Landed okay in Oregon. Flew right into the sunset over Mount Hood – all pinks and yellows and oranges staining the faces of the passengers with window seats. Hard to imagine how huge the Cascades are, until you look out a window at 20,000 feet and see a mountain that looks huge even from that height! Amazing!!
The Hampton Inn was quite nice. Only a 5 minute drive from the airport, and that included getting stuck on the wrong side of the highway and having to turn around!! For some reason, they put me into a smoking room, but since no one had smoked in there for ages and it didn’t smell wrong, I didn’t bother changing it. Too tired the first night to even notice!!
I overdid it on Saturday — I always do the first day. Went to Portland’s International Rose Test Garden and met a lovely couple from Texas who are also into photography. Then I went on to explore the lovely Japanese Garden and in the afternoon went on a 3-hour walking tour called Underground Portland. By the end of the afternoon, I had identified a possible story for the book — Bunko Kelly and the Funeral Parlor.
Next I went to the big camera store they have downtown. Very cool. By 5 o’clock I was beat after walking around all day! I got a nice steak dinner and then fell asleep by 8:30 pm. Part exhaustion from the day and part jet lag!
It was rainy on Sunday, so as soon as I got to the Oregon Zoo, I bought two umbrellas — large and small, since Mom and Dad might not have one (they will be joining me for the second week) — and also a dorky-looking purple rain slicker, which saved my clothes and helped keep me warm. It was a great zoo, and I took some fun pictures. But since it was raining I didn’t take enough time to sit down and rest, and sure was worn out by the time I left at one p.m.!
I grabbed lunch at a Quiznos on the way to Oregon City, and spent the afternoon browsing through the McLoughlin House, which belonged to the founder of the city and is reputedly haunted by his ghost, and then wandered over to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to read about the settlers in the Willamette Valley and their struggles to get to Oregon City. One
African-American woman was smuggled to Oregon in a box, since ex-slaves weren’t allowed on the journey! She slept in the box all day, and stretched herself at nighttime. Stayed with the family for years after their arrival. Another fellow promised his son that the son could lead the wagon-train, but the son died four days before they left. So the man packed the coffin — filled with whiskey or some alcoholic beverage — and brought his dead son along to Oregon, pickled!! Got so famous along the way that even the local Native Americans wanted to see the pickled corpse! Weird stuff!
The Hilton was a magnificent hotel. I was so tired I just got room service and then soaked in the hot tub. I am not used to so much walking!
I got up early and worked on Spooky Texas first pages, and was startled when room service brought breakfast. I figured it would be faster to order room service than to try to find breakfast after checking out and before hitting the archive.
The directions to the University of Oregon were great, and I parked right outside the PLC building. A nice lady named Cathy helped me find the archive itself, and Casey — a charming folklore Masters student and the Archivist for the collection — was already there. He spent the whole time digging out file after file of the old student papers for me, many of the stories previously unpublished. Then he photocopied the whole kit and kaboodle of stories I wanted for my files, and helped me write the citations on each and every one of the photocopies! All the while we talked “shop”, since it turns out his Masters thesis is also on supernatural folklore, focusing in on Wild Men. I also met another folklore student while there who was specializing in Saint Nicholas stories, of which I know many. We also traded tales!
After I finished at the archive at quarter to three, I grabbed some fast food at McDonalds and headed out route 126 through the Cascade Mountains to Bend. I had heard that the MacKenzie River highway was spectacular, but it was even better than you can imagine! Vista upon vista, always going gradually up through the mountains, following the white water river.
Through lovely small towns, meadows, farms surrounded by white picket fences, orchards, covered bridges. Everything so green, with huge mountains framing them, and occasional glimpses of snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Then I was up in the mountains, in the Willamette National Forest — which is surely the forest primeval! The pines were so tall and so thick you sometimes couldn’t even see through the trees into the forest itself. Moss was draped everywhere, and the trees were massive. Could have been mistaken for giant sequoias anywhere else. The scenic (ha! How could it be more scenic than where I was?) Route 242 over McKenzie Pass was closed due to snow, so I went around through more of the forest.
As I got closer to the top of the Cascades, I started seeing the snow in the woods around me, and near the top I stopped by the absolutely massive waterfall called Sahalie Falls. The churning water was as aqua as a Caribbean sea! I walked partway down toward the lower falls, but the path was blocked by the glacier, and I couldn’t tell where it went under the snow. Didn’t want to get lost, so I headed back up the path. I kept expecting Bigfoot to come wandering down the path toward me at any moment. It was that kind of place. Of course, I would choose that moment to remember the Oregonian folktale about Bigfoot attacking a hunting camp two men had set up deep in the mountains. When they didn’t take warning and leave, one of the men was killed. Hmm. What was that noise I just heard over the thunder of the waterfall?!?
