Sunday, May 31, 2009
We stopped at one turnout, and I don't even know which one it was, but we walked this little loop trail that was maybe half a mile long. No one else was there and it was great. Max really liked it. There was this one big tree that was all hollowed out to maybe 10 feet up that we could walk into.
We took a slight detour down Mattole Road to Rockafeller Forest to see the "Tall Tree," which was indeed very tall. Even Max seemed impressed, he kept walking up to it and looking up.
There was one more great grove we stopped at, right beside the road, oh... Bolling Grove. Once again, no one else was really around so we stopped there and ate lunch.
After we had our fill of Redwoods, we continued down the 101 and stopped at Leggett to do the road trippy thing of driving through the Chandelier Tree at some roadside stop. Had to do it. Some old guy even took my picture.
Continued down the 101 for a few miles before realizing that the Leggett exit was also the exit for California Route 1, which I wanted to take down the coast. So we backtracked again, but only for a couple of miles. The first 22 miles, and actually the whole thing so far, is a driver's road. You see lots of motorcycles, corvettes, bmw's, that type of thing. Very narrow, tight winding turns, etc. Fortunately for me I love that sort of thing, even though we weren't going all that fast and often used turnouts to let others pass. Unfortunately, Max was sleepy after all our walks and just wanted to sleep but couldn't with the constant back and forth.
It was getting close to 6 and we were both worn out so we pulled into a campground just north of Point Arena, California. The lady let us drive around and pick our own campsite. This was pretty close to the ocean, within sight of it, so it was windy and there were not many tent campers (plus it is Sunday). We basically had the place to ourselves, and took a site by the back gate that lead into Manchester State Park. We ate dinner, then went for a walk. Of course, no dogs were allowed, but I figured no one would be around. After a little while, we spotted a jackrabbit. I finally got Max to see it (he was sniffing around for another one that had run into the woods) and he gave chase. This thing kept running in circles and figure 8's, and eventually looked like it was getting tired. I thought after a minute that Max was going to get it, but I think he got a little tired too. Eventually the rabbit dove into some underbrush, but Max must have chased it for 30+ seconds. Then we found another one and did it again, but this time I kept seeing where it ran to and we would go over and chase it again. We must have ran a couple hundred yards after that one. Then I heard someone talking, and I think it was just some guys out drinking beer, but they could have had something to do with the park. Anyway, I heard someone say "they're chasing the rabbits" so I got Max's attention and we ran all the way back to the campsite (another half mile or so).
After we got settled in, I convinced Max to go for another walk to explore the park behind us going the other way. There was a long trail leading down to the coast. The sun was setting into a cloud bank over the Pacific, the wind was blowing, and it was a surreal landscape all around us. We didn't make it all the way down to the ocean, but it was still one of those times and places that you know will stick in your memory. I think I'll run all the way through and around the park in the morning.
I'm writing this with a tired, happy dog asleep in the Jeep next to me, a nice fire burning in front of me, and the last shades of blue fading from the sky over the ocean behind me. What a great day. One of the best of the trip.
We awoke to an overcast (foggy?) day pretty early in the ATV campground at Oregon Dunes. I was ready to go since: A) they would be starting up the ATV's soon, B) it was cold and I wanted to get the heater on, C) the campground was all gravel with no good place for Max to walk, and E) I've wanted to see the Giant Redwoods of California since I was a little kid. So, since we had conveniently (and intentionally) slept on the air mattress in the back of the Jeep, I just slid into the driver's seat and we were on the road. We had a nice walk in the dunes at Crissy Field State Park, just North of the California State Line, then continued down the coast.
Then we were in California and arrived at Redwoods National and State Parks. I stopped at one of the Park Information offices in Crescent City to get a map and figure out exactly what we should see. A very helpful park ranger highlighted the things he thought we should see on the map and we were off to drive a big loop through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The size of these trees increases gradually, and is very difficult to convey in a picture if there is nothing else next to them to give it scale. At one point we were walking back to the jeep and it almost looked like a toy next to the huge trees.
We got out and hiked quite a number of times throughout the day. One of the first times we did, Max seemed to want to run right up this tree.
At one point we had just parked and a couple of older folks were also just arriving and the man commented that he had a beagle when he was younger. They were admiring a fairly large redwood right next to the parking lot, and I offered to take their picture in front of it. They returned the favor and we got a pretty good shot of Max and I in front of (and on) a pretty big tree.
