Summer Holiday – day 15

29 08 2015

Day 15 was spent being tourists in Portland. First thing’s first – figure out the Transit! It turned out we were just a couple of blocks from the station and it was easy peasy lemon squeezy to get into town. Cheap too. You get all sorts on public transport. The lady with the pet rat running up and down her arm was a first though…

Second things second… coffee! I’m a big tea drinker but this is Portland! We tried to find a non-chain establishment to better support the hipster economy.

Brazilian coffee sack

Brazilian coffee sack

I forget where we ended up, but I was amused to find the above coffee sack on the wall. Minas Gerais was the area of Brazil I had visited several years ago. Small world, isn’t it?¬†Portland has cute names for its districts, Pearl, Rose, etc. I guess we were in the Rose District when I saw this cover for some utility ducting.

Utility cover

Utility cover

Number two offspring wasn’t with us for this trip, but we’d promised to return with some offerings from Voodoo Doughnuts. After first spending a couple of joyous hours in Powell’s bookshop we dutifully joined the queue for these doughnuts. No idea why they were so popular but the queue ran round the block. Over the road was a telling sign…

Keep it weird

Keep it weird

Having queued the length of the building, we then got the joy of queuing all the way back! Good job we were English… this counts as entertainment! I got dripped on once or twice and I eventually figured out it was an Air Conditioning unit in a first floor window up above the queue.

Little England. Love a good queue...

Little England. Love a good queue…

The jokes I was making about AC units and Legionaire’s Disease suddenly didn’t seem so funny when I realised that the doughnuts we were about to buy spent some period behind this open doorway protected from airborne disease and children’s bogey-laden fingers by nothing more substantial than a wire grille! Pink, I admit, but even so…

Now THAT's healthy...

Now THAT’s healthy…

I’m told by more discerning doughnut-lovers that they were especially scrummy, but personally I don’t think they were worth the effort…

Voodoo doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnuts





Summer Holiday – night 13

29 08 2015

It was our last night in Umpqua River lighthouse park, so we made a point of visiting the lighthouse while it was doing its thing. Whilst there we were treated to a far-off thunder storm over the Pacific. This wasn’t sharp forked lightning but rather subdued sheet lightning. Unfortunately the storm gradually came to land and by morning we had a thoroughly wet tent. We’d had glorious weather all holiday and now we had to put the tent away wet! ūüė¶

Red and white beams visible from the lighthouse

Red and white beams visible from the lighthouse

Red in the trees

Red in the trees

Hard to believe how far the beam can reach out to sea

Hard to believe how far the beam can reach out to sea

Lightening on the Pacific horizon

Lightening on the Pacific horizon





Summer Holiday – day 13

29 08 2015

Day 13, third born was invited to join his girlfriend’s family for an hour of motorised fun in the dunes. We’d arranged to pick him up in the early afternoon in Florence.

Mrs E and I decided to go early to Florence and amble around to see what it offered. The river was very similar in feel to Steveston along BC’s Fraser River. I assume it had had a similar salmon-oriented industry a few decades ago.

The derelict industrial scenery was quite pleasing I thought, with river pilings telling tales of times now gone.

Piling it on

Piling it on

There were still a number of boats – both leisure and working boats – moored at the river’s side. Florence seemed to have avoided the general malaise we’d felt coming up the Oregon coast.

Fishing still pays the bills for some

Fishing still pays the bills for some

The road bridge over the Siuslaw was completed in March 1936. It is a “bascule” bridge, meaning it is a drawbridge with counter-weights (in its solid-looking supports). It was designed by Conde McCullough and was funded by the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works… i.e. part of the infrastructure projects that were intended to pull the US from the recession of the 30’s. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 5, 2005, and has since seen some TLC and much-needed restoration.