I kept going up and up in the car, and passed fields full of lava rocks with some stunted pines among them. Surreal! I kept stopping at lookout points to take photos of the surrounding mountain peaks with their massive snow-fields. As if a photo could tell the story!! Then I was among burnt trees, and read at the Mount Washington lookout about the massive forest fire of 2003 that had burnt the whole area. Amazing to see how fast it was coming back. The wind howled around me as I took pictures, and there was a kind of spitting rain, but I didn’t care. It was glorious!
The rain went away as I passed the peak of the Cascades and went down toward the wild, desert highlands on the far side. Lots of sage brush and desert plants — greener than Texas, but with the same wild west feeling. There were still massive pines, but none so tall as those on the western side of the Cascades. And then horses and ranches and large farm fields started appearing around me as I came first into Sisters (looks like a fantastic place to vacation!) and then Bend (ditto!)
By this time I was tired and needed a break, so I drove right to the hotel. Hmm. Not what I expected at all. The web site did not tell the truth. (It is sometimes impossible to tell about a place until you get there!!) It was way out of town, and was right out of psycho! I was the only registered guest in this place way out
in the scrub brush, with a strange looking proprietor who made me pre-pay the room. Glad I did too, cause one look at the dark-paneled, musty smelling place made up my mind for me. I wasn’t staying there!! If anyplace should have been haunted, it was that motel. Spooky doesn’t begin to describe it!!
I hightailed it back to town, secure in the fact that it was prepaid so they wouldn’t come after me — with or without a knife!! — and found a Marriot Town suites with lots of happy guests. I settled into a gorgeous suite that felt like home, washed my clothes in the guest laundry facilities, and ate at a lovely Microbrewery/restaurant across the street. Perhaps not as interesting a story as the psycho motel, but I felt a lot safer and slept better! Frankly, I was too freaked out by the place to even return long enough to turn in my room key. I’ll have to mail it back to them (in an envelope without a return address!)
Today was all about Lava Lands, at least in the morning. After breakfast, I finished first pages of Spooky Texas for Gia (my Globe Pequot editor), and then drove to Lava Lands – the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, just outside Bend, Oregon. To my chagrin, it was closed!! But the sign indicated the Lava caverns and the Lava cast forest a little further down, so I got back onto the highway, deciding a visit to the Lava Cast Forest was in order. I had caught a glimpse of a large black lava field as I passed Lavalands, and had seen similar blighted fields at the top of the Cascades on my drive through the mountains yesterday, and wanted a closer look. The Lava Cast Forest had been mentioned as a cool place in the Oregon video I watched prior to my trip, so I went to explore it. Apparently, there was a hiking trail through some unique geological formations called lava casts. These lava casts were actually tree molds that were formed as hot lava flowed through a forest. As lava came in contact with the trees, it actually solidified around the trunks of the larger ones and then cooled, encasing the trees in stone. The trees so-encased were long-gone, but the casts were still there.
What I didn’t anticipate was hitting a nine-mile dirt road that wound through the Deschutes National Forest before it came to the Lava Cast Forest. It passed through a modern day lumber operation, which was interesting to observe. But it really felt like I was in the middle of nowhere as I wound my way through endless pines and sequoias and sagebrush under a darkening sky. Yes, indeed. More rain was on the way. Suddenly, I was riding up a little incline at mountain’s top, elevation around 4,000 feet, and catching glimpses of lava flow nearby. And then I was at a small, pine-enclosed parking lot with a Lava Cast Forest sign and the ubiquitous rest-rooms (can we say modified hole in the ground?)
I grabbed my camera and umbrella and headed down the small paved path, which was a mile long journey through the Lava Cast Forest. And walked into a surreal world. It looked like the volcano had just exploded — and yet this lava bed was 6,000 years old! A few large trees grew here and there, and some small wild-flowers. But mostly it was lava rocks, large and small, and black with a bubbly look to them. The whole ground, save for the black-top path, consisted of
uneven mounds and small mountains of blackened lava stone, as far as the eye could reach. It even stretched up to the mountain peak. I gasped and gawked and huddled under my umbrella as the rain started, and took many photographs, hoping to capture at least a little of the benighted, bleak landscape that was as surreal as a moonscape. And occasionally there were these mounds with deep, perfectly round holes in them, and an edge like the round top of a well. What in the world? I thought. And then realized this was where the lava had struck a tree and flowed around it. The trees themselves were 6,000 years gone, but the “cast” they made when the lava solidified around them was still here. Many of the casts were for upright trees, but occasionally you saw a long flat one, where a fallen tree had been encompassed by the lava, and later rotted or burned away, leaving a long crawl space that looked like the tubes little children crawl through at the playground.
