Hoodsport/Point Defiance Park – Tacoma

We continued on to the Olympic Peninsula where we would finally anchor for several weeks, but on our way we stopped at Hoodsport, a small coastal community known for its oyster farms along the Hood Canal where the navy has a submarine base for its Trident submarines (nuclear).  We drove over the Hood Canal Bridge several times.  This bridge is the longest floating bridge over salt water in the world and it connects the Kitsap Peninsula to the Olympic Peninsula.

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The views during our drive were nothing short of spectacular and we were again very fortunate to have beautiful weather as early morning fog was nowhere to be seen.

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We stayed at an RV park for a few relaxing days overlooking the Hood Canal watching ferry boats going by and where during low tide one could go oystering.

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Warnings not to walk barefoot were posted as oysters abound!!

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At the suggestion of locals we visited Hama Hama Oyster Mama for the best oysters in the area.  This establishment enjoys a great reputation, rightfully so, and gets incredibly crowded.  We endured a long waiting line but they oysters were very delicious.  The area was surrounded by mounds of crushed oysters, which get recycled as driveways and pads for the nearby areas.

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From Hoodsport we drove thru Tacoma and arrived at the northernmost point of Tacoma, Point Defiance Park, its most famous attraction.  This 700 acre park juts out into Puget Sound, with cliffs, an old-growth forest, various drop dead gorgeous gardens, footpaths, an amazing zoo, an aquarium, Ft. Nisqually nearby and of course, let’s not forget an amazing view of Mt. Rainier is the background.

One of the most visited areas of the park were side by side slides and steps utilized by both adults and children alike who thoroughly enjoyed this means of getting to bottom of the cliff.

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Jackson loved this particular adventure too!

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Beautiful gardens!

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Rose Garden

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Japanese Garden

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We also had the opportunity to visit Fort Nisqually, a 19th century trading post and early European settlement which is currently a living historical exhibit.

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After a few days we moved on to Chimacum, a really small town outside Port Townsend in the Olympic Peninsula from where we explored the area.

Stay tuned as more is coming!

 

 

 

 

Mt. Rainer National Park

We debated long and hard as to whether we should reroute and visit Mt. Rainier.   We had seen Mt. Rainier previously, albeit never up close and personal.  Since the weather was really nice and it was expected to remain as such for the upcoming days, we adjusted our jelly-like schedule and decided to go for it.  We found a site available in a Washington utility park called Taidnapam with only 30 amps.  We usually only do parks that have 50 amps, so we can run both air conditioners and I could use any necessary appliance without thinking about what I can and cannot use simultaneously.  We also would not have access to satellite tv as we were tucked in the woods under many trees.  However, it was not excessively hot and therefore didn’t really need to run both a/c’s and we agreed that we would survive without satellite access for a couple of days.  Jackson loved sniffing out all the neighboring deer.

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We allowed ourselves one full day of exploration and the decision to be made was to either drive the southern route to Paradise or northeast to the Crystal Mountain Summit and ride the gondola.  Unfortunately, the road to Sunrise was closed and had yet to be cleared and since driving to Crystal Mountain would have made for an incredibly long day, we opted to drive to Paradise.

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During the drive we made a stop at Narada Falls, where after a short hike, we were able to enjoy seeing a permanent rainbow at the bottom of the falls.

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When the locals say the “Mountain is Out Today” it means the cloud conditions are such that they can view this 14,410′ behemoth, which is not a daily occurrence.  Whenever it is “out” however, it dwarfs everything else.  We were fortunate to have been favored by Mother Nature as our weather was spectacular.

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We were glad we diverted our trip as it is not often the weather cooperates so marvelously.  We reluctantly pick up and continued on to our next destination.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Long Beach Peninsula, WA

We crossed into Washington via the Astoria Bridge and visited Long Beach.

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Known for its boardwalk and incredibly long beach, 28 miles in extent, Long Beach claims to be the longest beach in the United States and the world’s longest drivable beach, although on the day we visited we did not see any vehicles.  We did take Jackson and he absolutely loved it!

We continued north and by happenstance arrived at Oysterville.  We stopped at the Oysterville Sea Farm which sits on the edge of Willapa Bay, where fresh oysters and clams abound and are available to take home or one could enjoy a glass of wine while sitting on its deck overlooking the serene area.

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We came across and visited the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Museum operated by the University of Washington and walked around their cranberry bogs on a self-guided tour.  The museum was very interesting and its gift shop contained items from soaps to juice all centered around cranberries but the best part was tasting its delicious cranberry ice cream.

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Also, in their property we saw bumble bee farms with tons of very colorful heather bushes.  We must remember, no bees-no food.  We moved on from this area so stay tuned for the continued journey.

Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach, OR

We arrived in Astoria and were excited to drive around to check out the immediate area.  The pictures don’t quite show it but the first thought that came to mind was how its hills were as steep to those of San Francisco.  We took our own driving tour around this cute town which is the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, dating back to 1805.  Its glory days are preserved by many museums, exhibits and a number of pastel colored Victorian homes.  Its historic downtown was undergoing restoration, but yet there was excitement in the air.  Restaurants and breweries are multiplying alongside its waterfront and we had not known that also cruise ships have made this a port of call.

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A short drive away we visited Ft. Clatsop, the local stockade where Lewis and Clark set up camp during the winter of 1805 after their long journey from the Mississippi to discover the Pacific Ocean.

The locals suggested we partake in the local tradition of attending the  Sunday market and so we did.  Downtown side streets close and farm-fresh produce, plants, arts and crafts and specialty food were available.  Although most of Astoria’s waterfront is lined with warehouses and docks, the Riverwalk provides a paved passage for both pedestrians and cyclists.  We ended up enjoying a delicious lunch watching the barges on the Columbia River.

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We did not want to leave the area without visiting Oregon’s northern coast.  We set out to see what all the buzz was about Seaside and on our way came across beaches where windsurfers were getting ready to do what they do.

Upon arriving at Seaside, I was immediately reminded of a mini Myrtle Beach, SC. with tons of people everywhere with lots of traffic, large hotels, condos, ice cream parlors, game arcades and many beachwear stores, after all it is Oregon’s oldest family beach resort.  It definitely did not have the same feel as the other beach towns we had visited, but I can say we’ve been there.

Our visit to Cannon Beach however, was lovely.  This coastal town has a low-key charm and is a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of Seaside, its northern neighbor.  It was small enough that we were able to stroll its main drag enjoying its many art galleries, boutiques, bookstores and eateries.  The town’s architecture is dominated by understated earth tones and cedar shakes.  Its beach is highly recognized by Haystack Rock, the third tallest sea stack in Oregon at 235′ high.

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We certainly did not get our fill of the Oregon coast, but this will have to do for now.  It is that time for us to move on to Washington.  Stay tuned!

 

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….