Oregon’s Central Coast

There was absolutely not a chance in the world that we would be in Oregon and not visit its well-known gorgeous coasts.  So with that in mind toward Newport we traveled.  Arne and Valerie happened to be also visiting friends and suggested we join them for dinner one last time and had the opportunity of sampling Dungeness crabs. Yumm!

We stayed at the Port of Newport and on our first evening  experienced what the locals call coastal mist, which in my humble opinion, is just rain.   This is also an area where every morning, rain or shine, locals like to go clamming.

We could see the Yakima bridge from our site and were pleasantly surprised one evening by being able to enjoy a stunning sunset, especially with the bridge on the foreground.

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We drove north and came across Depoe Bay, a small and picturesque coastal village known for charter fishing and for whale watching, earning its distinction of being the whale-watching capital of the state.  This adorable village has an amazing scenic appeal with its rocky outer bay, flanked by headlands to the north and south with a narrow channel through the basalt cliffs leading to a small inner channel also home of the world’s smallest harbor.

We were told by the locals that if we really wanted to see even more whales we needed to visit Cape Foulweather as on a clear day visibility can extend 40 miles a day.  Whether it was one or several gray whales I’m not sure, but we did see whales spouting and breaching.

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Our jaunt to arrive to the edge of Cape Foulweather required walking through wildflower fields.

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We continued our journey south and stopped at Devils Punch Bowl.  Unfortunately, we arrived during low tide and because it is tide dependent, the waves were not entering the bowl and thus, we were not able to see its splendor.  Apparently, during high tide waves comes in through the opening at the bottom, which although appears to be somewhat small, it’s probably about 10′ or taller in height, until the bowl fills and then the water spins around in a circular motion each time a wave pushes its way in.  We would have had to wait several hours for this to occur so we had to only envision it in our minds.

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But to make up for this we visited Devil’s Churn and after walking down the narrow trail to reach a better viewing spot, I could not stop watching the sheer strength of the waves barreling their way inward only to crash against rocks causing them to reach varying heights of anywhere from 10′ to 30′.  Not a single one is alike and it was just mesmerizing.

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John had to pull me away so we could keep going.  We came upon Yakima Head Lighthouse, Oregon’s tallest lighthouse at 93′, with its original lens first lit in 1873, still guides ships along the west coast and remains a beacon of light.

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Just offshore I was awed by one of the largest common murre colonies on the coast.  The common murre has the most densely packed nesting colony of any bird.  The first thought that came to mind was that they were packed in like sardines in a can.

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We continued our journey south and stopped often to enjoy the views.  It was so worth it though, as the views were spectacular and pictures do not do them justice.

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We continued our adventures further southbound and met up with our friends Keith and Jenn at the Sea Lion Caves in Florence.   I had previously seen stellar sea lions on docks and swimming in the ocean but watching such a large quantity of them enjoying their natural habitat was certainly a remarkable experience as they have chosen to live in such a large sea cave.

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From the Sea Caves we had a beautiful view of the Heceta Head Lighthouse.  Today it is an interpretive center, but could you just imagine being able to see these beautiful views on a daily basis as the house keeper who used to live there was able to see?

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Because we were so close, we just had to stop in Florence for lunch as it would not be until later in August before we would see Keith and Jenn again.  When we arrived in Florence, we were greeted by many bikers who were passing by on their way to a nearby bike rally.  It was lovely how all the town’s light poles were decorated with lovely poppy baskets.

After lunch, we traced our steps back to Newport and of course, the sights from a different perspective certainly did not disappoint either.  We drove over Rocky Creek bridge and just had to stop.

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We were saddened to leave the area, as there was still so much unseen, but yet more adventures to be had.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Portland, OR

We left the Bend/Redmond area to travel a few hours northwest to Portland, the capital of Oregon, a city we have been to in the past and where John’s dear “lifelong” friend of 68 years, Arne Meeker and his wife, Valerie live.  To get to Portland from Bend we traveled along absolutely gorgeous roads with views of Mount Hood, the highest point in Oregon at 11,235′.  One can’t think of Portland without thinking of Mt. Hood, a dormant volcano that hasn’t had a major eruption in over a thousand years or more.  Let’s hope it stays that way for a long while.

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As soon as we settled in, we connected with Arne and Valerie and agreed upon the adventure to be taken.  We decided to drive the Columbia River Gorge which is the natural border between Oregon and Washington and made our first stop at Vista House, which sits 733′ above the Columbia River and rewarded us with sweeping panoramas of lush forests and of course, the river.

