Stories along the way, Spring, 2019 Week 2 and a bit more.
“It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” Mary Oliver
The deeper we drive into Crater Lake, the higher the snow banks. Highway 62 is open year round but ohhh the snow banks are high. We wind into the park until we can go no further—the road is not plowed. Lots of people are here with designated parking in the middle of the road. There is a school bus from South Dakota and the happy kids pour out of the bus and up the snowbanks throwing snow at each other as middle school kids do. A ranger leads a group of young children on snowshoes down the road. They enjoy the clanking sound of the snowshoes on the road and work hard to make the sound louder. Jim declares we must climb up the snowbank to see the lake. It is somewhat crushed down as many people are up there. I’m a bit dubious and grab two poles and we make our way to the top.
Jim has seen the lake before, but I haven’t. It is truly a Grand Canyon type breathtaking site. The beautiful lake is not frozen and it’s a deep blue and glistening in the sunlight with many “doubles” reflecting in the water. The little island is a remaining part of the volcano and I’m so glad we made the effort to get up here.
Traveling on, we near Bend, OR in the high desert. I find another forest service campground a few miles south of Bend with 6 spots on the Deschutes River. There is boat takeout spot here—kayaks and canoes and rafts. We stop early, which is nice and put our loveseat on the bank of the river. It is beautiful and peaceful. Unfortunately, mosquitos arrive sending us back to the Sprinter for the night after eating dinner at the picnic table. We have a leisurely morning and watch busy hikers and boaters arrive and leave. Sitting by the river deadlineless leaves us in a tranquil mood. I find a broken branch from a fir tree with three tufts, ideal for Ikebana which I will make for friends in Salem.
Through the power of FB, a friend from my days at the Alaska SeaLife Center, Millie, posts asking if we are near Bend. I tell her we are and would love to meet for coffee. She now lives in Prinvile and we agree to meet in Redmond. She finds a delightful coffee shop in a wonderful area with old homes remodeled to restaurants and shops. It’s great fun catching up! A world traveler, Veterinarian assistant and many other skills and jobs fill her life.
We arrive at Chuck and Elise’s house in Salem. They moved here after Chuck retired from teaching. I’m so impressed with how they have established their “community” here from knowing no-one—Chuck with his running, biking and math tutoring and Elise with her art and agility training. Chuck who was “Mister Mathematics and a BP Teacher of the Year” sports a very different outfit now that I kindly post so his former students can see him. We meet Bindi, the new toddler rat terrier, an absolute delight. Dear Bode, the steady old-timer dog feels quite jealous about the newcomer and the attention she gets, rather demands. Jim needs a day of rest and so he sleeps, Chuck and Elise go about their activities and I drive out to the country to see the tulip fields.
Naively, I have a picture in my head of tiptoeing through the tulips, the only one there, as I did in Provence seeking out the lavender fields with Leslie and Mike. I drive through the beautiful countryside with long time family farms anticipating my tulip experience. Alas, in the distance I see hundred of cars—-surely it’s not the tulip fields? Indeed it is a carnival of sorts with a large gift shop, outdoor vendors, carnival rides, wine tasting and CBD oil from their own hemp. The tulips are a fair distance away but I decide to walk to them and they are beautiful with mountains in the distance. Not a very good photographer, I try a different angle—taking pictures of people taking pictures so it’s great fun.
I return home, Jim is up and cheery and soon Elise and Chuck are home. We gather for our regular evening chat with Bindi as the lead entertainer. It is so fun to visit them and it’s an easy time so we feel relaxed and welcome while staying at their home. They always make us feel so welcome.
Before heading to the coast, we stop at a grocery store with a wide range of healthy food and good variety. Jim is a lover of processed food and he doesn’t get much from me in that area. When I first met him, his freezer was full of “Hungry Man” frozen dinners. I didn’t know they even still made them! On impulse, I bought 2 cans of Pringles and noticed he devoured them quickly. At the store, I found a “healthy variety” at 3 times the price of Pringles, but he didn’t really notice the difference.
“I must go down to the sea again……for the call of the sea is a wild call and a call that cannot be denied,” William Manchester.
