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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, we 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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Tuesday (June 22): The Smith Rock State Park is located about 20 miles from Prineville. The park reopened less than a month ago after being closed for more than a year due to Covid.
I spent a couple hours at Smith Rock hiking the trails this morning. After last night’s thunderstorm and balmy night, it felt good to walk in the cooler air. Not only was the air cool, it was absolutely still. Occasionally, I would stop hiking to take a photo and notice the silence. It was so quiet that I felt conspicuous when I restarted hiking because my shoes were making noise.
This area has stunning rock spires that stretch vertically from the canyon floor. The Crooked River wiggles through the spaces between the rock faces. In the 80’s this park was a huge draw for rock climbers. Now, in addition to the continued focus on rock climbing, miles of trails beckon hikers and bikers to explore the area. I hiked trails in both directions along the river’s path.
After returning to my starting point, I got the notion to take the Misery Ridge Trail. Somebody had a sense of humor when they named this trail. It immediately transitions into switchbacks as the hiker climbs from the trailhead at the bridge.
I climbed about half the vertical height of this trail before stopping. I was rather proud of myself for not being intimidated by the sheer height of the trail, as well as its close proximity to the steep edge. When I began to hike back down, all that changed. When hiking down it was hard to not see the height and precariousness of the trail.
By the time I reached the bottom I was pretty tired. I still needed to cross the bridge and climb out of the canyon one more time. Slow and steady was my mantra (when I could breathe). The cool air had warmed up by late morning, and the humidity seemed to have increased, too.
I drove into nearby Redmond and met up with a former co-worker/current friend for lunch. Jerry and I share a strong interest in photography and we often send emails back and forth discussing the latest photo gear and techniques. He had recommended I visit Smith Rock SP and gave me good advice to get there early before it got too busy.
We had a terrific lunch of tacos from a food truck parked at a taphouse. It was fun to catch up with him and he had more suggestions of places to check out in the area.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon buying groceries and supplies for the last week (sniff, sniff) of my trip. When I was leaving Safeway in Redmond, the lightning and thunder had started. I drove back to Prineville and outran the storm by a couple hours. When the storm did arrive, it was not nearly as powerful as the previous night’s fracas. In addition to another stunning sunset, I was treated to a full rainbow at the RV park. One end of the rainbow burrowed into the roof of my trailer. I think I should name my trailer “Pot of Gold.”
Tomorrow is the first of another two-day travel leg. When I stop for the night tomorrow, I’ll be back in California.
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Monday (June 21): Normally, Travel Days are not very eventful. They are more of a utility day, a necessary chunk of time spent moving from one area to another. However, this Travel Day was a little more interesting than others.
I left the campground near The Hood River around 11:00AM and headed south on the nearby highway. My route for the day would be on two-lane highways exclusively. I had received a photo tip from a friend from my home neighborhood about a great spot to see Mt Hood with a lake (Trillium Lake) in the foreground. When I looked up that location, I realized my travel route would pass very close to it. Perfect!
The road out of the area passed closely to Mt. Hood. I noticed how the shape changed as I viewed it from the east, then later from the south.
I reached Trillium Lake and drove into the day use area. The ranger at the gate cautioned me that the parking lot was jammed full and I would not be able to park in the lot. He did say I could try to park in some gravel areas along the main road if they were open. I thanked him as I handed him my $10 entrance fee and drove in.
The ranger was not joking, the parking lot, the roads and the trails were packed with people. I saw an open area in the gravel that was big enough for my car + trailer, IF I could back it in. As in, parallel park with a trailer. I was determined and it was not very difficult to do. As I walked away from the car, I glanced back and laughed. I had no idea how I was going to turn around when I left.
The walk to the edge of the lake was less than a quarter mile and made everything worthwhile. The deep blue water with the snow-covered Mt. Hood rising above was a great way to say Good Bye to this majestic peak. I gathered some images with my camera and found my way back to the car.