As I walked, I kept hearing a whooshing, roaring sound like that of a fast-flowing stream or river. I couldn’t figure out what it was, as I had seen nothing of the sort. Then I turned a bend in the path, and saw the land drop away suddenly, and I halted in shock, realizing that the lava beds extended for miles, down the hill and as far as the eye could reach. The ancient volcano had destroyed absolutely everything! And the source of the sound was the wind sweeping unfettered over the ruined landscape, and smashing into the huge sequoias and red-pines on the undestroyed side of the mountain next to the Lava Cast Forest.
Wind blown, rainsoaked, and mind-boggled, I finally grew too cold — there were still bits of snow on top of the surrounding peaks and even some in the lava fields — and went back to the car. From there, I drove the long dirty wet road to the highway, and stopped briefly at the Lava cave. The field station was closed, so there was no one there to rent me a lantern. So I followed another couple who had arrived at the same time into the mouth of the cave, only as far as the light extended — which wasn’t too far. There were stalagmites there made of ice! That cave was cold. Then I climbed back out, and stopped to take pictures of some very active, very large and obviously over-fed and pampered chipmunks running around the path and climbing the rocks on either side. A woman and several sixth graders were hanging out near the cave entrance, and the woman and I started chatting about things spooky. Soon all of us were sitting on the rocks while the chipmunks scampered around us, talking spooky. The kids were on a class camping trip about Oregon geology. The majority of the class were exploring the mile-long cave by flashlight, but the ones I was chatting with were totally not cave people, and had stayed behind with a parent-chaperon.
We spent the next half hour telling each other scary stories, and the Mom wished aloud I was around that evening to tell stories at their campfire. The kids gave me a few new spooky stories, which may be used in the book. Finally, the rest of the class returned, and I took my leave. It was already afternoon, and I wanted to reach the Painted Hills in time to take a hike before it got dark. So I drove north and then east, through incredible wild-west country. first on a high-desert plateau surrounded by sage-brush, and then I switch-backed down and down a steep hill where I thought none should be (not realizing it was a plateau and not a valley) until I was on the floor of a true-valley where stood the town of Prineville. Then I was climbing again into the mountains, and riding through another fantastic alpine forest on top of a mountain, with a very small stream snaking its way through incredible green fields. The water was less than a foot down from the surrounding grass, making it look like a funny cut through the field rather than the deeper stream-beds I was used to seeing at home. Down the other side of the huge mountain, I drove, and then was following the road between mountains, through canyons and gorges, and then up again into the mountains. And there was the sign for the John Day Fossil Beds Painted hill division. I turned left and drove for six miles, slowing occasionally to drink in the view of red rock with streaks of black and gold that peaked out where the grass and dirt had eroded from the hills.
After a quick stop at the ranger station — which was unmanned but had some nice signage explaining the geology around me (I was the only one there), I drove up to the first scenic overlook, gasping again and again as the turns of the car revealed one stunning view after another. There was only one other car parked in the lot at the top of the hill, and I locked up the RAV4 and struck out along the gravel hiking trail with my camera, to snap many shots of the fabulous Painted Hills below me. I sat on the bench at trails end for about 15 minutes, just enjoying the different colors highlighted by the slowly setting sun, and feeling the breeze caress my hair and face. Then, at peace with the world, I made my way back to the car and drove to my hotel in John Day. John Day turned out to be a wild-west feeling town, with low-slung storefronts with the flat wooden tops — like the stores in western movies — and cowboy sounding names to the local stores. It was an old mining town, and a cool place to spend the night. I even passed a place that claimed to be a stop on the Pony Express!
After such a long and lovely day, I ate at a local restaurant and fell into bed, to dream of all the fun things I would do on the morrow!
I reluctantly said farewell to the wild west town of John Day and backtracked about 45 minutes up 26 to visit the John Day Fossil Beds and museum. What an amazing place! No dinosaur fossils, but just about every age after that, it seems. Oregon was hammered over and over again by volcanoes, and each layer shows a different world. first layer — lowest — has blue-green rock with all kinds of rainforest-y fossils, and then gradually the climate got seasons and became a savanna and finally the desert-y place we have today.
The scenery is spectacular, and I took lots of photos and went hiking for awhile in the mountains and buttes among the fossil beds. One tall, bare butte was green! Really, green rock! I walked right to the foot of it and then around into one of the canyons where they had been digging for fossils. Another hike took me to the top of a cliff (without fencing, I noted with trepidation) where I had a fabulous view of the surrounding countryside– massive mountains, rolling hills, farmland. Gorgeous. And the mountains themselves are something else!! Black basalt rock on top — very flat. Then bands of color — reds/orange, then blue/green. Some light browns. And get this — these aren’t even called the “Painted hills”! Ha! If these gorgeous mountains aren’t “painted” you can imagine how amazing the painted hills themselves are!