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We continued our drive and stopped to see Bridal Veil Falls, not to be confused with Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite.  It was a relatively a short hike to see this waterfall where the upper falls is between 60 to 100′ tall and the lower from 40 to 60′ in height.

We then continued our drive and arrived at the town of Hood River, which is the windsurfing capital of the world and for good reason.  It was unreal how windy this area was and therefore, ideal conditions for such a sport.  There must have been over 100 wind and kitesurfers on the river.  We stood to watch for a while as they blew up their kites and once all their gear was secured they ran like mad toward the water where they lay down their boards and away they went.  It must take much upper body strength to control these kites, as they are lifted by the wind yet directionally controlled by the surfer.

Finally, just like Cheryl Strayed mentioned in her book, Wild, we were drawn to the river and had to cross the Bridge of the Gods into Washington.  This is a bridge which sits at the convergence of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, three other historic trails and the Pacific Crest Trail.  It is part of the PCT, it is a narrow bridge which hikers must share the road with cars and trucks.  It is also the lowest point on the Pacific Crest Trail.

We returned to Portland, via Washington and enjoyed a delicious lunch waterfront before crossing back into Oregon.

It was a very nice and adventurous day, yet exhausting at the same time.

Although we had visited Portland in the past, we still wanted to go downtown and see the Pearl District where loading docks and cobblestone streets remind you of days gone by, but where warehouses are now renovated to house lofts, stylish bars and eateries and also where Powell’s City of Books is located.

Powells is the largest independent bookstore in the world.  Its building encompasses an entire city block, has several floors and over 8 different color coded rooms for clear identification of the genre it holds.  Literally, I could get lost inside and was in awe.  They sell new, used and rare books and first editions, all behind glass cases for their protection.  If they do not have the book you are looking for, it is probably because it can’t be found.

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Later in the week Arne and Valerie invited us to join them at a free outdoor concert, which apparently happens very frequently in this part of the country.  Everyone brings their own beverage and could either bring a picnic or purchase their fare from one of the local food trucks, while listening or dancing, if so inclined, to pretty good music.

On our last adventure with Arne and Valerie, we drove south to Newberg, the northernmost area of the Willamette Valley and came upon a lavender festival with lots of everything lavender, from chocolates, to wines, to soaps and art.  We then visited Ethra, a local winery and really enjoyed its ambiance, its vineyard and by the way we were not disappointed by its wine either.

We had a really good time with these two good ole’ friends during our stay, yet it was time to say good-bye and continue on with our adventures.  So stay connected and we will keep you posted!

Bend, Redmond, and Sisters

We arrived in Redmond and after settling in, met up with our fun friends, Peter and Andrea Wray, a lovely couple we befriended while wintering in Arizona.  They own a beautiful home in a gorgeous area of Bend, which they have up for sale as they want to downsize and relocate permanently to Arizona.

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We always wanted to visited Bend, known for its Bend Ale Trail.  This fun town has numerous breweries and distilleries.  It also sits along the Deschutes River, where people floated, kayaked, and even some were white water rafting along certain parts.

The Wrays enjoy riding their electric bicycles around town, so they invited us to join them and off to rent electric bikes we went.  They took us to a trail along the Deschutes River and it was lovely, except for the small part, a really steep graveled incline.  Well, I guess I didn’t have the bike on the correct gear and it didn’t have enough umph and because it was so heavy, it started tilting and I fell right with it.  I didn’t break any bones, but boy did I get bruised.  I picked myself up, brushed off and got back on and finished the ride.  We had a wonderful time and really enjoyed the adventure.

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We also reconnected with yet another amazing couple, whom we likewise met in Arizona, Jeff and Pam Roda.  By happenstance, they live in Redmond, a bedroom community just outside Bend, surrounded by gorgeous views.

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The Fourth of July was our 34th wedding anniversary and we spent it with the Rodas and some of their friends grilling out and watching fireworks in the Redmond fairgrounds, which also happened to be where we parked the RV.

While in Redmond, Jackson had an a traumatic experience.  He cracked one of his lower canines the last week we were in Casa Grande, Arizona and although we took him to a vet right after it happened and were told it was good and not to worry about it, it had to be extracted.  The poor boy was on soft foods for two weeks and was not able to have his favorite treat, carrots, so he was not a happy dog.

