood is no match for the cultural leap she makes during this summer. I highly recommend the book.

Tuesday night brought the first bit of adventure (and danger, if you will). After the group campfire session, I got the notion to take a star-trails photo of my trailer. I scoped out the best angle to get good clear star trails and chose a spot on a trail about 25 feet toward the lake. This location gave me a good upward view of the trailer and the dark night sky above it. I set my camera for a time-exposure and figured about 30 minutes would do the job. I relaxed in my trailer and read until the half hour had passed. When I stepped outside my trailer, I noticed one of my nephews was shining his flashlight around the campground. I turned off my camera and learned that my nephew had chased a large bear away from his campsite, about 50 yards from mine.

I spent a few minutes doing the same thing, shining my flashlight around the trees and shrubs surrounding our campsites. After this bit of exercise I went to bed.

This is the star trails photo I took.

The next morning I checked my trail cam. I had set it up every night to watch my trailer. The trail cam has a motion detector that begins recording video when it senses motion in front of it. I’ve captured video of raccoons and coyotes as well as birds, lizards, moths, etc. When I reviewed the video clips from the previous evening, I noticed the number of times I entered or exited my trailer, and walked by with the flashlight. But right in the middle of those clips was one clip of a large bear walking around my trailer. When I checked the time-stamps on each clip, I determined that this bear had walked by during the 30-minute time exposure of my star-trails photo. In fact, I had exited the trailer seven minutes after the bear had walked by! The video shows the bear walking up from behind my trailer, the same trail I had placed my camera. I don’t know how the bear didn’t knock the camera and tripod over, since they were positioned in the middle of the trail, with tree stumps on either side.

Bear visitor

You should be able to view the bear video here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KMfr2cCcQ2HDDCga5oH4ui6fNYAEIBQU/view?usp=sharing

(copy/paste the link in your browser)

The bear video was quite a hit among the campers and I felt a sense of redemption; this video victory was a great balance to last year’s drone-fail video. I felt like I had found the answer to my question, “What could go wrong this year?” Fortunately, this event did not result in anyone getting hurt or any damage to our campsites.

On Wednesday, we ventured down to the bottom of the dam to check out one of the open release pipes. It was an impressive display of water power.

The bottom of the back of the dam, one of the release pipes was open.
My nephew

On Wednesday evening, I began sorting and stacking in preparation for the next morning – our check out time was 11:00AM. Around 12:30 AM, I woke up and took a short walk to the vault toilet. I noticed a sharp pain in my back and wondered when I could have strained a muscle, after all the relaxing and lounging. I went back to bed but immediately got up because the pain was increasing. It was excruciating and I had no idea why. In addition to the back pain, my abdomen was cramping up intensely. I hobbled back up to the vault toilet again, but to no avail. “Here I sit all broken hearted…”

After about an hour of increasing pain I made the difficult decision to wake up my brother and sister-in-law and ask for help. We talked about possible causes and Dan gave me a couple of pain pills. I felt like another trip to the vault toilet was in order, but the only result was dry heaves. We determined I had upchucked the pain pills. We had no phone service, so the only option was to drive toward medical help. Dan drove my SUV and I thrashed about in the passenger seat in pain. We did not reach cell service until after an hour and determined an ER was open in Sonora.

After two hours of driving, we reached the Sonora ER and I went straight in. It looked like I was the only patient. After some diagnosis and a CT scan, the doctor identified a kidney stone as the source of my pain. I was on pain meds through an IV, so I was feeling more comfortable. And it was good to know what was wrong. By this time, it was 6:00AM and Dan and I discussed the challenge of breaking camp. We agreed that he would head back to get started and I would update him with my discharge status. It seemed clear that I would be discharged some time later in the morning. I gave Dan some instructions about closing up my trailer and he left for another two hour drive back to the campground.