Finally, I tore myself away and took an amazing ride over mountains — stopping frequently to take photos of the “little Swiss Alps” that were rapidly rising from the scenery all around me. Then down into the valleys following parts of the Oregon Trail. How, I ask you, did the settlers traverse these mountains by wagon, foot, and ox/horse cart? I can barely cross them by car!?!
After an ice-cream stop in Baker City, I was cruising into Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. At first impression, it was just flat valley with more sage brush than you can imagine. And then the rivers began. And the mountains rose up and up around me as I wound my way into a massive canyon. Flowers and farms, flat stretches and then mountains again. And always a river — though not the mighty Snake River at the center of Hells Canyon. That would come at the end of the road.
The towns are tiny, but seem wild-west and well suited to the environment. You wouldn’t want a massive city in this lovely, wild place. Then I was at the Oregon/Idaho border,
among massive mountains, and turning onto a short dirt road to the B&B where I was staying. Nice white frame house with a porch and a magnificent view of the Hells Canyon reservoir (looks like a large river to me, but it is stopped by a dam 22 miles down-river, so I guess its a reservoir!!) My hosts were out, but I was greeted by Ally, the shepherd mix who quickly discovered I was a pushover who would not only pet her to her hearts content, but would also take her for a walk with me! After putting my stuff into my room — which was a bit basic, but perfectly adequate for a small town — I drove back a few miles to the local diner, where I got a nice chicken wrap for supper and a couple of stories for the book from a bloke who’d lived all his life in Hell’s Canyon! Didn’t expect the stories — first time recorded — but that’s the way it usually works. They come when you aren’t looking.
Got home in time to watch darkness fall over the reservoir and meet my hosts. Then to bed, to dream of tomorrow’s adventure in Hells Canyon!
Hells Canyon – at last! I was going on an all day Jet Boat Tour! I got up early and had breakfast brought right to my room by the B&B Hostess, Julie. When ready to depart for my trip through the canyon, I took my tray upstairs to the deck and spent several minutes meeting the dogs – Ally and the 3 pugs, Sherman, and two others whose names I forget. Sherman had to be chained up because he frequently goes walkabout where he should not.
Then I was on the road and driving through the canyon itself – up and up the twisty, narrow, windy road with no protection at all from the sheer drop on the left side of the car. I crept along as slowly as possible, alternating between admiring the view and hyperventilating with fear that I was going to pitch over the side of the cliff. 22 miles later, I came to the dam, drove across it, and down to the parking area, pulse still pounding madly with fear. But I was there, and after checking in at the guest station above, went down the switchback gray outdoor staircase to the canyon level and the dock, and the check-in area. First thing I saw was a bald eagle darting down to the water of the Snake River and then flapping away. I took several shots – all unfortunately a little blurry. But what a way to begin the day! Next I met several fishermen and four lovely “active” senior couples who were going on the jet boat tours with me. Fun!
The tour itself was marvelous. We had to wear life jackets for the first section because the rapids were so big – level four out of a 1-6 scale! One was nearly a five! The boat whirled and swirled and bounced – kinda like my sister’s driving! Then we were on calmer waters. Wildlife sightings included deer, wild mules, bighorn sheep, and a golden eagle. Very cool. For lunch, we stopped at the boat drivers house in Hells Canyon — a lovely farm-house – no indoor plumbing – with an air field across the river. We were met by his wife and two dogs – one was a boxer – and had a wonderful make your own sandwich kind of picnic with salad and cold cuts and pickles and homemade brownies for desert. I sat with a very lovely couple from Bend and talked photography with the woman the whole meal. Then the jet boat driver told us stories about living in Hells Canyon – the time his wife found a cougar in her flower garden, the herds of elk who came down almost to the house to use the salt lick in the winter, seeing two bighorn rams fighting…
After lunch, we went upriver to a small museum that depicted life in Hells Canyon before the government turned it into a park and pushed out the farmers living there. Then we returned up river at a much faster pace, pausing only to pick up the white water rafters and the fishermen.
We had to put lifejackets on again, and go up those huge rapids. It was great, and I had a lovely conversation with one of the rafters – a sweet senior lady – who told me about her adventures on teh river and about her hometown of Pendleton, which happened to be the next stop on my journey. At the end of our jet boat trip, she issued an open invitation for me to visit her and her husband in Pendleton, Oregon if ever I chance to be in town.