Siuslaw River Bridge, opened 1936

Siuslaw River Bridge, opened 1936

We found a most excellent lunch at the Bridgwater FishHouse and Zebra Bar housed in the Kyle Building, named for one of the early settlers in the area. After lunch we headed of to the small local museum and found an amusing signpost reminding us of the North American tendency to recycle place-names from other locales.

Florence - one of many

Florence – one of many

The small museum was in the old school-house, just off the main drag. It was stuffed with the usual ephemera of local museums. Family photos that mean little to outsiders, old pianos once loved in log cabin parlours. It had interesting sections on the early industries of logging and fishing, but these are repeated in most similar museums along the Pacific North-west and had little of new interest. Upstairs there was a collection of local school items including what seemed like arbitrary rules for turn of the century teachers. (Male teachers would be thought errant if they used a public barber!) There was a rather random collection of glass artefacts including telephone insulators and several coloured glass bottles. I thought the ambiguous colours in these were most intriguing.

Translucent blue

Translucent blue

Not green bottles

Not green bottles

We ambled back to the Bay Street area to recover our son and had a pleasant hanging-out with his girlfriend’s family on a caf√© patio overlooking the river. Here I was surprised to see a sack from l’Herault area of southern France, an area we loved very much. It just seemed out of place in the PNW, but on reflection, no more than us!

A sack from southern France, in Florence, in Oregon

A sack from southern France, in Florence, in Oregon





Summer Holiday – day 11

29 08 2015

Day 11, we decided to chill a little and stay around the camp site. We opted to walk up to the lighthouse and take the tour. Umpqua lighthouse is one of several down the Oregon coast. There’s a neat brochure by the Oregon State Parks that tells us the following about it:

Umpqua is the second lighthouse to occupy this site. An earlier structure built in 1857 was the first lighthouse sited on the Oregon coast; it succumbed to erosion in 1861. The Umpqua River lighthouse is nearly identical to the one at Heceta Head, and both lights were illuminated in 1894, but the Umpqua lens emits distinctive red-and-white automated flashes. 

I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the mention that the first lighthouse only lasted four years before succumbing to erosion. Er… this is in the middle of dune country for goodness sake!

Umpqua River lighthouse

Umpqua River lighthouse

Anyway, we paid the few dollars for the guided tour and a student from the museum opened up the lighthouse and tried to answer our questions. The staircase was interesting in that it was free-standing and not attached to the brick walls at all.

Free-standing stairs inside lighthouse

Free-standing stairs inside lighthouse

We could get right up into the light assembly and clearly see the Fresnel lenses that are such a feature of lighthouses. The cunning Frenchman revolutionised lighthouses by figuring out how to produce a relatively light (no pun intended) lens to massively concentrate the light into a beam that could travel many miles out to sea.

The Umpqua River lighthouse has a “signature” that includes red as well as white flashes.

2 white, 1 red... Umpqua's "signature" for passing shipping to identify their position.

2 white, 1 red… Umpqua’s “signature” for passing shipping to identify their position.

One other feature of Umpqua River lighthouse was that it had an auto-changer so that should the bulb fail, a second back-up lamp could automatically be brought into service. In this photo it can clearly be seen to the right of the currently illuminated bulb. (Now that WAS a deliberate pun).

The business end - 1kW bulb with auto-changer

The business end – 1kW bulb with auto-changer

The descent down the iron staircase lent itself to some arty shots. However, I only managed this one…

The way back down the stairs

The way back down the stairs

After the lighthouse, we walked down to the beach and snagged a geocache on the way. Turning my back on the canoodling couple in an oh-so-English way I took a few shots of the old pilings left in the sand. I’m not sure of their original use – perhaps there used to be a fish processing plant her in days gone by.

Pilings left from some old structure

Pilings left from some old structure

As we ambled up the spit to the South of the river exit, there were some interesting geological forms in the large rocks that had been used as erosion barriers.

Holy rock Batman!

Holy rock Batman!

This was clearly a favourite walk for locals and tourists and there were a few hints that bonfires had taken place in the past. I was struck by the patterns at the detail level in the carbonised wood.