I was discharged around 10:00 AM and realized I did not bring anything other than what I was wearing. I knew I would be picking up my discharge meds from a nearby RiteAid and I knew I had to take the meds with food. I just didn’t know if I could put any food in my mouth. I walked to a coffee shop and pushed a few bites of breakfast food into my mouth and hoped for the best. I walked to RiteAid, picked up the meds and took them. Soon, I received a text that my niece-in-law was on her way to pick me up. Her husband, my nephew, was going to drive my SUV and trailer back to their house.

The pain meds were working pretty well, so I was comfortable on the ride home. Once in Roseville, I drove my rig to Rocklin for storage, emptied the fridge and grabbed a few items and drove home.

I spent the rest of the weekend giving birth to Satan’s Love Child, a 3mm kidney stone. (Wanna see a picture of it?) It turned out a second smaller sibling (2mm) also made an appearance.

I can say this was the most pain I’ve felt and I have every desire to prevent a future recurrence. But this also made me realize the risks of camping and traveling alone, like I had done last month in Oregon. Granted, I was usually in good cell service at most of the road trip stops in Oregon. But this would have been a very different experience if I was alone and did not have someone to drive me and also to take care of my trailer. I would not have been able to drive myself that night, the pain was too intense.

The first lesson learned here is to make a thorough step-by-step guide for closing down the trailer. The folding design makes this a bit more complicated, and if someone is not familiar with it, they would have a difficult time putting it down correctly.

The other thing I learned, don’t begin a trip by asking, “What could go wrong?”

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Coming Full Circle – Final Stop at Jackson Meadows Reservoir

Wednesday (June 29): Yesterday morning, I said good bye to Fran and Jerry, the A-frame rally organizers along with a few other attendees and hit the road about 10:30AM. It was already heating up and the weather forecasts were announcing “excessive heat warnings” for the day.

Highway 395 is a major north/south thoroughfare on the eastern side of California. The part I drove on was a two-lane highway with occasional passing lanes. Broken yellow lines were also available for drivers who didn’t want to follow a car pulling a trailer driving the speed limit. I was driving 55 mph (towing speed limit) in a 65 mph zone. I inched my cruise control up to 60 out of empathy for the cars behind me. My bigger empathorial moments occurred whenever I would pull off to the side of the road and let everyone else fly by.

I turned onto the forest service road that leads into the Jackson Meadows area (East Meadows Campground). It was a familiar drive – this is the campground that Laura and I camped at with bikes, kayaks, and our dogs. It was an annual tradition for a number of years, often times with my brother and sister-in-law and their friends. Lots of fun memories.

In 2013, my friend Robin and I also camped here. The camping trip was supposed to include our mutual friend, Dick. Sadly, Dick passed away a month prior to our scheduled trip. Dick’s memorial service was held on the first day of the camping trip. After the conclusion of Dick’s memorial, Robin and I drove up here to Jackson Meadows. During our campout, he and I fashioned a floating memorial from driftwood and flowers, we each wrote a special message on it and set it afloat from our kayaks on the waters of the reservoir. So, some sad memories, too.

East Meadows Campground, Jackson Meadows Reservoir

Being here today has been a surprising experience. I originally booked a reservation here to break up the long drive home from Eagle Lake. I was familiar with the campground so it seemed like a logical choice. And it was. But the surprise came with the various emotions I experienced after arriving. It was a bit like coming back to a hometown. I walked the loops of campsites and remembered some of the events of earlier visits I described above. I took a swim in the lake and thought about the numerous swimming and kayaking adventures. And the fun campfires trickled into my memory stream as well. I noticed I was feeling a bit melancholy. Not sure if it was related to the memories or the awareness of the approaching last drive. Maybe both.

Jackson Meadows Reservoir
Jackson Meadows Reservoir
Jackson Meadows Reservoir
Jackson Meadows Reservoir
Somedays I feel like this tree looks.
The campground is located in a beautiful setting.
Flying high.
Evening light

As dusk approached, I walked down to the waterline and watched the sunset on my last day of this trip. In familiar fashion, it was a beautiful experience.

Last sunset of this trip

So, in a couple of ways, this location brings me full circle, to a place of closure: it is the last stop of my five-week roadtrip journey. It is a return to a place from a different time in my life.

