Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Monday, November 28, 2011

OR -– Gold Beach, 21-28 Nov 2011


Map picture

It was an interesting week in Gold Beach, Oregon.  The weather was brutal the first 3 or 4 days and great the last few. 

Here are a few weather stats for the first three days:

              Peak Wind     Rain

- Monday:          58mph         2.50 inches

- Tuesday:         62mph         3.50 inches

- Wednesday:    58mph         3.65 inches

- TOTAL:                             9.65 inches!

The trailer was rockin’ and rollin’ with moderate to severe turbulence and sleep was hard to come by.  The creek outside our back window got closer and closer.  Even so, poor Arleen insisted on doing laundry.  It’s one of the few times we missed our house! 

We developed our own “Storm Conditions”:

- Storm Condition 1…Awning half way in and slides fully extended

- Storm Condition 2…Awning all the way in; slides fully extended

- Storm Condition 3…Awning all the way in; slides half way in

- Storm Condition 4…Awning and slides all the way in

Here is our turbulence scale:

- Winds 30-40mph = light to moderate turbulence

- Winds 40-60mph = moderate to severe turbulence

- Winds 60mph+ = severe turbulence…no fun!

We were in “Storm Condition 4” for three days!  The trailer is very cramped with the slides in.  We were constantly climbing over each other and the dog.  It got old quick!  When we finally extended the slides again, the trailer felt huge. 

Now we have a much better sense of what the trailer and we can handle.  It certainly wasn’t fun and we hope it doesn’t happen too often.

Gold Beach Sat 22 Nov 11

Strong high pressure over the Four Corners and a strong low pressure system off the coast means a steady flow of moisture and nasty winds in Oregon and Washington.

Arleen coming back from the laundry room in 50mph winds and horizontal rain


                                                                                            That’s our trailer on the shrinking peninsula!

The Rogue River museum was very informative.  The Rogue is an impressive river with an interesting history.  Here is Arleen posing with the bear in the animal display…

The weather finally gave us a 12-hour break so we explored the beach by the campground.   We hunted for agates and enjoyed a spectacular sunset.  The next morning I fished near the turtle rock and got skunked.


  Arleen trying to keep her feet dry…it didn’t work!

Turtle Rock at sunrise on Thanksgiving morning

That’s me fishing for the small run of king salmon on Hunter Creek.  Those are storm clouds on the horizon.

Our first Thanksgiving on the road was very memorable.  The campground had a big potluck and about 40 people showed up!  There were 3 differently prepared turkeys, a ham, various pasta dishes, all kinds of stuffing and potatoes, tons of roughage, and a whole bunch of dessert.  We met some nice folks and got some tips on what to see in the San Francisco area.  I joked that the table of food below was 30 feet long…the same length as our trailer! 

We celebrated Thanksgiving again a couple of days later.  We wanted to start our own tradition so Arleen cooked up some tipsy Cornish hens and a great green bean casserole.  

Gold Beach12 - 24 Nov 2011

Arleen had never seen a wild river otter.  I went out to fish one morning and a river otter was playing in front of the turtle rock.  I called Arleen and she got down in time to see the otter swimming up stream.  Then Arleen walked back up to the trailer and the little guy stopped on a rock right in our back yard!  We love seeing critters!


We drove a few miles south to go tide pooling near Myers Creek.  We saw a bunch of star fish and anemones.  The anemones with the turquois green mouths were huge.  Some were as big as my boot!  



After learning the history of the Rogue River, we wanted to drive upstream and check it out.  The narrow, windy, hilly, rough road took us to historic Agnes.  There were a couple of places to eat, a small store, and not much else.  The eating joints were closed but we met the lady who runs one of them.  Her parents ran the joint for many years before she took over.  She told us about the floods.   The sign on top of the roof in the upper right hand corner of the second picture below shows how high the water got in December 1964.  That’s roughly 100 feet above the river! 