With the Rodas we visited the cute little town of Sisters.  Sisters was a special place.  Not only was it an absolutely beautiful village, with the Three Sisters cascade mountains as its backdrop, it was a community bursting with energy and its people could not be more friendly.  Its buildings had a western flare and numerous unique boutiques, book shops, quilt shops and restaurants.  It is known for hosting numerous festivals and musical venues which brings people in from near and far.  Pam is a quilter and she took me to the most amazing fabric shop where we both did a little damage.    Pam is done with her project, I on the other hand, not so much.

The Rodas drove us to Smith Rock State Park, one of the most breathtaking natural wonders of Central Oregon.  Smith Rock is a destination for Rock Climbers and hikers who want to be surrounded by beautiful rock formations along a winding river.

Between the Wrays and the Rodas we were kept pretty busy and we thanked them profusely for all their hospitality.  We so loved this area and wished we could have stayed longer, but our journey continues….

Salt Creek Falls/Crater Lake National Park/Diamond Lake

We left Medford and headed north with the intention to only visit Crater Lake National Park.  However, when we arrived at the campground we were informed of some beautiful waterfalls nearby and once settled in, off exploring we went.  Salt Creek Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Oregon at 286′.

The following day, we decided to visit Crater Lake National Park and the crown jewel of Oregon.  This lake is the country’s deepest at 1,943 and was created by the blow out of the top of Mount Mazana thousands of years ago.  The blueness and size of the lake is just mesmerizing.

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Wizard Island

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Upon our arrival the east rim was closed due to snow so we drove the western rim.  We arrived at Crater Lake Lodge and upon entering, we noticed the lit fireplace which made the place warm and cozy.

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Imagine sitting out on the back deck, enjoying a beverage while overlooking one of the most beautiful sights you have ever seen.

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We were about to leave the park when we decided to talk to a ranger at the Visiting Headquarters and they informed us that the park had just opened a small portion of the east rim, but just enough to be able to reach Sun Notch and see the phantom ship, a small island rock formation which resembles a ghost ship especially when fog is present.

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We continued to drive through the park and noticed that every road, every parking lot, every area that needed to be plowed was bordered by 20′ poles.  I imagine that the snowpack is so high that the areas that need to be snow plowed have to identified.

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We absolutely loved this park and pictures just do not do it justice.  One our way back we made the decision to stop by Diamond Lake for a late lunch and we were so glad we did.

We stopped by a lake resort that had outside seating with a beautiful view of Mt. Bailey on account that Jackson was with us.  It felt like a relaxing summer camp with so many people playing in and out of the tremendously cold water.  It was an excellent people watching environment too!

Again, it’s time to move on, so stay with us!

 

We Arrived In Oregon!

If you follow our journey, you may have noticed that we do not like to drive long distances from one location to another.  Our ideal travel day is not to have to drive for longer than 3 hours.  By so doing, we set up on the first night, drive around and explore the next day and if there is anything additional that we want to see in the area we extend our time.  When we arrived in the Medford/Gold Hill area we drove around Jacksonville, a historic gold rush town, home of Britt Music Festival, the gateway to the Applegate Valley, now known for its cultural and epicurean scene.  We decided to have a late lunch at Schoolhouse Brewhouse, a festive German bar and restaurant in a quaint brick 1905 schoolhouse, which also holds community events.

 

 

The following day we took at jet boat tour along the Rogue River which was very adventurous and exciting.  We were dropped off at a lodge for a delicious lunch and returned after we were able to see some wildlife along the banks, including deer, blue herons and bald eagles along the way.

 

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The highlight of this trip was the deep walled Hellgate Canyon, where we saw what are believed to be the oldest rocks in the state.

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The Rogue River flows from the Cascasde Range westward to the Pacific Ocean.  It is well known for its whitewater rafting and its beautiful scenery.

We left Jacksonville and returned to Gold Hill and prepared to continue on.  More to come!

 

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park

When we left Napa, we had a choice of directions to take and opted to go towards Grants Pass/Medford, Oregon.  On the way we spent the night in Red Bluff and while there decided to spend an additional day so that we could visit this lesser visited national park.

The park centers around Lassen Peak, a 10,457′ volcano which erupted in 1915 producing an immense cloud which caused deep mud to cover the area, which is still visible today in what is called the Devastated Area.  The boulders ejected during this eruption are massive in size and the volcanic ashes rained over 200 miles to the east.

The snowpack usually exceeds 20′ in Lassen and hence why it takes a long time to clear the roads.  The day we visited was the first day the road had opened, yet the boardwalks and trails were still covered in snow and mostly impassabe, so we drove and marveled at the landscape which included hot springs, and bubbling mud pots.  There were so many areas I wish we could have seen, but we were not willing to fight the snow.