And in a funny coincidence, it is a return to the campground where I was first introduced to an A-frame camper. My brother’s good friend Bob (and I claim Bob as my friend, too) arrived at one of those annual camping trips with a new A-frame trailer. As he showed us the various features and logistics of setting it up, I mentally made a note to be sure I got one of those someday. So here I am.

This morning, I walked down to the water for an early visit. The water was calm, almost mirror-like. It was early enough that I was pretty much alone at the lake. The air was still. My hearing is bad so I couldn’t hear how quiet it was. I could see one small fishing boat across the lake, trolling along peacefully.

Early morning at the lake. All is calm.
The air and water were still.

Soon, I’ll drive down into the muggy valley, park the trailer and unpack. It will likely be 100+ degrees. And I know I’ll be sad about the end of this trip. I’m scheduled to be camping again in less than three weeks…if I can wait that long!

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Travel Day – from Tulelake to Eagle Lake

Friday (June 25): Yesterday was the second travel day to get to Eagle Lake. I left Tulelake about 10:00 AM after a rough night. One of the car alarms in the RV parking area kept going off, repeating until about 11:00PM. Around 12:45AM, I realized I was awake and noticed flashing red lights penetrating the little openings in my trailer curtains. I saw two ambulance/EMT trucks parked directly in front of my site. The EMTs were walking in and out of the fifth wheel trailer parked next to me. After about 30 minutes, they all left. Around 4:00AM, same deal – flashing red lights, two emergency vehicles and probably the same responders. In the better light, I noticed that all the emergency personnel were casually dressed (blue jeans, sweatshirts, ball caps) and surmised that they were all volunteer responders. This time they gurneyed an older man out to the ambulance and left. I went back to sleep with some assurance that he was being taken care of.

On the road again, driving through upper Northern California
Remnants of 2020 wildfires

The drive was warm and many travelers were on the road. The drive took about 3 hours to reach Merrill Campground at Eagle Lake. The campground is well laid out, the sites are spacious with plenty of space between them. Restrooms are convenient, but the nearest shower facilities are a couple miles away at the marina.

Campsite 141 at Merrill Campground, Eagle Lake Recreation Area, Lassen National Forest
Merrill Campground is a very nice campground. Most sites have electrical and water, a few have full hookups.
Eagle Lake, as viewed from the Merrill Campground

The campground has a nice beach at the lake, but the low water level puts the beach about 150 yards from its normal reach.

Finally unpacked the bike and took it for a ride
Looking back at Merrill Campground from the beach

I rode my bike around the campground, checking out the various loops. It was fun to see a good representation of A-Frame trailers around the campground. I would guess about 12-15 trailers. I’m looking forward to meeting up with the attendees of the rally.

The evening closed out with a thunderstorm, naturally. It was more wind than rain and lasted about an hour. I realized I was tired, after a low-sleep night and a few hours driving in the heat, I was ready for some sleep.

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Photo Journal – Multnomah Falls

Sunday (June 20): Happy Father’s Day! This was a rare time that I wasn’t available to see my sons on Father’s Day. We had good phone chats instead.

I did manage to wake up with the alarm and hit the road early to visit Multnomah Falls. It’s about a 45 minute drive and I remembered seeing a sign on the highway about the parking lot exits being closed after 9:00 AM on the weekends. I arrived at the parking lot just before 8:00, so I made good time. Other people were milling about, but it wasn’t crowded.

Multnomah Falls
In the early morning (8:00 am) the entire falls are in the shade.

Multnomah Falls are located very close to the highway. The parking lot is opposite the railroad tracks and an under-the-tracks tunnel connects to the waterfall area. The lower viewing platform gives a stunning view of the long ribbon of water as it falls more than 500 feet, and continues another 60+ feet to a collection pool at the bottom. It is pretty dramatic and the photos do not do it justice.

Multnomah Falls
The lower falls and Benson Bridge.
Lower falls detail

It was fun to people-watch on the lower platform. Lots of selfie sticks (and selfie arms). I would frequently offer to take photos of a couple or a family so they could all be in the picture together.