On the way back we checked out “one of the world’s largest known” myrtle trees.  It’s almost 90 feet tall and 42 feet around.  These rare trees only grow in parts of southwest Oregon and the north California coast.  We’ve seen quite a few shops that sell myrtlewood carvings and furniture.  It’s very pretty wood.


We entered Oregon on 1 October…almost two months ago!  We have had an amazing time.  Below is a recap of our coastal adventure.

- Favorite area:

-- Nehalem / Manzanita

- Areas we want to spend a bunch more time at:

-- Nehalem / Manzanita

-- Cape Disappointment / Long Beach WA

-- Cape Blanco to fish the Sixes and Elk Rivers

-- Gold Beach / Brookings

-- Oakridge

- Favorite restaurant:

-- Harbor Light Family Restaurant in Reedsport

- Most memorable experiences:

-- Mushrooming: The first few chanterelle mushrooms we found at Cape Mears… the five pounds we found near Reedsport… each time we tried new ones (king bolete, lobster, and hedgehog)

-- Cycling the Discovery Trail from Cape Disappointment to Long Beach… having ice cream at “Scoopers”

-- Watching huge waves explode on the rocks at Shore Acres

-- Playing in the dunes… following bear tracks in the sand

-- Hiking down to Crescent Beach in Ecola State Park and having it to ourselves

-- Weathering the storm in Gold Beach

-- Catching nice trout at Fort Stevens and Umpqua Lighthouse State Parks

-- Visiting Pat and Don in Oakridge

-- Sitting in the hot springs by Salt Creek in the rain

-- The little stand of maple trees with the yellow leaves on Aubrey Mountain

-- The Umpqua Lighthouse’s white and red rays at night in the fog and drizzle

-- Flying the kite on beaches at sunset

-- Kayaking from Nehalem State Park to the town of Wheeler and having warm drinks and blueberry muffins

-- Watching the Oregon vs Stanford football game with the “locals” in Winchester Bay

-- Walking the beach from Nehalem State Park to Manzanita

-- Our first Thanksgiving on the road… our first campground potluck

The Oregon Coast was a perfect place to start our adventure.  There were great campgrounds spread at perfect intervals.  Each town had a character of its own.  There was always access to supplies, places to do our laundry, and good restaurants.  There was no concern about pipes and tanks freezing.  The roads were usually wide and smooth.  People were friendly and there was plenty to see and do.  We usually traveled 70-100 miles and spent a week at each location.  We would gladly make more stops and stay longer.  We could easily spend 4-6 months exploring the Oregon Coast. 

Now we move into California.  We’ll spend 10 days in Klamath to thoroughly explore the Redwoods. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

OR –– Cape Blanco, 14-21 Nov 2011

Map picture

Our good luck with the weather finally ran out at Cape Blanco.  As we were setting up, the guy on the radio repeatedly warned his listeners that rain was expected for “the next 10 days”.  I wanted to fish, but the weather hosed me!

Cape Blanco is the farthest west point along the Oregon coast.  Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed to tours, but the amazing view is always available.  There was easy access to two rivers with king salmon runs that peak in late November.  We got one of the few campsites that allowed decent TV reception.  The cell phone signal was weak but reliable.  We had water and electric, but no place to dump our tanks.  Thankfully we were comfortable because it took serious motivation to brave the weather!

The first night we were treated to a great sunset…


The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is in the upper right corner.

And then the weather got nasty…

Cape Blanco - satellite - 2

Morning of 18 Nov.  It rained and blew all night as the cold front moved inland.  The cloud pattern off the WA and OR coasts indicates cold air.  Those clouds are strong showers.  Sunny breaks between showers are a nice, but brief reprieve. 

The closest town was Port Orford, about 8 miles south of our home for the week.  After being cooped up for about 24 hours, we headed into town to get propane and food.   “Battle Rock” is on the south end of Port Orford.  It was the site of a battle between nine white settlers and over 100 Qua-to-mah Indians in 1851.  It wasn’t easy for Arleen to get out there, but my little mountain goat pulled it off!