I was exhausted by the end of the trip, and still had to make the nerve-racking trip down the narrow, windy, too-high road with no protection against the sheer-drop of nearly 1000 feet – this time on the right side of the car!! Whew! Then I drove 2 more hours to my hotel, had a quick meal at Pizza Hut, and checked in. I was tired and sore, so I stopped for a short soak in the hot tub before bed. And as I was leaving, my keycard fell into the hot tub! Being unable to find it again, I had to go in my bathing suit to the front desk to beg for another!! Just as they coded it in, some kids also using the hot tub came running in with my dripping wet card, for which they had gone diving!! It was hilarious! A funny end to a glorious day!
Lots happened today. I started the day at a lovely little depot for breakfast, with a miniature train running past my booth every ten minutes. It ran around the whole store up to the ceiling, spiraling down the walls, passed the booths. I kept wishing I could show it to my 5 nephews, all of whom would love it.
Then I went to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, where I learned about the epic journey in detail, and then rode down to a place where I could walk in the actual wagon-wheel tracks made by the original settlers. Very cool.
Then I drove up to Pendleton, where I had a quick lunch at the local bakery and then to the Underground Tour. It was amazing. The Chinese settlers – there to build the railroads or do mining – built all these underground tunnels and rooms, lined with carefully smoothed stones and dirt floors.
The rooms had doors and windows leading out to the main tunnels!! – this was meant to catch the light from above, since the sidewalks originally had open air grids and then later purple glass windows built right into them to shed light into the tunnels. Over time, the tunnels housed a Chinese laundry, a butchers shop, gambling dens, a prohibition speak-easy, an ice cream parlor, Chinese workmen, a bowling alley/pool hall, and an opium den! We were also given a tour of an old-time brothel – which I found disturbing.
After the tour, I drove to the Dalles and watched the wind-surfers for a bit. Then I took the Rowena road to the overlook of the Columbia Gorge – which was beautiful. And then I stopped at Multnomah Falls – over 600 feet tall!! – and took lots of photos, before driving to Portland, where I met Mom and Dad when they arrived at the hotel. Also spent some time talking photography with Chris – one of the guys manning the desk that night – who showed me some of his portfolio. Nice!
Today we went to see the Portland Rose Festival Parade in the morning. Dad wanted to use public transit because he said parking would be awful, so we took the hotel shuttle to the airport to the train to the stadium. It was still a great deal of walking for Mom – but the parade was a lot of fun. We had a seat almost at the top of the bleachers, and right in front of the TV cameras, so we were part of the crowd scene on TV!! My favorite float had a ballerina hippo held up by sweaty, weak-kneed frogs! I also liked a group from Tawain in which they had girls dancing with large fans and a Tawainese band playing with unusual instruments. There was even a Bigfoot float and one devoted to Native American culture (sponsored by a casino!!). Lots and lots of rodeo queens rode by, and one time a group on dressage-trained horses, which performed for the crowd. Wonderful!
After a late lunch, we drove to Multnomah Falls and Dad and I walked up to the bridge. The we drove up to and then over Mount Hood. What a gorgeous high mountain,
and still lots of snow when you get up to the top. Skiing there all year long. I got out several times to take photos – one time I bumped into a nice young man who wanted me to take his picture with the snowy mountain peak in the background, and then he took one of me and Mom and Dad. Very nice of him.
We got out around 11ish, and had a nice scenic drive to Astoria, where we had lunch at a place called Pig N’ Pancake! How’s that for a name?!? Basic Diner fare. Then we drove out of town to Fort Clatsop, a replica of the fort where Lewis and Clark stayed the winter they came to the Oregon coast. Very cool. Mom was given a little 3-wheeler seated scooter to drive around the grounds. She looked very cool, and she had a good time with it once she figured out the controls. That’s a fun alternative for her when walking gets too tough on these trips. We also stopped at the Bald Eagle overlook at the wildlife refuge, and saw everything but eagles!!
After dinner, I did laundry and took a walk along the Columbia River path behind the Comfort Suites hotel in Astoria, to the local dock – where I took pictures of the sea lions and birds and ships passing under the large bridge and into the river proper. Then a soak in the hot tub and bed!!
Today was a travel day with lots to see! We stopped first at Cannon Beach visitor center in the pouring rain to get directions to Haystack Rock — the third largest free-standing sea stack in the world. Then I drove there in the pouring rain and I was the only one who dared the wet to go see it and take pictures. It was magnificent! Huge free standing monolith, with “needles” or splinter rocks beside it – each of them huge in their own right. The tide was almost out, so I got to walk right up to the rock and take photos. The rain stopped while I was there, and an old lady had me take her picture with the rock. While she was asking me, a wave swamped the sand where we were standing, and we had to make a run for higher ground! I loaned her my furled umbrella to use as a walking stick over the loose rock at the foot of Haystack Rock, since she was just recovering from a broken leg! Then I took her photo and wandered back to the car. Dad met me at the entrance to the beach, saying he was worried that I’d been swept away by a big wave, since I was so late getting back to the car!