I did climb a snowy, partly icy mound because I wanted to see Lake Helen, as it was beginning to thaw and it’s not visible from the road.  When thawed these lakes are crystal-clear as it was evident along its shore.  As I was climbing all I kept thinking was “I have the camera and I just cannot slip and fall.   I’m not wearing the proper shoes, I’m not wearing a jacket, then, oh dear what if I do slip and fall, oh please at least let me slip toward the road and not the lake.  It would be a very steep climb back, and for sure not a good experience.”  Oh my, did I overthink.  Upon reaching the top of the mound, the view of Lake Helen was beautiful and I could not help but imagine the entire lake in this sky blue color.

This entire area is very interesting.  To know that the earth’s surface is forever changing is amazing.  We drove unto roads that were barely passable and the amount of snowpack is incredible.  It was higher the truck and that is after some serious snowmelt.  Half of the trees were covered in snow still.

Finally, we drove to Manzanita Lake

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This is a park that definitely warrants being seen in the summer months.  So more gets put back in the bucket list.

 

 

Napa Valley

It was that time again, jacks went up and off to Napa Valley we went.  We reconnected with Keith and Jenn Russell, whom we met while in Arizona.  They are likewise full timers who write a blog, post on instagram and upload videos about their year-long country wide adventures on youtube under the name of Empty Nest Nomads.  We have become friends and enjoy their company.  So when it was time to research wineries and the vicinity, the Russells and the Lindstroms made a small dent on the area for sure.  We had certain vineyards in mind to visit and then we happened upon other ones which we really enjoyed.

Napa Valley has a beautiful rolling landscape with over 300 wineries ranging from boutiques to large corporate operations.  We also wandered around St. Helena, home of the Culinary Institute of America, referred to as the “CIA”, beautiful old homes and upscale shopping.  We began our tasting journey by traveling along the Silverado Trail all the way to Calistoga, the northern end of this 19th century mining road, widely known for its mineral baths.  We visited Mumm, Stag’s Leap, Sterling Vineyards, Trinchero and even enjoyed our very own private wine tasting at Lindstrom winery.

I certainly enjoyed Mumm.  I got to taste a variety of sparkling wines and learned that out of respect we should not refer to sparkling wine as Champagne as all sparkling wine is not Champagne.  Champagne only comes from the region of Champagne, France.   It is a region, not a grape or style of wine.   Champagne has a strict way on how it grows, produces and maintains the quality of its grapes and its name is extremely protected.

 

Our visit to Stag’s Leap

 

When visiting Sterling Vineyards we had to take a short air tram ride, to reach the top of the mountain, and upon arriving, the views were beautiful and very enjoyable.

We enjoyed a private tasting on our tour of Trinchero.  Out host took around their property, but most interestingly, she allowed us into their caves.  These were not air conditioned but as they were below ground they stay cool year round.

After having made reservations months in advance, we visited the guest house for Lindstrom Winery and enjoyed yet another private tasting of some amazing wine.

There were so many more vineyards and locations we could have visited, but we did have to eat, shop and occasionally, sleep.  Speaking of shopping, I absolutely loved the markets in California.  We were able to find fresh fruits, vegetables, bread and cheese everywhere we looked.  We did find many small markets and when frequented, the gave me a feeling of community and comfort, which the large grocery chains usually do not offer.

We did have the opportunity of visiting some eateries in St. Helena but one in particular stood out.  Farmhead at Long Meadow Ranch, with a farm-to-table fare was absolutely incredible.  I can not recall having a more delicious meal.

The Russells joined us for brunch at Osteria Divina in Sausalito, a very pretty little harbor town with a marina, waterside boutiques and hillside mansions and there we met our daughter, Ashley’s, college roommate, Sara de la Vega and her boyfriend, Patrick and had a fun time reconnecting.

 

After brunch, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and drove around  Presidio, Pacific Heights, North Beach and the Financial District of San Francisco and what a surprise, it was a cold and foggy day in the bay!  As Mark Twain said “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”   So true!

Finally, before returning we just had to stop at Napa Valley Distillery.  This was the first distillery to open its doors in the city of Napa since Prohibition.

Visiting Napa Valley was so much fun.  The weather cooperated nicely and, again ,I was reminded that a week’s time was simply not enough. On the bright side, we have yet another reason to return!