The lower viewing platform offers an excellent introduction to Multnomah Falls

The hike up to the observation bridge, known as Benson Bridge, is a short climb with a few switchbacks. This location offers a great view of the landing area of the upper falls. I was enamored with the soft spray of falling water juxtaposed with the large moss-covered boulders and rock walls.

Multnomah Falls
Looking down from Benson Bridge at the viewing platform.
Multnomah Falls
The upper falls
Multnomah Falls
Upper falls detail
Multnomah Falls
Upper falls detail

A trail continues up to the top of the upper falls, but I chose to spend my time near the landing areas. I took 252 photos of the falls. Many of them were multiple clicks of the same image, with the randomness of the falling water patterns making the difference.

Multnomah Falls
This trail leads to the top of the upper falls.
Multnomah Falls
Upper falls detail
Multnomah Falls
Benson Bridge
Columbia River Gorge, looking east
Columbia River Gorge, looking west

By about 10:00 AM I was ready to leave. The crowds had arrived and the sunlight was beginning to infiltrate the softly lit area of the falls.

I’m very happy I made the drive to visit Multnomah Falls. This is a location I’ve been wanting to see for many years.

Tomorrow is a travel day as I move south into Central Oregon. I’ll be staying at Prineville, Oregon which is in the Redmond and Bend area.

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Two Travel Days – from Cape Disappointment, WA to Hood River, OR

Thursday (June 17): My road trip leaves the coast and turns inland. My next camping destination is the area around Hood River; I decided to break up the four-hour drive into two days. Since I didn’t have reservations for a camping location near Hood River, I figured it would be wise to arrive earlier in the day and improve my chances of getting a “first-come, first-served” space. It turned out to be a good strategy.

LL Stub Stewart SP
LL Stub Stewart SP has spacious campsites

My overnight stop was at LL Stub Stewart SP, about 30 miles west of Portland. I could tell I had moved inland, the temperatures were significantly warmer. Stub Stewart SP is a wooded area; the campground is pretty modern. About half of the spaces were occupied. The full-service campsites are spacious and spread out, each of the two loops has active camp hosts and the larger state park sports an abundance of hiking, biking and equestrian trails.

LL Stub Stewart SP
Inside the loop, lots of open space between the sites
LL Stub Stewart SP
Plenty of trails in this area

Friday (June 18): I woke up early and efficiently packed up to leave. My desired arrival time at Hood River was 11:00 AM and I had some errands to take care of along the way. In Beaverton, I got groceries, gassed up the car and stopped at an Amazon hub (thank you, Whole Foods) to pick up an item I had ordered a few days earlier. (Note to self: Amazon hubs are great for road trips)

My timing worked out well, I reached the city of Hood River a little before 11:00 and turned south to scour a couple of county campgrounds in the area. My first choice was Toll Bridge Park, about 16 miles south. Just to confuse things, the park is situated along The Hood River.

(“Hood River” = the city; “The Hood River” = the river, got it?)

Toll Bridge Park near Mt. Hood
Toll Bridge Park near Mt. Hood
Toll Bridge Park

I toured the prime camping loop and noticed a number of other vehicles doing the same thing. I spotted a nice campsite with partial shade, water and electric hookup, and occupied it. By noon, I was camping – Jackpot!

After changing into inland-warm-weather clothes, I drove back to Hood River to check out the town. Traffic was snarly, the parking was scarce and lots of people were enjoying the warm Friday afternoon. This is definitely a prime destination for outdoorsy activities. For the record, most indoor businesses are still insisting on mask-wearing, even if vaccinated.

On the highway back to the campground, I noticed a sign pointing to “Panorama Point” and figured that had to be something good. I took the turn-off and drove a few miles uphill to be treated to a wonderful view of Mt. Hood (the mountain). I figured if I can’t be at the coast, I might as well enjoy the other beauties of this state. I also caught a glimpse of Mt. Adams to the north.