Our next stop was the Tillamook Cheese Factory, where we watched cheddar cheese being made, ate lunch and had yummy homemade ice cream. Then we drove west and south to the Cape Mears Lighthouse – which I thought was haunted but wasn’t!! There I hiked up to the Octopus tree – an oddity Sitka Spruce that grew 6-7 tree size limbs from a very low base instead of the usual one massive trunk. It really did look like an upside-down octopus!
The rest of the trip we stopped at scenic spots to gape at the scenery and take pictures – including Cape Foulweather which was the first point of land British Navigator Captain Cook saw on the Pacific Coast, back in 1778! It was at this historic moment, the ship was hit by a sudden storm, which is why it now bears the name Foulweather! We finally came to the Whaler Motel in Newport, Oregon, our resting place for two days. Each of our rooms had a gas fireplace and a small kitchenette and amazing views over the ocean!! I walked down to the beach to take pictures of the lighthouse and enjoy the water. Then a swim in the pool, a soak in the hot tub and bed. A nice day, in spite of the rainy periods!
We went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium today, since a huge storm at sea with 19-foot waves made whale watching or fishing impossible. Lovely exhibit with seals, sea lions, otters and puffins! The puffins were my favorite. What funny birds with bright orange beaks and funny yellow feathery wisps on their heads. We also saw an exhibit about odd fish, which was cool. Huge Japanese crabs that can be eight feet long! Like a sci-fi film.
After eating a dismal meal at the cafeteria at the aquarium, never eat there, we went to the haunted Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Muriel, the ghost, was a sea captains daughter who visited the abandoned light with some friends. Leaving her handkerchief in the house, she went back to fetch it and disappeared. The only thing left of her was a pool of blood – and the handkerchief! Her ghost still haunts the lighthouse to this day. I wandered around the house and light, had a talk with one of the park volunteers about the house, and then watched a short film about the history of the lighthouse.
Then Mom, Dad, and I drove to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse four miles to the north. It was out on a long isthmus, surrounded by huge freestanding rocks with thousands of murres (black and white birds who waddle upright like penguins but can also fly.) After walking around the lighthouse, I went down to the cobble beach (lots and lots of little gray stones) and took pictures of the seals who were playing in the stormy surf.
We had dinner next, and then a relaxing evening in those lovely rooms by the sea at the Whaler motel. I put the fireplace on and read, took a swim, and accompanied Mom on one of her little “trips” to search for a vending machine that sold water. She is so funny, shuffling her way to the front desk to get change, involving the girl on desk that evening in her search for state quarters, and finally meandering down to the machine to buy a bottle of water, with a very funny monologue about life with Dad, her grandchildren, and observations about all her favorite trips. A fun end to the day!
We took another drive down the coast, heading for Gold Beach and the Rogue River. Fi
rst stop was Cape Perpetua and the Devil’s Churn – a thin spit of lava rock between two hills with a long, narrow gap through which ocean water would spray up like a geyser during high tide. Tide was low while we were there, but I did walk down to the rocks along the shore and took pictures of the tide pools.
Then we were off again, to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. It was perhaps the most beautiful place on the coast to me. A perfect inlet with free-standing monolith stones, a brook flowing into the sea, crossed by a picturesque bridge, a lovely, lovely lighthouse, and the haunted keepers house at the top of the hill! Perfection!
Next stop were the Sea Lion Caves – the largest sea caves in the world.
I was so proud of Mom on this trip. She has some trouble walking, but today she walked down 37 steps, down a broad incline on the side of a grassy cliff that stretched down and down to the sea, and finally took a 20 story elevator down into the caverns! There were only 3 sea lions in the caves themselves, the rest were sunning themselves on a large ledge outside. But it was amazing to see the inside of those caverns.
After lunch at a fun road-side diner that featured classic cars of the 50s (including two inside that had booths in them!!), we meandered our way to Gold Beach, where we checked into a little beach house with two bedrooms, a living room with gas fire, and a deck overlooking the ocean. I ran down to the beach and got fantastic sunset pictures! Then an early night – because tomorrow we were heading to the jet boat trip on the Rogue!
We were up and breakfasted early, and then drove a few miles down the road to the Rogue River and the Jerry’s Rogue Jets. A lovely spot right at the mouth of the river where it meets the sea. We were warmly welcomed by the staff, and loaned thick warm jackets. By the time Mom got on everything she thought necessary to the boat trip, only her chin was showing!! Three jackets, a life jacket, a baseball hat, a hood over the hat, and her very thick very large dark glasses completed the picture. She looked ready for the Antartic, not the Rogue!!