And then the sea got angry.  Check this out:

High Surf Advisory (Oregon)
Nov 16, at 14:53 PST
Nov 16, at 23:00 PST

Curry County Coast; South Central Oregon Coast

So what do you do when a high surf advisory is issued for the Oregon Coast?  Go watch the surf of course!  There is probably no better place to watch than Shore Acres.  As forecast, the waves were enormous.  The sun even made a few brief appearances and highlighted contrast between the dark ocean water, frothy white waves, patches of blue sky, storm clouds, and waves exploding on the rocks.  The temperature was in the low 40s.  The winds were 20-30mph and the air was thick with salt spray.  It didn’t take long for the camera lens to get coated and for us to turn into popsicles, but we got a few good pictures and video.  Of course the pictures didn’t capture the power and scale of Mother Nature.  Imagine standing on that point 30 or 40 feet above the ocean when a wave explodes on a rock and water shoots another 30 or 40 feet above your head.  The crashing noise drowns out all other sounds and a cloud of spray temporarily makes everything hazy like a dream.  It was awesome!

See the people standing on the point?

Shore Acres State Park, Oregon–18 Nov 2011


Shore Acres State Park, Oregon-18 Nov 2011

After watching the waves at Shore Acres, we went to Bandon.  Good Mexican food with a good view of the harbor were a welcomed treat.  We also stocked up on locally made goodies at “Cranberry Sweets” in Old Bandon.  We really liked the view from Coquille Point and the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge…


Where We Got Our Mail: 

Post office in Sixes, Oregon

We came to Cape Blanco to fish the Sixes and Elk Rivers.  Temperatures in the 40s, winds 20-40mph, and a couple inches of horizontal rain made it very difficult.  In fact, the Sixes River was “blown out” most of the week.  The tea colored, fast moving water was nearly over its banks.  A local fisherman told us “don’t waste your time”.  That’s too bad because the Sixes looks quite floatable.  We could launch the kayaks in the State Park near the Hughes House and easily go either upstream or downstream in normal conditions.  We did fish the Sixes for a couple of hours but it was half-hearted with minimal confidence.  The same local fisherman told us that the Elk River would drop and clear quicker than the Sixes.  He was right.  By Sunday, our only good weather day of the week, the Elk was in great shape.  Unfortunately, the good weather on Sunday ensured all the salmon fishermen within 50 miles would give it a shot.  There were a bunch of folks out fishing!  We saw a couple of fresh king salmon caught, but we didn’t get any bites.  We only fished a few hours the entire week.  Maybe I’m getting old.  A little bad weather wouldn’t have stopped me a few years ago!  We didn’t get to know these these rivers too well, but they look very promising.  If we ever come back, maybe Mother Nature will give us a break?!?


     The Sixes River…The weather was miserable.                       Hiking down to the mouth of the Elk River.


    The mouth of the Elk River…tide is coming in.                  The fishing hole at the mouth of the Elk River.

The seal (just above and to my left) was keeping a close eye on me.

The Elk River near the hatchery.  Most people launch here to float the river.

Next we go 35 miles south to Gold Beach.  It’s our last stop in Oregon.  Mother Nature is expected to unleash more fury.  Check out this weather forecast:

[11/21]  Monday 52º
Rain. High near 52. Breezy, with a south wind between 25 and 28 mph, with gusts as high as 38 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

[11/21]  Monday Night 51º
Rain. Low around 51. Windy, with a south wind between 31 and 36 mph, with gusts as high as 48 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.
[11/22]  Tuesday 55º
Rain. High near 55. Windy, with a south wind around 34 and 43 mph, with gusts as high as     55 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.
[11/22]  Tuesday Night 50º
Rain. Low around 50. Windy, with a south wind between 33 and 36 mph, with gusts as high as 55 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.
[11/23]  Wednesday 49º
Rain. High near 49. Breezy, with a south wind between 34 and 37 mph, with gusts as high as 48 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.
[11/23]  Wednesday Night 45º
Rain. Low around 45. Chance of precipitation is 100%.
[11/24]  Thanksgiving Day 54º
Showers. Cloudy, with a high near 54.
[11/24]  Thursday Night 42º
Rain likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 42.
[11/25]  Friday 51º
A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.
[11/25]  Friday Night 47º
A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 47.
[11/26]  Saturday 55º
A chance of showers. Cloudy and breezy, with a high near 55.
[11/26]  Saturday Night 45º
Showers likely. Cloudy, with a low around 45.
[11/27]  Sunday 53º
Rain likely. Cloudy, with a high near 53.