A charred log on the beach

A charred log on the beach

There was a Coastguard tower though we were told at the museum that there was little need for it these days and only punishment shifts were ever posted there. It certainly looked highly automated at the casual glance.

Coastguard watchtower

Coastguard watchtower

At the end of the breakwater, a triangular area had been enclosed. Though still tidal, it was entirely sheltered and was now an oyster farm.

Oyster bed at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Oyster bed at Winchester Bay, Oregon

As we started to head back to the road we had a sea-level view up at the lighthouse nestled against the treeline. It looked solid and comfortable. Surely it looks even more so in a raging storm. The apparent quiet was short-lived though. Down here in the dunes was a huge campsite that was the exclusive domain of “boys with toys” and we had to watch out for 8 year old lads on motorbikes and ATVs on their way to erode the dunes with their pot-bellied dads in dune buggies.

Umpqua River lighthouse from the beach

Umpqua River lighthouse from the beach





Summer Holiday – day 10

25 08 2015

Today was a lazy day. We started by dropping in to the small local village of Winchester Bay. Like Port Orford, it felt like this had once been a bustling tourist trap, but now felt empty and forlorn. It was actually quite sad. The local area now seemed to cater almost exclusively for the rednecks on their quad bikes tearing up and down the dunes.

We managed to find an open caf√©, but the offerings were meagre… and in polystyrene cups!

Winchester Bay... a sad, lonely place.

Winchester Bay… a sad, lonely place.

An air of dereliction in Winchester Bay marina

An air of dereliction in Winchester Bay marina

Seems there'd once been a thriving oyster trade

Seems there’d once been a thriving oyster trade

In search of more lively entertainment – or at least food – we headed further north to Florence. Here we stopped at Fred Meyer – a US supermarket chain – and stocked up on food and provisions. As we were leaving the car-park we noticed that the famous dunes of the coast LITERALLY started at the boundary fence. In no particular hurry, we parked again and set off for a most amusing hour or so on the dunes just to the north of Florence.

Mrs E and the yoofs trying to run off and leave me

Mrs E and the yoofs trying to run off and leave me

All that's left

All that’s left

T.E. Lawrence would be back in a mo. He was just off getting his camel serviced. Fnaar fnaar.

T.E. Lawrence would be back in a mo. He was just off getting his camel serviced. Fnaar fnaar.

That's art, that is...

That’s art, that is…

The ever-present reminder that this was red-neck central.

The ever-present reminder that this was red-neck central.





Summer Holiday – day 7

23 08 2015

Day seven of our road trip was exactly that… a road trip. We had to get from Crater Lake to the west coast, crossing some pretty hilly terrain in the meantime. We asked Doris for her best suggestion, and she was adamant that the best route was to dip far to the south – as far as California in fact – then head back up the coast road. The paper map plainly showed two alternative more direct routes, but admittedly these weren’t major highways. We had all day though, so we once more rejected Doris’ suggestion and told her we insisted on travelling via a little place called Agness, so that she’d be forced to route us more directly to the west.

Wow… this one little decision made for one heck of a day’s travel!!¬†To give just a hint, let me illustrate the route we took using Google Maps.

Seems reasonably direct

Seems reasonably direct

We added a small detour to Medford to stock up on groceries. Medford it turned out was thick with smoke from the southern fires. Doesn’t seem so bad, does it? We didn’t think so. But… let me show you the same map without the nice blue line on it.

Where did the road go, exactly?

Where did the road go, exactly?

Yup – the part of the route that goes through the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest is, well, “interesting”.