There was a lot of wind at the river mouth. Our captain was Captain Tim with his golden retriever who was called puppy. Captain Tim was reputed to tell the best stories on the Rogue, and he lived up to his reputation: Golden tongued, with a wry sense of humor and the best tall tales I ever heard! Wonderful. The River itself was wonderful too – wide and welcoming with a swift current, lovely hills all around, and wildlife galore! We saw seals, pelicans, bald eagles, osprey catching fish, cormorants, deer. And of courses many anglers trying to catch Chinook Salmon.
It was cool on the boat trip upriver, so everyone huddled under blankets and jackets and gaped at the scenery. Captain Tim, stopping occasionally to show us the sights, point out wildlife, and tell us tall tales. About the teepee we passed (white buffalo on the sides indicates a time of good fortune for the native peoples – the coming of many casinos!) About the tree with bark peeling off (rare species of Madrone monkey living only in the deepest Amazon and the southern Rogue River). And of course to solicit sales of the souvenir photographs taken by Penny the tour group photographer. (To quote Captain Tim, “Let me tell you about Penny. Penny only makes her living off the photos she sells. If you don’t buy them, she’ll starve to death this winter. Really. Won’t accept a dime of aid. Runs a free senior citizen’s home in her spare time, out of the goodness of her heart, cause that’s the kind of girl she is. Adopted one of those weiner dogs from the shelter when she learned he was blind and deaf and only spoke German. That’s the kind of girl she is. Was a good bargain too, cause that dog saved the life of a grandma and her three kiddies when a fire broke out at the senior citizen’s home. Dragged them out of the fire. Dragged everyone else out too, including Penny. Only one that died was the cat, because he hated the cat. Anyway, poor Penny will be forced to eat the dog this winter if we don’t buy her photos, so try to help her out folks. Unless of course that doesn’t leave you any money for my tip. In that case, I’m sure Penny will be fine!”)
We had lunch at a little restaurant with great food further up the river, and had a whole hour afterward to relax in the shade and listen to the river burbling below us and watch the fishermen, campers, and wildlife. Very nice. The road up to the restaurant was so steep they sent a car down to bring Mom and Dad up. I went along for the ride, but accidentally left my brand new hat in the car. Rats!! Hope one of the restaurant folks is enjoying it.
After lunch, we made the return trip down the Rogue with more stories, and Captain Tim spinning that fast jet boat around and around and splashing all of us. The sun had warmed us all up, and it felt good to be splashed – at least some of the time!!
We said farewell to the Rogue around 2 p.m., and then went south to California, since Mom wanted to see the Redwood trees. We stopped at a place called Trees of Mystery with giant, two-story tall statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The ‘statue’ of Paul Bunyan talked to people as they entered the building to pay for tickets. Peoples’ reactions were hilarious when they were first addressed by the huge statue! I even saw it wink at one lady with two kids!We took a gondola ride up over the forest to the top of the hill, then I did the advanced hike down the
hill while Mom and Dad explored the top and took the gondola down. Some places on that path were so steep I needed both walking stick and the ropes they’d put along side the trail!! My knees hurt going down!! But it was fun to walk close-up among those huge trees, alone with nature. I met up with one squirrel-a funny brown thing that squealed at me in indignation for invading his territory! Cute.
I met Dad at the base of the trail, and we wandered through the trees of mystery, comparing impressions. We also explored the outdoor “gallery” full of redwood carvings of Tall Tale characters from Paul Bunyan and other tales. I loved the ten-foot long squirrel (Sourdough Sam the cook raised him) who was pictured coming down a giant redwood tree! Fantastic.
After we left Trees of Mystery, we wandered a bit further south to a giant sequoia that you could drive right through. It was a tight squeeze in the RAV4, but we made it. Pretty neat! Then we drove to the hotel in Brookings, had dinner and a quick swim, and bed.
A sunny day in the 80s! Hurrah! I was beginning to think I’d never see a warm day. And Crater Lake today! Hurrah again! I’d been waiting for this day for months. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We had a leisurely morning in Brookings. Mom was slow getting ready, so Dad and I rode down for one last view of the Pacific. We stopped at the local Harris Beach State Park and I spoke for awhile with a Park volunteer named Paul who had a Bigfoot story of his own! He heard a Sasquatch bellowing in the woods next to him as he was hiking from one camp site to the next up in one of the state parks in the Cascades. Scared the heck out of him, let me tell you! He also mentioned a cougar sighting just up the hill from where we were standing, which was cool but a little freaky! The view, just from the Parking lot of the park, was amazing – tall rocks, seals, driftwood, and tide pools in abundance.