Mt. Hood
View of Mt. Hood from Panorama Point, my campsite is somewhere near the ridge in front of the mountain

I’ll have two days here to take it all in. And I just realized those two days are Saturday and Sunday. I guess I won’t be alone!

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Exploring Cannon Beach, Astoria and Cape Disappointment

Thursday (June 17):
My visit to this Washington peninsula would offer only two full days to explore the area. I knew the time would go quickly so I wanted to prioritize my choices. In addition to checking out this area, I also wanted to go back to Cannon Beach and spend a couple of hours there.

My visit to Cannon Beach was timed perfectly for the weather. After a rainy morning on Tuesday, the weather cleared by mid-day. Cannon Beach is a popular destination, with a vibrant downtown corridor and adjoining beach. Haystack Rock stands prominently as the centerpiece of the long flat beach. Parking in the area is competitive; I was fortunate to grab a roadside space near an entrance to the beach.

Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach
Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach
Looking south
Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach
Low tide
Puffins! This is a composite of four images of puffins in flight.
Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach
Beach reflections

On the way back from Cannon Beach, I turned off to visit Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Many of the river viewpoints were closed due to jetty construction. I was able to check out the shipwreck on the beach.

Shipwreck at Fort Stevens
Shipwreck at Fort Stevens

With the beautiful blue sky, I stopped in Astoria to get some new photos of the Astoria bridge. I returned to the same vantage point I took photos from the previous day. It’s a narrow residential street in the hills above the river with an excellent view of the entire bridge. I had to squeeze my car into a small turnoff space and walk a few blocks back to the best shooting spot. I was careful to not disrupt the homeowners on this street, I’m sure they see plenty of tourists checking out the view. I also drove down to the waterfront and walked along the area on either side of the bridge.

Astoria Oregon
Wide view of Astoria Bridge
View from the waterfront

On my last afternoon, I went to the Astoria Brewing Company located on the waterfront overlooking the river. Naturally I ordered fish and chips and a cup of chowder. The chowder was excellent but I’m not considering it as a candidate for my “best chowder” search. They add bacon to their chowder, which tastes great, but I call that cheating. I enjoyed eating the chowder, even though I had disqualified it. The halibut fish and chips were very good and I paired it with a very smooth blonde ale. I left the restaurant very satisfied with my last supper of the area.

Last supper at Astoria Brewing Co

Cape Disappointment State Park includes more than the campground. This area reflects the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; the expedition reached the Pacific Ocean here at the mouth of the Columbia River. The park includes a Lewis and Clark interpretive center, two lighthouses and several historical remnants from the Pacific coast defense during World War II.

One of the lighthouses overlooks the beach next to my campsite; it is called the North Head Lighthouse. The park offers easy access to this lighthouse; a good sized parking lot and paved trail makes for an easy visit. This spot also has a trail to another viewpoint (called Bells Lookout) which gives hikers a chance to visit an old WWII bunker.

North Head Lighthouse above the campground beach
North Head Lighthouse
North Head Lighthouse
WWII Bunker
WWII Bunker
WWII Bunker
Three levels
WWII Bunker
Ocean view
North Head Lighthouse
This is the campground beach, looking back from the North Head Lighthouse

The other lighthouse is called Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and can be viewed from the Lewis and Clark interpretive center. This interpretive center is also home to the rugged structures of Fort Canby. While at the center I noticed a jetty that looked like it would have a great view of the lighthouse at water level. I consulted a map to see if I might be able to reach this spot and learned it is located in my campground. Very convenient and an excellent viewpoint of the lighthouse!

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, viewed from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, viewed from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Fort Canby at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Fort Canby at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Fort Canby Exterior
Fort Canby Exterior
Fort Canby Exterior
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, viewed from the campground jetty

On the second evening of taking sunset photos of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, it drizzled for a few minutes. About 15 minutes later, a beautiful rainbow arced across the sky, directly over the lighthouse point. I was gifted with about 10 minutes of viewing (and photographing) this spontaneous gift.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse at sunset
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Nightfall at the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Before settling down for the last night, I visited the campground beach for one last walk. The wind was blowing fiercely but the walk in the water’s edge was pleasant and bittersweet.