Everything is fine and dandy until you get to Galice. The road from Merlin to Galice was definitely rural, but there were still road markings and a little traffic. Once you were past Galice though there were an ever increasing set of clues that maybe going all the way down to California wasn’t so silly¬†after all. The signs had gunshot pellet holes. Then there were no signs. The road got narrow. There were warnings of closures in winter. There were sections of unpaved road with simply gravel to make the road at least passable after the last wash-out. ¬†There was a forestry ranger parked in the middle of the road with his truck doors open when we turned a corner. He seemed shocked not to have the entire county to himself, and closed a door to let us pass. After winding our way for several more miles we finally encountered a flurry of traffic coming the other way. By now the road was single track and the on-coming traffic was in no mood to slow down or yield to an SUV with BC plates. Several of the vehicles were large vans towing trailers with 6 or 8 kayaks. We were glad for the off-road capability of the Pilot as we dove for cover in the bushes. The Rogue River is a popular white water rafting, fishing and kayaking destination. There were several tours you could take and I guess these drivers knew the road well and were “on the clock”.

Detail from the map board. Tell me this doesn't make you feel like maybe you shouldn't really be here...

Detail from the map board. Tell me this doesn’t make you feel like maybe you shouldn’t really be here… RED has that effect, on a map, as does the word “wild” and “wilderness”!

It was with jangly nerves and some relief when we finally came back to “normal” road – several stretches of rough gravel now safely behind us. Thankfully I noticed in time that Agness was actually on the other side of the river to us and it was a several mile detour on the one and only road in and out if we ACTUALLY went to Agness over the bridge. We managed to avoid that detour to “BFN” as my daughter would call it, and were pretty happy when we could smell the sea air and popped out at the coast near Wedderburn. A quick trek up the coast road and we were at our destination for the next couple of nights – Humbug Mountain. This was in a little oasis between the old coast road – which was now the access to the State Park – and the new straighter coast highway. But more of that in the next report.





Summer Holiday – day 4

21 08 2015

Day 4, we packed up at Cove Palisade (Deschute campsite at Lake Billy Chinook) and headed to Crate Lake. We were in no particular rush and took our time. Along the way we restocked at Trader Joe’s in Bend – always a treat with their yummy high quality foods.

Lake Billy Chinook

Lake Billy Chinook

As we headed out of camp, we stopped along the lake and took photos of the amazing basalt structures right next to the road. I’ve seen many examples of the characteristic hexagonal columns formed in basalt, but these were unusual in that they were curved. The sheer scale of the temperatures and pressures involved stagger the mind.

Trader Joe’s is always fun. I could spend hours perusing the shelves.

Goodies at Trader Joe's, Bend

Goodies at Trader Joe’s, Bend

So much goodness in one package!

So much goodness in one package!

As we approached Crater Lake National Park Mrs E questioned the directions Doris was offering. I prudently chose to “validate my assumptions” and saw that the default GPS setting was to “avoid toll roads”. This being a national park, Doris was trying to avoid the entrance fee at the northern entry point and detour us way off to the west to enter the park by the southern gate. Though this too had a fee, I guess the logic figured that delay of the fee was better somehow?! Cancelling this option Doris now agreed with the sign in front of us saying that Crater Lake was that-a-way.¬†Crater Lake National Park is¬†about 5 miles square, but it sits in the middle of the Winema National Forest which is huge.

As we caught our first glimpse of the lake and Wizard Island within it, we were sorely disappointed. The air was very misty with what we assumed to be smoke from the fires raging in California. We’d booked to stay in the park for 3 nights to make sure we had chance to see all it offered, and if the air quality was going to be so poor, we would be very frustrated.

First view of Crater Lake... smoky!

First view of Crater Lake… smoky!

We headed to the campsite at Mazama village and were told that though we had a site reserved, it was not a specific site. We had to cruise the vast campground and pick one. By sheer fluke we picked a site within easy walking distance of the only 3 showers in the entire ground! There had been a bad Pine Beetle infestation, and many trees had been felled and logged. Unlike other sites where you have to pay for firewood, at Crater Lake campers were encouraged to burn as much as they liked for free. In “extreme” forest fire conditions. Bizarre! There were however several cautionary signs demanding that campers “buy it where you burn it”. Carrying potentially infected firewood from site to site is a way that the beetles can spread.