I had noticed that the road ahead would cross over a small dam; I was not interested in trying that route. About 50 yards behind my parking job was an intersection. I pulled out of my space, then backed up the 50 yards and back-turned into the intersection. Spun the wheel around and headed for the open road.
The rest of the drive went smoothly. Highway 26 was very busy and I took several opportunities to pull off to the side of the road and let the train of cars behind me pass. It’s a bit strange, I notice the drivers in Oregon don’t speed very much. Whenever I reach a passing lane, I move directly to the right lane so the cars behind can take advantage of the extra lane. Yet, when I look back, most of them are also behind me in the right lane. If someone does pass me, they are moving only slightly faster than I’m going. When I think of passing lanes in California, I think of Mad Max.
I reached the Crook County RV Park in Prineville in the mid afternoon. It’s a clean large RV park with plenty of full-hookup spaces. The restrooms and showers (no tokens) are modern and a nice laundry facility is on the premises, too. I noticed the heat when I arrived, it was 93 degrees. This might be the warmest day I’ve experienced since I left Lincoln 28 days ago. After setting up the trailer, I took a well-deserved shower and did two loads of laundry. For dinner I decided to try out a BBQ place I spotted as I drove through town earlier.
The Crossroads BBQ Pit & Pub was open and lightly occupied. I had a very tasty dinner of a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and the cook’s special beans. They were delicious. As I looked out the window at the intersection in front, I wondered if anything exciting ever happens in Prineville. I did see a county fairground, so that’s something.
About 15 minutes later, my question was answered. A powerful lightning storm had barged into town and it was putting on a show. The trees along the main street were swaying in multiple directions at once, and I wondered how my trailer was handling these strong winds. Then the rain started and several distinct bolts of lightning flashed across the sky, followed quickly by the companion thunder claps. I love thunderstorms – they remind me of the midwest and their intensity is humbling.
I drove back to the RV park as the storm was getting stronger, louder and brighter. Soon, it was directly overhead and the rain was pounding on the roof of my trailer. I looked up at the inside roof and watched the two panels shift about, heaving under the pressure of the wind. I was thankful that I had affixed the DIY rope/wind kit to my roof when I set up earlier, even though at that time it was sunny, warm and clear. All I could do now was trust that it would hold together.
And also take some photos. And video.
After about 20 minutes, the storm stopped. Like a Hollywood set, it just stopped. No wind. No rain (no winter’s cold…) Shortly, the colors in the sky reappeared and a beautiful sunset took center stage in the western sky.
I was thankful for the beauty of the sunset as it seemed to gently guide the day to a close.
I sure hope I can sleep tonight.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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Wednesday (June 9): I slept solid after all the excitement on Tuesday. The bright sun and blue sky tempted me, so I dressed quickly and walked 1/4 mile to South Beach. The crisp air was refreshing and I walked barefoot in the shallow surf. The water was stunningly cold but after awhile my feet were so numb I didn’t notice. A few others were also out on the beach on that morning. As I walked along, I began searching for sand dollars that washed up on the shore. Most of the ones I saw were partial pieces and any round ones had been chipped open by the seagulls.
After about 45 minutes of intense searching, I had found 4 undamaged sand dollars. I was rich! I looked up and noticed how far I had walked. Actually, I had no idea how far I walked because I couldn’t see where I started. I wandered back and eventually located my starting point and walked back to my campsite. I made coffee and breakfast and started planning my day.
A former coworker had contacted me a couple days earlier; he and his fiance were staying at a nearby Thousand Trails campground during the same time I would be in Newport. I reached out to him and arranged to stop by their campground for a visit. I met his fiance and another friend, took a walking tour of the campground and checked out the beach nearest to them. I wondered if I had kept walking that morning if I would have ended up at their beach. I estimated it to be about four miles away.
We agreed to meet for dinner on Friday afternoon and I left to run some errands. I needed to get a few supplies to finish my trailer cleanout from the previous day. When I returned to my campsite in the afternoon, I took an unplanned two-hour nap. I guess I was tired.
