July 20, 2008

The Return to Salmon Harbor

We returned to one of our favorite destinations in Oregon, Winchester Bay RV Resort in Salmon Harbor. Although windy, for the most part, the weather was gorgeous...blue skies, warm temperatures and the smell of saltwater in the air. Our outstanding travel specialist was able to secure a prime water front view site for a just a pittance a day...and it offered a perfect setting to do "nothing". Compare our well appointed living quarters to any comparable suite on Moonstone Beach in Cambria and you would agree that we are saving $200-$500 per night. With that in mind, fuel prices may still not be an issue.

And speaking of fuel...you would never guess that there is a crisis on gas pricing after seeing all the rigs in this park. Every space in Winchester Bay is occupied. Row after row of parking sites feature high end diesel pushers or behemoth fifth wheels being pulled by monster trucks...a smorgasbord of license plates represent every state in the Union...and many of these coaches are brand new. Just another example that this lifestyle definitely draws a multitude of individuals that live life in the present, not with a glass half empty..."carpe diem". We did meet a few Californians that had no problem driving up north...escaping from the heat and the smoke from the hundreds of fires that have hit California so early this year.

Although the most difficult chores on our short list was to watch the tide go in and out each day and crack up some fresh crab...we did manage to squeeze in some time to explore some new locales. A few miles north of us were many magical trailheads, easy to strenuous hikes, into the thick coastline forests.

The Siltcoos Lake Loop Trail is a moderate level 4.5 mile loop down to the lake shore and back. The trail begins by following an old logging road for about a mile until the trail divides to form a loop. The northern route is narrow with rolling hills. After mile or so, a short spur leads to the lake and 5 primitive campsites equipped with tables, campfire rings, and a primitive toilet. You return to the main trail and turn south on the brushier southern route for a return trip back to where the trail divided. Trees dating back to the 1930's provide a dense canopy overhead, and you can explore the monster cedar snags and stumps and valley floor marshes. We stayed to the trail to ensure we did not lose our way out...the forest was pretty dense...thick enough to block most of the sunlight. You can still see on some stumps, evidence of the 1930s' logging practice of cutting springboard notches to hold planks for tree fallers.

A shorter hike just south of us is around the southern tip of Eel lake. The trail was well marked, did not seem to be used much since it was not well maintained, but beautiful none the less. We did encounter two beautiful snakes on the trail. One of them, a beautiful small Common Garter Snake, had just been attacked by another creature...left barely alive in the middle of the trail with a puncture wound in it's head....we moved it to a more shady and protective site to hopefully recover. We then spooked a large Northwestern Garter Snake on our return trip...it moved swiftly across the trail and into the thick fern cover...invisible again. Seems like a perfect habitat for these reptiles, cool weather, moist ground and a huge supply of their favorite foods...Banana Slugs.

We now go from oceanfront to riverfront and a short 3 hour drive west to the middle fork of the Willamette River located in the Willamette National Forest. After a few hikes, a few beers and many outdoor grills there should be a few more highlights for our next entry...

July 17, 2008

The Adventure Coast

Traveling up the beautiful Oregon coast reminded us again of just how beautiful and vibrant a landscape of trees can be when mother nature is so bountiful. With an seemingly endless water supply...and then coupled with the early morning marine layer and an afternoon session of bright sun...key ingredients that will always equate to the perfect recipe for a healthy forest. And what more can be said about that rugged coastline. A demonstration of pure power is on stage every moment...fierce white caps dancing to their own beat, wind blown ghostlike froth skimming upon the surface and high surf & waves pounding the off shore rocks and shoreline with unforgiving intensity...what a blessing to see that the land is being seen in such a natural state...and with the sparse population and lack of development, this may be a vision of ours for many generations.

Oregon and Coos Bay welcomed us with a full moon, high wind, patchy cloud cover and brisk temperatures in the low 60's...but still a very far cry from the winter days we experienced as we departed the state in March. But we did find a scenic site to park our coach, overlooking the bay, at The Mill Casino RV Resort.

This unique section of the Oregon oceanfront is known as Oregon's Adventure Coast. And with the exception of Coos Bay, there are some really charming towns on this southern coast. Bandon-by-the-Sea has always been one our favorite seaport villages, offering some unique attractions...located near the mouth of the Coquille River and overlooking the Pacific.
"Old Town" on the waterfront is an offering of cutesy art & crafts, tourista boutiques and small dining establishments.

Across the river is the picturesque Coquille River Lighthouse built in 1896. We both agreed it would be a lot of fun to be a volunteer in the lighthouse gift shop...when weather is more temperate. Maybe in the future.

Pristine white sand beaches, dotted with rock "castles and turrets" that stretch endlessly in each direction...showing no signs of any human presence...not even foot prints.