We decided to bypass the Oregon coast this year in favor of other new travel spots, but the Oregon coast is a siren call for me. I first discovered it in the early 2000 while on a work visit to the Newport Aquarium. The Oregonian had a great Sunday section on the coast and after I finished work, I stayed at the Nye Beach hotel in old Nye Beach. It was a funky hotel and I loved staying by myself in the Honeymoon Suite. Three stories and narrow, it had sliding doors on each side and a gas fireplace and deep bathtub in the living room. I loved it. I would have Scotch Eggs in the eclectic dining room with interesting art in the morning chatting with the Scottish manager. I walked the beaches in rain or shine, coming back to warm my body in the bathtub and in front of the fireplace. Alas it was torn down and the property sold to a private owner. Not nearly as perfect, I’ve had other trips alone and with my daughter, son and grandsons and now Jim. My grandsons so loved the coast when they were young, Max the philosopher declared “sometimes kids just need to be out in Nature” when they chose to run and run on the beach with Dakota the young Rhodesian Ridgeback. I came to the coast to practice walking after knee surgery when Anchorage was too icy. Jim and I came to walk the beach when we were both recovering from serious medical conditions. The beach is magical, the hard packed even sand, a perfect base for walking. Somehow we seem to be able to walk faster and longer on the beach.
Today is no different. It’s windy and cooler after experiencing 70 for the last several days. But we head into the wind —our feet strong and willing on the sand. A small group of golfers—-hunh? Practice hitting balls on the beach. The tide is out so the beach is wide and supportive. Turning around with the wind at our backs, we return to the car and drive north. Jim claims I have the biggest smile when I walk on the beach.
Jim has one goal and one goal only when we travel Hwy 101—a vanilla milkshake at the Tillamook Creamery. He can’t wait!! The place is huge and packed. Surely Saturday is the busiest day of the week here. But he is happy waiting in line and skirting crowds to get his favorite shake. He dislikes crowds any other place.
We want to find a campground for the night but are far too naive in expectations. The campgrounds are filled with many people and the sites are close together. I find a ‘NATURAL FOREST SITE” North and away from the coast.
We stop at Canon Beach to buy a book I want ,and end up with a few more as the owner and I chat happily about books we love. Independent booksellers are the best. We eat fish and chips at a recommended place, Tom’s, but as tasters of fish and chips across the U.S. it ranks just ok. The fish is fresh and is cooked perfectly but the batter is wrong. The bookseller recommended a different place, but it was packed.
Off we drive to the Saddle Mountain State Natural Area, inland but not too far from the coast. We climb and climb on the 2 lane narrow, well maintained road. We keep looking for the camping area but don’t find it. We pull off the road into a nice, dry spot for the night, knowing that we won’t be interrupted. We walk over a bridge and down a short lane discovering secure gates across the side roads prohibiting ordinary people from entering the “Lewis and Clark Timberland Recreation area”. There are lovely wild flowers out including many that make me feel like I’m back in Alaska—spruce tips, fiddlehead ferns, even the dreaded “Pushki”. And Trillium! But Jim tucks in our bed early and we listen to the roar of the nearby stream, happy to be away from the crowds. There is no cell service— just ordinary (but magical) forest sounds t. iIt is getting dark, I turn on one of our solar lamps—charged by day in a sunny window. Time for me to crawl in bed with the delicious decision of which book to read first.
After a pleasant night the sun sneaks through the trees bringing sunlight to us. Jim walks to the stream again but doesn’t spot a record-making fish while I make breakfast. Then I walk as he cleans up. Surprisingly, a number of cars rush by us to the left. Church goers? Questions unanswered. Where does the road go? We are deep into an old growth forest that was logged and replanted a very long time ago from the size of the stumps and new trees. I am fascinated by supposedly dead trees that show a young sapling growing back. Resilience inspires me.
Seaside is next and we quickly drive on. Already this early Sunday morning the streets are packed with tourists. Astoria is our next stop a town I love for its eclectic feel. It doesn’t have t-shirt and knick knack shops one after the other. It’s a sunny, warm day and the water front draws us to hang over the railing watching ships and ducks move about in the morning air. A few store doors are open and draw me in like a magnet while Jim hangs outside. I end up buying 4 sturdy purple placements with French words on them—just because I can. I have a good chat with the store owner and we stroll on. Godfather’s Book store is next, obviously an old timer in Astoria which was founded by Finns. I get a latte and wander about. Jim is seriously studying a book which could be history, and it is in away— about hunting a killer who killed an RCMP.
A narrow bakery draws us and we buy pastries and sit out in front of the store on a small red table and chairs. It’s a leisurely day and so enjoyable. When ready, we walk back to the Sprinter, our morning walk done and drive on.
The bridge between Astoria, OR and Washington state carries us high over the Columbia river. Our first trip in January 2016, was cold and rainy. This is much better.
Skipping the Lewis and Clark museum, we drive out to Ledbetter Point
and hike one of the shorter trails and then sit on a log watching the shore. An older couple walk by us, he tenderly holding his wife’s arm in his as she walks bent over with a cane. The slow pace doesn’t bother either of them as they focus on the shoreline and talk about what they see. Their small fluffy dog comes over for a visit and we share a laugh.