I had always wanted to see truly old-growth forest like this, and I guess redwoods are the oldest living things on the planet, living for up to 2200 years. The only thing I know of that I think might compare, and I hope to one day see for myself, is the Belovezhskaya Pushcha which straddles the border between Belarus and Poland. It has survived simply by always being a favorite hunting ground of the royals (and nazi's) throughout European history. Anyway, some of the scenes in the forest seemed very unreal today, especially when these giants had fallen and smashed into each other.
After our loop through the Jeddediah Smith section of forest, we continued to work our way down the 101, sometimes detouring from the forest up to some high bluffs overlooking the Pacific. The ranger said that there were still some Grey Whale sightings last week, but they are usually gone by late April. It was a very calm day but we were not able to see any. Still, observing the ocean from a 400-foot bluff is always enjoyable for me. Just being around the ocean seems to give me a sense of calm. We also tried to find the spot he said you could often see the Harbor Seals, but we didn't have any luck with marine mammals today.
The last area we were going to hike was a one-mile loop through the Ladybird Johnson Grove of Coastal Redwoods, but before we made it too far the fog started rolling in pretty thick. Dogs aren't allowed anyway, and both of us were tired, so we turned back, hit the road, and found a campground not too far down the highway. Set up the tent, cooked dinner (including some smoked salmon prepared in the traditional local native-american way that was delicious), did laundry, and now bed. Max has been snoring soundly for an hour or so. I think he had a really good day. I know I did.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Went on a walk along the Promonade in Seaside OR this morning and there is a big statue of Lewis and Clark, who apparently turned around here upon reaching the Pacific. Since I had been more or less following the Oregon Trail the past couple of weeks it seemed very fitting that I ended up here as well. Max actually seemed to enjoy running around on the sand. The beach here is huge and very soft, but he was tearing all around both last night and this morning. I didn't get him all the way down to the water (he think's I'm going to take him in again- terrifying!) but he enjoyed sniffing along the high-tide line at all the crabs and other remains.
Through this stretch, at least, there is an almost constant string of State and National Parks, overlooks, or just quaint little beach towns. It is not overdeveloped at all. We stopped and walked around at a number of areas, and I jumped out to look at things and take pictures at many more.
Friday, May 29, 2009
The drive was more interesting than I thought, since there were some pretty high mountain passes to go through and some pretty steep grades (10%). I really had to remember how to drive in the mountains. We basically just followed the Snake River valley through Idaho after that, and arrived at a campground in Boise that I'd seen online. It was right on the river and our campsite was immediately adjacent to a walking trail (rails to trails) that I believe went for about 50 miles so we took a few walks on that. Ran a few errands, groceries, dinner, then camped in the jeep because I was too lazy to set up the tent and wanted to get an early start in the morning. Oh, stopped for gas at a pretty remote truck stop and noticed that they still had a MasterCharge sign instead of MasterCard hanging there. I looked it up and they changed the name back in 1979.
May 27 was the day of mistakes, but we'd been pretty trouble-free to this point so I guess that's OK. First, we were just going to drive from Boise to close to Portland, then down the coast the following day. However, we stopped for gas in Baker City, Oregon. There is a great little park we saw on the way out of town so we stopped and walked around for a while. I guess Baker City was the gathering point for the huge cattle drives back in the day. Max really liked sniffing around this park so we lingered a bit. We hit the road again and after about 45 minutes I started getting a real strong sense of Deja Vu. Then I was trying to look on the map on my phone to see how far we had left, and it was longer than when we stopped. Of course, I had just driven 51 miles BACK EAST which was why things looked so familiar. Back almost to Idaho, it was the "Now Entering Mountain Time Zone" sign that clicked it. By the time we made it BACK to Baker City, it was time for lunch, so we grabbed some Tacos and stopped at our favorite little park there for a meal, rest, and walk. I was not in a hurry to get back on the road this time. Max enjoyed a roll in the soft grass and we hung around and talked to some locals for a while.