I drove back to the hotel, collected Mom and her luggage, and then we set up for a scenic drive through the Klamath Mountains and the Smith River Gorge, heading north and east toward Crater Lake. We drove through sequoia forests, through an impressive gorge with a lovely, pure blue water river flowing at the bottom (how often do you see water that appears blue?!?),and then up into the Klamath Mountain range – not so big or impressive as the Cascades, but lovely, nonetheless. We stopped at Grants Pass for lunch and a quick birthday call to my niece Emma, who turned ten that day.
Then we were driving up into the Cascades, and before too long we saw a behemoth of a mountain with snow dripping down its sides in bands which resembled long white fingers, stretching ever downward. No doubt about it – that’s where we were headed. Mount Mazama and Crater Lake. We roamed ever upward, through forests of tall, tall Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce, into the smaller coniferous zones, and slowly around us the slopes filled up with snow – with drifts from 5-15 feet in places. Yet the air was miraculously warm – over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Amazing.
We stopped for a quick rest at a small gift shop/restaurant at the mouth of Crater Lake National Park, and I made snowballs and wished I had worn my shorts! What a combination. Some of the drifts surrounding the parking lot were taller than my 6 foot tall Dad, and one almost reached the roof of the gift shop. After our break, we drove into the park and up a steep and winding road to the top of the mountain. The snow banks soared above us as we twisted and turned our way to the top, and at last the road flattened out a bit, and I caught glimpses of a massive round caldera, with a blue-blue lake at the center. I turned right into the parking lot, parked the SUV, and grabbed my camera. This was marvelous!!
Dad bolted out of the car as soon as it stopped and made a beeline for the lake, with me close behind and Mom trailing behind, taking her time and enjoying the tall snow banks that reached the roof of the information center/gift shop next to the parking lot and crept far up the trunks of the tall trees surrounding the lot. I started snapping photos as soon as I got down to the overlook, which was seriously limited in size due to massive snow drifts everywhere. Funny thing was, I was still in a sleeveless blouse and feeling warm, even when standing in my sneakers on top of a seven foot snow bank!
Wizard Island loomed to one side of the lake, a focal point for the eyes. According to the myth, the dark lord had fallen in love with a woman from the local tribe, and had fought with the sky lord over her. When the dark lord lost, after much spouting of lava and many difficulties for the sky lord and his lady, he was turned into the stone we now know as Wizard Island.
I could see a bit of ice still on the very edge of the lake. The deep blue water was riffling slightly in the wind, but the far end of the lake was mirror-still, and I got some double mountain photos of it. Then Mom arrived and we took a bunch of group combination shots, before reluctantly returning to the car. The rim road was closed still due to snow (Can you believe in June!?!) but they had opened up a second overlook a mile from where we had parked. We rode up to that overlook so I could take pictures from another angle, and then slowly went back down the mountain, stopping only for gas and a quick browse through the books at the gift shop, before winding our way to our Medford hotel.
After dinner at the Olive Garden, we went our separate ways and I fell into bed, exhausted from all the driving and the excitement of seeing Crater Lake at last!
Today was basically a travel day, again with gorgeous sunny weather in the 80s. We were driving from Medford in the South of Oregon to Portland in the north via the Willamette Valley. But we endeavored to have a little fun during our long drive. We stopped at the Wildlife Safari in Winston and drove through a little bit of Africa, Asia, and the Americas, with me blissfully snapping photos of every animal I could see! We finally got a good look at several elk, who (theoretically) roam the woods and fields of Oregon, though these were the first we’d seen. Then we stopped for lunch at the little zoo in the park, and watched humming birds flitting among the tall flowers, ducks and waterfowl of every description honking and quacking and shamelessly begging for duck food while Gibbons roamed the island at the center of the beautifully landscaped pond and elephants patiently gave rides to little children over to one side. It was a lovely place, with a train ride through parts of the safari park, animal exhibits, keeper talks, and a cheetah breeding program. One of the cheetahs was leash-tamed, and would come out and do programs once or twice a day.
Then we got back into the car and spent the next 3 hours in the Willamette Valley and in England as we gawked at the gorgeous scenery and listened to the Dark is Rising audio book. We made one more short stop in Oregon City to see the end of the Oregon trail – the gorgeous Willamette river with its mighty falls, overlooked by the massive Mount Hood, and read about McLoughlin, the father of Oregon, who’s ghost is still reputed to haunt his old homestead.
The evening was spent in a flurry of dinner, unloading and returning the rental car, and getting ready for the trip home. Chris – the photographer who works for the Hampton – was manning the desk again this evening, so we chatted for a bit and he asked to see some of the photos I’d taken during the week. Nice of him!
This day was full of traveling to the airport, to New Jersey, to my parents house, and then to my own home. Day started early and ended late, and the most impressive moments were in the air as we flew passed Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens and then over part of the Rocky Mountains, heading east and home. Goodbye Oregon! I loved my trip and hope to visit again soon.