A short drive from Coos Bay is the small coastal fishing village of Charleston, located just inside the entrance of the bay. Have a taste for fresh dungeness crab, fish or clams?...then a visit to the Charleston Marina is a must. We found fresh albacore tuna for $2.50lb. and live crabs for $6.50lb., a bargain for these Californios to say the least.

Just a short 4 mile drive south of Charleston was a treasure of a find, and mind you, only if you possessed a "relentless passion to find every one of nature's theme parks" would you find this place...the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. A beautiful interpretive center welcomes you to the reserve and will provide you all the necessary information needed for your exploration. Miles of hiking trails will transport you through a multitude of habitats...forests, salt marshes, mudflats and channels.

July 15, 2008

A Banana Slug's Dream

Spanish explorers arrived on Trinity Sunday in 1775 and upon their landing named this beautiful area “Trinidad”…thus came to be the smallest town in Humboldt, County. With its natural harbor, Trinidad Bay first served as an anchoring place for ships active in exploration and trade with the native Yurok Tribe, then as a point of entry to the miners during the gold rush, from then as lumber port, a whaling station and then a landing site for commercial and sport fisheries.

Today, fishing, timber and tourism provide the economic backbone of this charming coastal town. The harbor was picturesque…deep green, mirror like…almost surreal except for the occasional departure of the harbor taxi.

Adjacent to the harbor is the trailhead for the Trinidad Head Trail…a short one mile loop with beautiful vistas of the coastline, beaches and harbor. We saw cormorants nesting on the cliffs below us and Harbor seals resting on the offshore rocks.

Situated in the heart of California’s coast redwood country, Trinidad borders the 640 acre Patrick’s Point State Park. Along with the night and morning fog, blankets of redwood, spruce, hemlock, fir, pine and red alder create the perfect habitat for non-stop orgies, feeding frenzies or just an afternoon of laying around for the elusive Banana slug. Sharing these forests and calling it home are the “usual suspects”…i.e. deer, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk rabbit, squirrels, etc.

We took advantage of the miles of hiking trails that crisscross the park…a wonderful walk through old growth redwoods and Sitka trees, carpets of wildflowers (heaven for Jackie K. and John H.) and endless meadows of ferns. Some parts of the trail were so dense with vegetation that unless you were a “White Rabbit”, it would be impossible to penetrate…thus with walls of vegetation, our hike sometimes resembled a walk through a maze.

Winding down our hike, we took a trail back to the ocean bluffs where we began. We climbed the top of old sea stack, the 132 step Ceremonial Rock, that was once offshore. Shaped and isolated by pounding surf and uplifting, it now is left high and dry by the oceans receding over time, standing like a lone castle turret, guarding the meadow below.

The visual image that where we stood was once under water reminds us that time is truly an illusion for the human species…no energy wasted here by Banana Slugs…so lets materialize another illusion and create a trip north to the Mill in Coos Bay….

July 5, 2008

Washburn Re-run and San Simeon State Park

Washburn Campground in San Simeon State Park is referred to as the primitive campground within the park boundaries. It is approximately 1 mile inland from the beach on a plateau overlooking the Santa Lucia Mountains toward the east and the Pacific Ocean facing the west. And primitive it is…by a "typical camper’s" standpoint…access only via a gravel road, limited grass areas, pit bathrooms, no showers, no hookups, no, no, no. But not surprisingly...the campground does bring to memory ones "primitive" desire toward experiencing the land and a natural beauty so rare to find these days….spectacular ocean views, rolling hills dotted with native plants and flowers, unique wildlife photo shoots and of course, our own brilliant sunsets are just some of the offerings in this tranquil retreat.

A hidden jewel on our central coast and this destination offers far more than just cooler temperatures during the peak months. In the off season when the summer crowds end, you can expect a stay offering some well deserved solitude, as only a handful of campers choose to visit Washburn. Witness a wildlife fashion pageant as deer, turkeys, coyotes, bobcat, raccoon, rabbits and those pesky squirrels strut their natural walkways daily. You can also walk among them via the 3.25 San Simeon Trail Loop as it meanders through five different habitats. Stop and take a break under the shade of a massive oak tree with its own patio of log benches.

And a short hike down the hill will lead you to your own sandy beach...filled with hidden moonstones, driftwood from distant shores and sheltered tide pools with it’s own saltwater communities. Offshore, you may see a feeding otter, the curious harbor seal or a migrating grey whale or two.

Cooler weather, rugged coastlines, vibrant forests, blue ribbon trout streams along with less crowds and cheap diesel will be our plan for the summer. We begin a five week loop trip starting in northern California, up the southern coast of Oregon, crossing to the central part of the state and working our way back down toward Cambria. And the only activities on our itinerary all begin with the letter “relaxation”…fresh Dungeness crab, Pacific sunsets, river rocking, tossing flies and bottomless wine glasses.