So, we've been staying at all these campgrounds with all these RV's, and it takes quite a bit of time to set up and break down camp each day, whether that's tent camping, truck camping, cabin, hotel, etc. That is part of why it is so enticing to stay in one place for multiple days. However, I had been looking online, first just out of curiosity to see how much a little travel trailer would cost. Unfortunately, not that much. Low enough, in fact, that over the past week I had convinced myself that "Hey, this might be something we could do". Now, I have very little experience with towing things, or even have any idea how much the Jeep will tow, but we had been on the road so long and I was I guess looking to change things up. My mind even started wandering to where we could take it once we got back home. So, I found this travel trailer listed on CraigsList up in Spokane that looked like what we needed, called and talked to them, and decided to go up and have a look. I had not even intended to go into Washington but 3 hours later (after a very long day on the road including my backtrack) we arrived at Darrin and Shellie's house in Northeast Spokane. The trailer looked like everything they said it was, they just needed a few hundred dollars for bills and really just wanted it out of their way (friends kept wanted to stay in it for months on end), and they were hospitable enough to offer to let us stay in it that night. So we did, and it was pretty comfy.
Thursday May 28 was the day I owned a travel trailer. Got up early, hit Home Depot for a trailer hitch ball of the right size, loaded up, and hit the road. I had envisioned this being great, we could just stop and walk around back and we would have a place to cook, chill, sleep, whatever. It was only 14-feet long, and the Jeep seemed to handle it just fine around town. However, before I got a chance to hit the DMV to get travel papers or U-haul to get the wiring fixed, we encountered a hill. There are apparently lots of hills out here, some of them even fairly large. Like the Rocky Mountains, for instance. So, this trailer idea may not have been the best. But, I had seen from researching this online that there were a number of people in the Portland area looking for small travel trailers like this. On to Portland for a very slow, somewhat nerve-racking drive. It really went fine, but cut my gas mileage in half and we were limited to about 60 mph on flat and 35-45 on hills. This was not the light, carefree travelling I had in mind. So, halfway to Portland, after trying to give it a fair shot, we called a lady who had a couple of postings on CraigsList and arranged to meet that afternoon.
After backtracking from Spokane, we followed I-84 down the Oregon Trail, through the Columbia River Valley, to Portland. Other than being pretty slow going, this was a GREAT drive. Scenic river views, towering cliffs, Mt. Hood, Dams discharging huge volumes of water from all the snowmelt coming downstream, the biggest wind farms we'd seen yet, almost on every hillside. Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures because I was towing the trailer. I had gotten myself pretty nervous about towing the trailer the night before since I had never really towed anything before, but it wasn't exactly rocket science. We made it to Portland without incident, parked the trailer, and reassembled our cargo in the jeep.
So, the lady Mary that needed the trailer met us in downtown Portland and we sold the trailer that we had owned for less than 24 hours and slept in once. Oh, well, we do like to keep things fresh. Now we were in downtown Portland, in rush hour, with no idea where we were going to sleep, so we just started driving West since I wanted to end up along the coast, I thought the next day. I wasn't having much luck finding a pet-friendly hotel so we kept driiving, and before long we had left Portland and were heading for the coast. I had actually wanted to spend some time in Portland because there are so many parks and I had always wanted to visit Powell's Bookstore. But, many of the parks are pretty rugged so Max would not have been able to go very far, and Powell's of course does not allow dogs, so maybe that will be a trip for the future. From downtown, I went across the Burnside Bridge, which I knew because there is a very famous skateboard park under it. I actually visited it on a trip to Seattle 10 years or so ago, and it was really the only landmark I knew. Powell's Bookstore is actually on Burnside Drive, so we at least drove past it. It is a full city block and multiple stories. I'm sure people come and just spend days there.
The drive out of Portland to the coast is also one I really enjoyed, especially traveling so light now. Oh, I filled up on gas because we were getting a bit low and was glad I did because there were no more gas stations for many miles. We almost ran out earlier, since I wasn't used to the trailer knocking us down to 10 mpg. We truly coasted in on fumes, after a wild goose chase for a gas station that existed only on Google Maps but was in fact a huge empty field the military uses as a bombing range. Fun. Anyway, the drive to the coast west of portland is a completely different environment, different vegetation, everything. It gets pretty remote fast out of Portland. We drove into the sun and enjoyed the drive, arriving at Seaside, Oregon, which is a little beach town and seemed like a perfect place to run into the Pacific before turning south. We found a room at a very nice Best Western and since it was so late talked them into a very low rate on an oceanfront room with a kitchen and everything. And a dishwasher! I never thought I'd be so excited about a dishwasher. Max could watch the doggies walking by on the Promonade while I fixed dinner. Then we watched the sun set into the Pacific, first from our porch and then from down on the soft sand.