Oysterville. I so love having time to investigate small places. A historic town with original buildings from 1854 and tall, strong trees. We by no oysters but I enjoy a cup of clam chowder.
Grayland State Park in Washington is our stop for the night. At first we are appalled at the price, $25 a night. Every other site, though rustic g has been free. It is a beautiful, peaceful place. Mostly large RV’s and motorhomes, but we find a spot tucked away from any hookups-which we don’t need. A picnic table. Real restrooms and showers, though tokens required. The trail next to us leads to the beach and the view is spectacular, but too many water patches from the rain. It is very windy so we ate dinner in the Sprinter with the “Patio door” wide open. Perfect temperature, about 60. Tired Jim hops in bed early. I read for a bit, dozed and then got up for a sunset snack.
This morning the sun rose bright in the blue sky and I cook breakfast to eat outside. Can cooking bacon smell any better than out camping? Jim doesn’t seem to think so and comments on the “scent of bacon in the air”. I could have reeled him like a fish if he weren’t already mine.
The restrooms are single and uni-sex, modern, stark and windowless with an electric outlet to charge my computer. It seems plush after the last two weeks. I need to irrigate Rosa the stoma and it takes about an hour. I must admit I’d been cursing my stoma and need to self-cath on the trip. I sat on the coverless toilet typing waiting to finish irrigation (it’s like giving yourself a 1000cc enema in the middle of your stomach every other day). The tricky part is finding a place to hang the bag so the water flows right.
Finally done, and Jim finished with washing the dishes, we set off to hike down to the beach from a different trail. The sunny day was even more welcome after being shut in the bathroom. This time, it is an easy walk to the shore. We didn’t know these are on the Washington coast. What a delightful find!
The Washington coast keeps getting more beautiful!! It helps that we haven’t worn rain gear once this trip.
Pacific Shores State park. Small dunes with hundreds of clam holes on the wide hard beach. We take two walks a day on these beaches 1-2 miles, but sometimes it is too exhausting and I must skip it. The area reminds me a bit of the Oregon coast before it was developed. There is no cell or wifi, but I walk up to the one coffee shop in the small town for a latte, cookie for Jim and email catch up. Possibly in a few years the world will find out about Pacific Shores and I’m so glad we’re here now.
The next morning we drive into the Olympic National forest and a sunny day. The largest Sitka Spruce tree in the world, 1000 years old is a small hike off the main road and we hike in to see this majestic tree that has seen and endured so much. The Quninnault Lodge is a beautiful old building and there are many small cottages that appear to be part of family tradition for many generations.
Oh the trees. What a gift to be among such majestic trees. Old, broken, moss covered, ferns and flowers soaking in their old nutrients, saplings springing from somewhere in their vast root system that still has life. The best example of determination and resilience. Their stories, the sights they’ve seen, devastation, regrowth. I feel so small next to the lives they lived.
Kalaoch is a state park right on the shore of the ocean. Many RV’s line the front row while we are the only one in the non-hook up area, a small distance away. It’s a national Forest and so our night stay is only $11 with senior pass—and flush toilets!! Again walking on the hard sand listening to the ocean fills us with joy and happiness. There are few other people on the beach but those that are here enjoy the day with slow walks, stopping to look at a clam hole, or driftwood or just the ocean.
Fairholm campground in the NationalPark is our next stop. It isn’t an old growth forest but looks like it was replanted a few decades ago. Few campers again and we are in a wonderful camp site directly on Crescent Lake. We walk down the narrow trail to the boat launch and swimming area, though no one is enjoying swimming today. There are forget-me-nots, curious shaped trees, birds including a robin, jay and a friendly duck that waddles out of the water and past us. Jim sees a deer and fawn that didn’t startle. The washrooms were HEATED.
A delightful stop in Sequim WA for a little shopping for me, nap for Jim and a visit to Costco for tire rotation. It was the unbusiest Costco ever, a blessing indeed…but a couple of interesting people.
On to Port Townsend to meet with friends Kathy and Karl who recently moved from West Seattle to a beautiful airy home on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Welcoming, happy friends make visits so much fun. I walked down to sit on the Adirondack chair at the edge of the bluff that drops dramatically down to a small beach and water. There are distinctly different sensations sitting by a river, lake or the ocean. This time I felt the ocean air and took a surprised in breath at its wonder. Like us, they don’t leave home as often now. The draw of a home on the water, the silence, the joy of sitting quietly listening and watching Nature go about her busy work is simply the best.
Tomorrow, we’ll take the ferry over to Vancouver Island, Victoria and TEA, TEA AND TEA!!