We are not looking forward to those winds!  I’ve never seen so many “100%’s” in a weather forecast…Hopefully the sun will make an appearance or two!

Monday, November 14, 2011

OR -– Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, 7-14 Nov


Map picture

We spent a week at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park near Winchester Bay and Reedsport, Oregon.  We were tucked in the woods and had all amenities except TV.  There was a steep, but pleasant trail down to Lake Marie where we walked our friend and fished a couple of times a day.  The Umpqua Lighthouse and the Dunes were just a short one mile walk.  The weather stayed dry most of the week…excellent this time of year on the coast!

The first day we hiked out on the dunes.  Some of the highest dunes are just south of the state park.  We had a great view of the ocean and our dog loved it.  We briefly followed a fresh set of bear tracks.  Towards the end of the hike we looped directly toward the lighthouse.  Near the lighthouse, the only other tracks in the sand belonged to critters like raccoons and deer.

Umpqua-9 Nov 2011-hike   


All summer long we have been traveling through prime elk locations and had not seen the mythical creatures.  I even put elk and unicorn in the same fairytale category at one point!  Finally, in the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, we saw 50 or 60.  Elk do exist!!  We even watched a couple of bull elk assert their dominance.  After a few minutes of clashing, the loser slowly walked away and the winner went about his business like nothing happened.  There were many geese and a few pretty ducks rooting around in the meadow and floating the small creek.  One of the signs in the very informative overlook said to cup your hands behind your ears to hear better like a deer…see Arleen below doing her deer impression.


Elk sparing at Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area

The Umpqua Discovery Center has made many of the Oregon Coast’s “must see” lists.  It features two exhibits.  One is about the history of the area and the other is about the flora and fauna.  As you walk through, you trigger nature sounds and stories.  The large murals are vibrant and detailed.  You either hear a story or read about a story that coincides with the mural and it encourages you to carefully look at every part of the amazing picture.  There are replicas of an old, one room school house and a barber shop.  In one area, you can sit and listen to stories of eight old timers.  They relayed their stories of their parent’s arrival in the area in the early 1900s and how it was for them growing up in the 20s and 30s.  Nothing beats hearing about history from people who lived it.  We even slid down into a bear den.  The final exhibit was about weather.  Most of it was hands on and included trivia.  There was even an old National Weather Service radar!  The Umpqua Discovery Center was one of the most fun “museums'” we’ve experienced.  Make sure it’s on your “must see” list if you’re near Reedsport, Oregon!


The Umpqua Lighthouse was just a mile from our campsite.  There was also an overlook on highway 101 just 2 or 3 miles away.  We often walked to the lighthouse and went to the overlook to admire the lighthouse at different times of the day.  One night, there were just a few clouds and a bright full moon so we drove up around 9:30pm.  The visibility was good and we could clearly see the lighthouse, the unique Umpqua jetty, and the buoy.  The first picture below was taken using a tripod and setting the shutter to stay open for 5 seconds.  The second picture was taken right after a pretty sunset.  The last picture is really cool.  We took it at night in fog and drizzle.  The beams were eerie as they slowly spun around and reflected off the trees.  We also toured the lighthouse and museum.  The lower part of the museum was dedicated to the history of the lighthouse.  The upper part featured the Coast Guard.  The displays were well done and very informative.  Our tour guide actually maintains the lighthouse.  She taught us a lot.