After an early dinner, I headed back to the beach for a sunset LWOTB. I found a few other shells and took photos of the sunset and beach objects I came across.
My Steps app let me know I had accomplished my steps goal for the day!
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Tuesday (June 8): Yesterday was my last full day in this area. Here are a few last looks at this beautiful part of Oregon.
Today I’ll pack up and drive north about two hours to Newport. I’ll remember this visit for a long time and I have many photos to help keep those memories alive!
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Saturday (June 5) After a delicious farewell breakfast with Claudia and Bruce (yumm!) I left Harris Beach SP around noon and turned north on HWY101. I had about 110 miles of travel ahead of me and I planned to make a few scenic stops along the way.
Highway 101 follows the coastline with occasional stunning views of the ocean. As I drove past Meyers Beach I was reminded of the sights and sounds of walking on that beach a few days earlier.
My first scenic stop was Cape Blanco State Park. Just 9 miles north of Fort Orford, Cape Blanco SP includes a campground in the trees on a bluff and a lighthouse. The road out to the park area is a typical country road with occasional repair spots and some gravel stretches. It was windy on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The lighthouse is a short walk from the parking lot. Tours were not available on this day, but the exterior was easily accessible.
Back on the road, I continued to Bandon, where I planned to eat some lunch/dinner (linner?). Bandon has a cute “old town” area along the waterfront. I walked into the Fish & Chips Chowder House and ordered….fish & chips and chowder. (It was tasty, but Brookings’ Hungry Clam Cafe still holds the title of “best chowder” for me. I’m sure I’ll continue to verify that on this trip). The meal was substantial, so I packed up the uneaten half for later.
Bandon Waterfront and Harbor
I checked out Google maps satellite view to be sure I could drive out to the local lighthouse and be able to turn around with my trailer. The lighthouse is located on a point, past the Bullards Beach State Park campground. The beach area was active with beachcombers, kite-flyers and families. And yes, there was room to turn around with my trailer.
The Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon
After some rock-hopping around the lighthouse, I continued to Sunset Bay SP near Coos Bay, Oregon and checked into my campsite. Sunset Bay SP campground is a little rustic, the restroom and shower facilities are dated yet functional. The campground is well appointed with trees and has great access to the coastline. My campsite is a bit funky with the firepit and picnic table situated on the same side as the hookups.
As sunset was approaching I drove over to the lighthouse lookout spot. This makes three lighthouses in one day. The lighthouse here is located in the distance on Gregory Point, so the best views of it are from a few shoreline viewpoints. With a long lens + 2x teleconverter, I was able to get a pretty good photo of the lighthouse.
Cape Arago Lighthouse
I followed a trail along the edge of bluff and learned that it would occasionally open up for another great view of the pounding surf. In many spots, I was startled by the sheer drop-off with no railing. That made the view even more exciting!
Inspired by the great lighting and views, I continued on. This turned into an accidental long hike, since the trail just kept going. Every opening revealed another stunning view of the late (and later) evening oceanfront.
At some point I began to wonder if the trail would loop around to the road or if I’d have to turn around and follow it back. I followed my intuition and continued forward until I found the main road, and eventually my car.
Note to self: check out a trail map before walking off into the woods!
I returned to the campground and happily settled into my trailer for the night
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On my last night in Brookings, the sunset was promising to look very colorful. I grabbed my camera and tripod and walked toward the trail that leads to the top of the bluff overlooking the beach. (See previous post for more about this bluff)
As I had hoped, the view was clear and the sky was dramatic as the sun set into a distant fog bank.
A couple watches the wave action on Harris Beach.
At last, the grand sunset!
I enjoyed my five nights at the Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, Oregon. The campground was very comfortable and the time spent on the beaches in the area was rejuvenating. Today, I’ll travel to Coos Bay for the next leg of my journey.
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