Last walk on a beach

My time spent on the beaches over the last three weeks has been very rewarding. I’ve felt a special sense of peace while walking in the water, outrunning the seagulls in search of intact sand dollars, inspecting the little shells in the sand and watching the rhythmic rolling of the waves. This experience has been cleansing, calming and rejuvenating. I will miss the beaches I’ve visited.

Last walk on a beach

This is a turning point of my road trip. My next two travel days will take me inland toward Hood River on the Columbia River Gorge. In a way, I’ll have two trips: the coastline tour and the central Oregon route. As I say “Good Bye” to the ocean, I look forward to the new adventures that await me.

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Travel Day – Barview Jetty to Cape Disappointment

Monday (June 14): After 36 hours of soaking rain, Monday morning was dry(er); this made packing and closing up the trailer much easier. While breaking camp, I chatted with the gentleman in the next space. He was curious about the a-frame trailer and shared plenty of stories of his truck-driving days. We said our good-byes and I pulled away for another mini-trek to my next destination: Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington.

Traffic along the coastline was heavier than I expected, and the traffic progress was complicated by heavy fog in several places. I had hoped to stop at Cannon Beach for a lunch break, but decided in advance to continue onward if the fog had claimed Cannon Beach for the day. As it turned out, Cannon Beach was fogged in and I kept driving north. I did pull over for one foggy opportunity – I noticed some dense wooded areas off the highway with some excellent-looking fog in the treetops. I found a reasonable turnout and spent about 20 minutes walking up a dirt road through the foggy trees. It was a nice break.

A walk in the fog

Some of the other cities looked pretty interesting and I considered making a day trip to this area from the campground in Washington. I was mostly curious about Astoria, the last Oregon city I would drive through before crossing the Columbia River to Washington.

Before I had a chance to take a look at Astoria, an ominous sight appeared ahead of me. It was what I would call, “The Mother of All Bridges.” I had heard the bridge over the Columbia River was pretty high and long, but I did not expect it to taunt drivers from several miles away.

The Mother of All Bridges – The Astoria Megler Bridge.
White-knuckling across the bridge

The route onto the bridge was very direct with no last-minute escape routes. I was committed to driving over it so I took a deep breath (maybe more than one) and pushed forward. Let’s just say it was breath-taking. I thought I was doing pretty well until I noticed my hands getting very tired from squeezing the steering wheel. I remembered the good golf advice about relaxing my grip, but this was no simple case of putting a golf ball. I was driving my car and trailer over a skinny, metal, two-lane, 4-mile long bridge that was tall enough for the largest ships to pass under. And it was windy. And I had to pee.

Once I crested the highest point of the bridge, the downhill slope was very stimulating. I could see contiguous highway ahead all the way to the Washington shoreline, but it was questionable how cars managed to stay on that thread-like strip of asphalt.

On the downhill side

Naturally, it was no big deal. Thousands of cars traverse that span every day and none of them spontaneously jump over the edge. I just wanted to be sure mine wouldn’t be the first one.

Cape Disappointment State Park is about 12 miles from the bridge and the Washington shoreline is beautiful. I entered the campground and set up camp, all the while noticing the clear and close sound of the ocean. I learned I was camping about 50 yards from the path that leads to the beach. So I checked it out.

Cape Disappointment State Park

It’s another long beach, in fact, a nearby community is called Long Beach. I opted to take a short walk, and was pleasantly surprised to notice a lighthouse clearly visible and the north end of the beach. I did not know how this place became known as Cape Disappointment, but I was not disappointed.

This beach is very close to my campsite.

I returned to my trailer and set it up for my three night stay. This part of the campground is dry-camping with no electrical connection. I will be watching my battery power level and looking for chances to replenish it with the solar system. I’ll just need some sunlight, that’s all. Shouldn’t be a problem.

One note – the cellular signal in this park is very weak, so my updates during this time may be limited and delayed until I reach a better location.

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