As we settled in, we became aware of several Steller’s Jays sharing the site with us. Chipmunks too. The chipmunks were entertaining, but the Jays were incredibly noisy and confident. They would come to within a couple of feet of you if they thought they might find food. Each site had a very robust bear bin with double doors. This implied that bears could be a bit of an issue, but there was no sign of any bears in the area while we were there.

What's your is mine

What’s yours is mine

We’d stopped off at the park’s Steel Visitor Center (sic) and loaded up with maps. One came with a useful list of the parks official hiking trails – a very convenient “to-do” list for our short stay!

Convenient to-do list

Convenient to-do list

As is often the case when camping, we turned in relatively early, but not before witnessing a stunning sunset – emphasised no doubt by the smoke lingering in the air. On subsequent nights we saw an incredible number of stars – something only possible when many many miles away from the usual light pollution of our so-called civilisation.

Nightfall

Nightfall





Summer Holiday – day 2-3

20 08 2015

After a very pleasant night in Memaloose, we headed further south for our next stop. This was The Cove Palisades near Madras, which was to be our base for a day trip to the Painted Hills.

Threatening clouds over Mt. Hood

Threatening clouds over Mt. Hood

The camp site at Cove Palisades was a little tucked away over the river. The geology was imposing along the road, but the site was comfortable if a little dusty. There were huge boulders strewn around which were a stark reminder of the potential fluidity of the apparently solid landscape.

Huge blocks of rock had fallen from the cliff behind our site at some point in history.

Huge blocks of rock had fallen from the cliff behind our site at some point in history.

Just before dusk, Mrs E and I took the short but steep hike up the cliff to the tabletop plateau behind us. There was a circular hike around its perimeter, but night was already falling as we reached it, and we decided to descend just as the sun was setting over Mt Adams.

Billy Chinook Lake from the top of the plateau

Billy Chinook Lake from the top of the plateau


From the top of the plateau there were extensive views back over “The Island”. This is closed to public and only a few researchers are allowed to visit its steep sides. As we walked a little around the perimeter path, we could look down the steep cliff to our campsite below.

Our campsite was a small dot way below the cliff. Our silver Pilot is just visible to the right of the RV in the next site

Our campsite was a small dot way below the cliff. Our silver Pilot is just visible to the right of the RV in the next site

As we headed back for the hike back down, we were treated to a wonderful sunset over the gorge towards Mt Adams. If you look carefully you can see the mountain in the shade of the sunset.

Sun setting over Mt Adams

Sun setting over Mt Adams

This site was to be our jumping off spot to visit The Painted Hills, and the next day we headed off to the famous park. It took a lot longer to get there than anticipated, but the drive was pleasant and the time passed quickly. The entrance to the park was almost missed and a few miles down a quiet track led us to a very low-key Painted Hills. The landscape was unearthly and stunningly beautiful. After a short break for lunch, we checked the park map and headed off for the first of the sites at Red Scar Knoll.

Painted Hills

Painted Hills

The car-park was near a small white hill that was distinct from the surrounding reds and yellows. According to the signage, this was due to a “cataclysmic” eruption spewing sup-heated volcanic ash and gas over the landscape. All of 39 million years ago.

Cataclysmic

Cataclysmic

The main site at this particular stop though was the so-called Red Hill. This was one of many gentle piles of red or ochre rock. On closer inspection the hills were actually a kind of hard clay. The term popcorn rock is used. As the rains come, the rock actually absorbs moisture and expands. As the rock dries out, it shrinks back and has an appearance of a very large pile of coloured popcorn. We’d seen similar rock in the Badlands of Alberta near Drumheller. Despite many signs asking people to keep off the slopes there were several tracks. It was comforting to know that their marring of the landscape would only last until the next rains.