I allowed myself to get a little low as the sun set, as I saw it as symbolizing the end of this stage of my life. But, on the other side, I see the Trailer as being symbolic of baggage from the past, which I experienced, unloaded, and then moved forward (and in this case, in a way that helped other people). So, that's the plan, and really the only option: stay positive, look for new opportunities and experiences, and move on.
The trip has not been totally what I expected in some ways and everything I hoped in others. Here, at the point where we bounce off the pacific and continue down the coast, I have a much better idea of where to go from here (on the road and in life). It has been a roller-coaster this week, but now I feel centered, positive, and enthusiastic (most of the time). I am ready to venture down the long road back into the world. But first, we slow down and focus on enjoying the Oregon and Northern California Coasts with many, many beagle walks. We've done too much driving the past few days and not enough stopping, walking, sniffing, and camping. So on with the adventure...
Monday, May 25, 2009
Today we started from our cabin at KOA West Yellowstone and wandered through the southern half of Yellowstone, including lots of geothermal features (geysers, hot springs, etc.) Of course, sometimes Max would find animal scents from under the boardwalks more interesting than what I was trying to look at, such as this picture by White Dome Geyser.
We kept driving through the southern part of the park, taking in the sights. Saw another Bear Circus on the way, but never saw the bear itself. Lake Yellowstone was a sight since it still had lots of ice on it, forming intricate patterns. Deri called around then so I pulled over and talked to her for a while while looking out over the lake. She was driving back from a fun weekend in Atlanta and for a change it was her mobile phone that lost signal. Great view.
Took it very easy today, sleeping in after staying up late last night watching Neil deGrasse Tyson on C-Span talking about one of his books. That's the Astrophysicist who hosts Nova Science Now and was in the middle of of the debate over reclassifying Pluto as a Kuiper Belt Object and not a planet, which was the book that he was talking about tonight. He is always entertaining to me because he's got to be one of the quickest and most intelligent people in the world right now. He always has the answer to any question, and he can relay very complicated material in an easy to understand and humorous manner. Check out Nova Science Now on PBS if you haven't.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Today we explored the northern loop through Yellowstone. Mountains, waterfalls, all kinds of geothermal activity and wildlife makes it easy to see why this is such a special place. It also lived up to my expectations of being pretty crowded due to the long weekend. Of course, after pre-season Glacier anything would be crowded.
We took our first hike around Mammoth Hot Springs, which had some intricately layered shelf-like deposits.
There were signs up near all the geothermal areas warning to stay on the marked trails because you could step through a thin layer of crust into scalding hot water or steam. I found the illustration hilarious.
We saw lots of wildlife: geese, bison, elk, pronghorn, and two bears. Of course, at Glacier our bear sighting was very intimate, only us and eventually another 2 cars. Here, it was a zoo. You knew there was a bear because the road was clogged, people were all lined up, rangers were yelling through the PA for people to move their cars out of the road, etc.
One of the campers in the next cabin had come out for the long weekend because it was her birthday, and had not been there in 15 years. She said it was very noticeable how many fewer animals there were.
We saw the trunk of a petrified redwood tree from back when this was a more tropical climate. There apparently used to be 3 of them but souvenir hunters chiseled little pieces off the other 2 until they were all gone.
We finished our day off with a mile-long hike around Norris Geyser Basin. This area had LOTS of geothermal activity. There was a storm coming in from the South but I accurately judged that it would pass us by, which greatly reduced the number of people in the basin. Here Max got to check out some of the geothermal vents, hot springs, and geysers up close. As we were leaving, one of the rangers informed me that dogs were not allowed in the geothermal areas. We were already on the way back to the Jeep so it didn't really matter. Of course, I did not see any signs to that effect, nor did it state that on the map, so technically we do not get credit for barging this one.
Minute Geyser is another example of how the multitude of visitors destroyed an amazing natural phenomenon. This geyser used to go off almost every 60 seconds until visitors threw rocks, coins, etc into it and clogged the opening.
We were in the park only about 6 hours but saw quite a large bit of it (the northern half, at least). We were both wiped out, I think from the altitude as much as the two longish hikes. We came back to camp, cooked some red beans and rice for dinner, then hung out with some of our neighbors. The ones in the cabin right next door have a tan and white Beagle named Tucker, and further down the row there is a year-old Beagle as well. I guess the other dogs around woke Max up because then he wanted to go on a long walk around the campground. He did not go to bed until almost 9pm Mountain Time, which was the first day he seemed to have adjusted to the time change. Of course, he slept quite a bit of the day on the ride as well.