Our mushroom supply was low so we went “shrooming”.  We hiked just over 5 miles between Elbow and Threemile Lakes north of Reedsport.  On the way out we found many small chanterelle mushrooms along the trail and managed to fill a basket.  We took a good long break on a dune overlooking the ocean and scoped the water for whales but didn’t see any.  We saw at least 10 small salamanders slowly crossing the trail.  We paid close attention so we wouldn’t accidently step on them…they were hard to see.  On the way back we “shroomed” in a very “shroomy” area…jackpot!  We found a bunch of nice ones and had no trouble filling the other basket.  We ended up with 5 pounds of chanterelle mushrooms!  Arleen made a large batch of cheese and wine mushroom sauce that goes great on most meat and veggies.

Umpqua-10 Nov 2011-hike


Lake Marie is part of the state park.  The small lake has a one mile trail circling it.  Motor boats are not allowed, but kayaks and canoes are…perfect!  The week we were there, we only saw a few fisherman.  Most of the time the lake was only occupied by a few ducks.  Other than occasional distant noise from ATVs on the dunes and trucks on highway 101, it was very peaceful.  The lake is stocked with trout.  I caught one that was about 8 inches and one that was about 13 inches.  I had quite a few other opportunities but couldn’t quite connect.  Arleen got the monster of the trip…a fat 16 inch rainbow trout!  Fighting a good sized fish while sitting in a kayak is tough, but Arleen won the battle…that’s my girl!  Initially it was hazy.  The sun’s rays were filtered through the trees and to the water.  It was serene.

We headed south to Cape Arago and Shore Acres for a day trip.  At Cape Arago we watched sea lions play in the waves.  There are miles of hiking trails, but we didn’t go to hike.  The two main things to see at Shore Acres are the crashing waves and the botanical garden.  The swells were 8-12 feet high while we were there and they put on a good show.  Some of the most dramatic pictures of crashing waves are taken at Shore Acres.  Look closely at the two pictures in the middle below.  You can stand out on the point to the right.  See the wooden fence in the upper right?  Imagine a wave crashing in front of you that is twice the height of that point!  Pictures, post cards, place mats, and all kinds of other things in the gift shop had amazing pictures of waves exploding 70 or 80 feet in the air.  Thought the waves were pretty dramatic while we there, I can’t imagine it being two or three times higher!  Oh by the way, the garden was nice too.  Arleen likes rose gardens and can’t resist smelling each one.  The huge rhubarb leaves were a freak of nature!  Shore Acres is known for its holiday light display.  Many volunteers were stringing lights and decorating trees throughout the garden.  It would be cool to see, but we’ll miss it…shucks.




A new segment on the blog: “Where We Get Our Mail”.  Each of these itty bitty post offices in small towns has a unique “personality”.  However, due to the postal service’s financial problems, many of them may close.  So whether the post office is in a cute little log cabin (like Lake Quinault, WA) or a featureless strip mall (like South Beach, OR) or in a small corner of a mom and pop grocery store (like Winchester Bay, OR), we will put a picture on our travel log.  Here’s the first installment of “Where We Get Our Mail”…

Umpqua31-7 Nov 2011

Post office in Winchester Bay, Oregon

We are in Oregon Ducks country.  We even drove through the University of Oregon campus in Eugene recently.  It’s official…we’re Ducks fans.  We had no TV in the campground so we went to Bedrock’s in Winchester Bay to watch the big game:  Stanford (ranked 4th in the country) against Oregon (ranked 7th).  There were about 20 other dedicated fans cheering on their Ducks.  Many of the locals knew each other.  At half time, a lady even came in with two fresh pumpkin pies and offered slices to everyone.  We love the small town atmosphere.  Oregon 53 Stanford 30!!  GO DUCKS!!

Umpqua32-12 Nov 2011

Next we go to Cape Blanco.  It’s the western most point along the Oregon Coast.  There are seven miles of hiking trails, another cool lighthouse, and a river filling up with king salmon. 


Another great sunset at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, Oregon

Umpqua30-10 Nov 2011