One of many red hills

More fluid, up close

More fluid, up close

Despite the generally dry environment, the place was not without its life. We found a prickly pear cactus that someone had tried to shield from careless feet by building a small wall with pebbles.

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear

As we returned to the car, a small movement caught my eye and I was delighted to see a small lizard scampering on a log. His instinct to freeze and hope we weren’t hungry allowed me the time to get him in focus.

Lounging Lizard

Lounging Lizard

From this angle, we saw the red hill in contrast to other layers of sandy soil, and started to get a real sense of the colourful landscape and the surprise views one could achieve just by moving a few metres one way or another.

Nature's palette

Nature’s palette

We got back in the car and headed back to the next stop which was an exposed fossil bed known as Leaf Hill Trail. There were stern warnings not to disturb the fossils which were mainly leaves and were helping scientists understand the landscape that had been obliterated by the volcano 39 million years ago.

Juniper berries

Juniper berries

Stern warning

Stern warning

The slight rise in the landscape gave stunning views over the park and the sweeping vistas of colour.

Yup - those are Painted Hills alright!

Yup – those are Painted Hills alright!

The next stop on the tour back towards the entrance took us on a spur road to an area of the park that was featured in a brochure we’d seen. This was Painted Cove Trail. Here, the rock had been protected by the use of a boardwalk to keep the public off the delicate rock. It hadn’t entirely worked, but there were few footmarks on the delicate surface.

By now we were in sensory overload from all the spectacular scenery, but the best was yet to come. The final stop gave us the most spectacular views of all at Painted Hills Overlook Trail.

We decided the day was wearing on and we opted not to attempt the final trail up the Carroll Rim Trail. Maybe next time…

On the way back out of the park we made one more photo stop to capture the spectacular scenery right next to the road.

IMG_7997

By now we were ready for tea and we headed back north to the Cove Palisades and bed.





Summer Holiday – day 1

19 08 2015

So – full of the anticipation that road trips imbue one with, we headed off for a two week camping trip to Oregon. The general plan was to head down the middle of the state to Crater Lake, then head west to the coast and then make our way back north to civilisation Canada.

We chose to avoid the main I5 route as much as possible and opted to drift gently east as we approached Seattle. We stopped for lunch in a place called Cle Elum. I would be cruel to say it was a bit of a sleepy town, but it made Princeton, BC¬†seem like New York. The reason we stopped there was to try and find the diner we’d visited on one of our very early visits to the States before we even emigrated. It was surprisingly easy to locate, and didn’t seem to have altered one jot in the intervening decade or so. The temperature was rising, and we were grateful for the air con in the restaurant. (I use the term loosely).

Cle Elum High Street

After lunch we headed south for the Oregon border and watched the car’s external temperature gauge steadily climb.

Hot, hot, hot...

Hot, hot, hot…

The scenery was primarily open grassland and as we approached the Columbia river for our first stop of the trip, we suddenly became surrounded by wind-farms generating power from the breeze. Some find them a bit of an eyesore, but personally I like the idea that an ancient technology to harness the power of nature has been updated to feed our lust for energy in a totally renewable way.

Washington wind collection

Washington wind collection

Not much longer and we were passing over the Columbia and into Oregon. Our brand new GPS (christened “Doris” for no particular reason) led us off up some windy track where we had a wonderful view down over the river… and our campsite off in the distance. Backtracking to the highway and using the old proven technology of reading the road-signs we were soon in the Memaloose State Park/campground near Mosier. This was our first visit to a US campsite, and it was pretty impressive. Lots of space (we had 2 tents); a tarmac base for the car; individual water taps (which we insisted on calling “holy spigots” after Rowan Atkinson’s character in Four Weddings and a Funeral) and even freight trains to remind us of Juniper Beach near Cache Creek. The weather was still pretty warm and we quickly settled in for our first evening of our trip… note the beer bottles on the table!

Settling in for the first night

Settling in for the first night

We could have gone further; we could have travelled quicker. But hey… we were on our summer holiday!