Sunday: Through the southern half of Yellowstone to Jackson, WY for a couple of nights.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
On the drive down, while Max slept most of the time, it occurred to me that maybe I am supposed to be doing some kind of philosophical self-reflection during this journey. That's what would be happening if this was a movie. However, I'm just having fun taking in the country with my great little hound. If I've learned anything, it's that we live in a HUGE country, and there is a fireworks stand about every 40 miles. That's it so far for revelations. Sorry to disappoint.
Oh, and yes, there are still large areas of this country without mobile phone or WiFi signals, so there may be some days between posts, emails, etc. If anything bad happens, you will be notified of it by some kind of Park Service or Highway Patrol Officer. Without such notification, remember the words printed in large friendly letters on the cover of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy... "Don't Panic."
Next few days: Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, and the Tetons.
Friday, May 22, 2009
We awoke to a clearer, warmer (relatively) morning and had a walk around the campground followed by breakfast. We set off by 9am to the North, first attempting to venture into Canada to see Waterton National Park, which is the Canadian counterpart of Glacier. Our campground was only about 14 miles from the border. I did not have Max's rabies papers so that was a no-go, although technically we did visit Canada since we had to pass through the border checkpoint to turn around.
That's OK, there was plenty to see in Glacier. We went up the "Many Glacier" entrance near Babb, MT, as far as it would go- maybe 12 miles. Let Max out to walk around at a couple of spots and there was PLENTY to sniff and track. Doggies are not allowed down the trails, though (for good reason) so we did not go very far. We did find some goats rummaging through a campsite so Max got to check them out. During part of the ride he perched his head on the window sill like he was really taking it all in (sights and smells). Back to the cabin for lunch and a quick break before heading back out.
West Glacier was a little disappointing. It was about a 2 hour ride over there (which did have a couple of high points) but the park itself wasn't nearly as awe-inspiring as yesterday. True, the Going to the Sun Road was open longer there (16 miles vs. 13) but it was all down along the river bank, you never got up to any elevation. It was also more crowded so we did not see any animals on the road itself. At the bottom, we saw a little bike trail through the woods so we took a walk for a mile or so. I saw 3 deer through the forest, maybe 50 yards away, which I eventually got Max to see. He stayed quiet and we followed along next to them, then came to a trail through the woods that we could go down towards where they would cross it. Of course, as soon as one of the deer came out onto the trail Max bayed and they took off (right). We saw them again on our way back to the Jeep but they were much farther away and wary of us by then.
On the way to West Glacier, though, we did stop off at an overlook that one of the rangers told me about yesterday. It is called Goat Lick overlook and it looks across the river valley to an area where the erosion uncovers mineral deposits that the mountain goats like to lick. However, there are usually more goats than spots with exposed minerals, and some are pretty high up on the face of the canyon wall. This makes for good entertainment watching the goats try to get their fill. Lots of pushing, nudging, jumping, rocks falling in the water, etc.
Oh, also part of the drive there was somewhat interesting since we took a shortcut. What do they say about shortcuts? If it was easy it would just be the way. This was a very winding, very narrow two-lane road across many rockslides, with many sections of roadway that had obviously fallen away at some point, and others looking like they were get ready to go. And no guardrails. Some of the more fearsome drops had a yellow sign with an arrow on it, but this was not a road where you would pay more attention to the view than the road. I enjoyed it but I think Max just wanted to sleep at that point.
It is a little different to be in a place where you can be driving down a road with horses running free next to you, with no fence or anything in between. We saw quite a few of them but this mother and colt stuck in my head since they were running alongside us for a ways.
Cooked some buffalo meat for dinner, then we went back up the East side of Going to the Sun road to see how it is on a clear day, and also to see if more animals would be out closer to sunset. So glad we did. It was quite pleasant seeing it in the soft light of sunset, and there were definitely more animals out. We saw lots of goats, bighorn sheep, reindeer maybe?, and then... I somehow spotted a black bear in the woods, maybe 50 feet from the road. I thought it might be just a shadow but backed up and there he was, rooting around for some food. I watched him for a while then had to move as cars came up behind me (someone had stopped next to me going the other way). I went up, let the other cars pass, turned around and went back, and saw him again but farther in the woods. We went up to the top of the mountain but didn't really see anything else, then didn't see the bear upon our return down the mountain.