Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Summer Vacation, Chapter 4: Central Coast and Beyond

Day 4 of vacation sent us up through the central coast of Oregon, That picture above is at our first stop: Neptune State Park. As you can see, there is that fog again, rolling in and burning off in phases. The scenery was different minute by minute at the coast. I may have mentioned that Ed and Amy have a friend who coined the phrase "scenery fatigue." I believe she had Oregon in mind when she coined that. After a while you find yourself saying, "Oh look, yet another fabulous view."

More pictures of Neptune:

It was neat because the mouth of a river met the ocean (I can't remember the name of the river), so there was this whole ecology thing happening. Lorelei decided to build a damn, and then promptly stopped when she figured out how it affected the rest of the ecological system. Interesting lesson.

Here's my favorite picture from Neptune:

Up next was Seal Rock Park. This one also had a very cool trail down to the beach, but it was pretty well-traveled and not quite as, uh, terrifying as Whalehead. There were actual park ranger types working there and answering questions all over the place.

As you can see, the fog found us again at Seal Rock. And it was very 2001: A Space Odyssey. That big giant rock in the water definitely put me in mind of extraterrestrial activity. The middle photo gives you some idea of how large it is. I'm not going to lie, Seal Rock was a little weird. The picture just above was taken once you climb over some rocks into a deserted part of the park. There are tons and tons of birds' nests and aviary activity there.

Up next was what ended up being possibly my favorite stop along the way: Cape Foulweather. It was named by Captain James Cook, who ended up there on a particularly inclement day. The coast gets similar weather to what we see in Seattle, only more wind, so I can only imagine the shit weather that made him name it Cape Foulweather. Cape Foulweather, however, like all the capes, provides the most amazing scenery you are going to find, particularly in the good weather. The fog was in and out the day we were there, mostly out, though. There was an old lighthouse that was turned into a gift shop, with these postcard-worthy views.

It's hard to see from those pictures above, but there is a reef out in the open water that is maybe a mile from shore. The shop attendant told us that just before the fog covered it over, there was a pod of gray whales out just beyond the reef. They migrate May-September, so there are lots of spots along the coast that you can see them, but Cape Foulweather's vantage point is probably one of the better views.

I loved Cape Foulweather. It's a perfect representation of the Pacific NW. It's so aptly named for half of the time, and then quite the misnomer for the rest of the time. There seems to be no middle ground at the coast: the weather is just beyond terrible, or it's so amazing you can't imagine living anywhere else.

As we headed up the coast, we took a slight detour from our destination (our beloved Pacific City), and went a bit north to Cape Meares, yet another lighthouse and insanely gorgeous spot.

We had some more fog at Cape Meares, so not quite so many pictures of the landscape. I imagine, though, you get the idea by now.

Oregon is just silly with gorgeous life-affirming beauty.

Finally, we arrived at our destination; Pacific City, OR. Our special place that we love. And it was wonderful to stop for 4 days and take in nothing but waves, salt air, and beer brewed across the way. Actually, by day 3, I was getting a little irritated with the surf for being so loud. It woke me up pretty early. But it's not so bad to wake up really early on vacation, go sit on the porch and watch the dory fishing boats head out to sea. Right after they go, the surfers start showing up. We could do worse.

There was one afternoon that Shawn and Lorelei had gone on a hike and they were supposed to meet me at the brewery for a late-afternoon snack. As it turns out, they were tired and fell asleep back at our cottage, leaving me at the brewery all by myself. It wasn't all bad. I sat outside on the porch chairs and watched the waves. Beer is the great equalizer. I met some folks from Tacoma (shoot, we are practically neighbors!), a nice couple from Portland, and then another nice couple from Minnesota celebrating the wife's birthday. We all shared some stories about our travels, and then we watched as a pod of whales lazily made their way along their migratory path. We couldn't tell if they were grays or orcas because none of them crested, but we saw a tail and lots of water spouts. It was one of the nicest afternoons ever in the history of afternoons.

The people who had rented the cottage next door to ours were from Akron! That was fun - they spotted our Ohio State gear right away. I will never stop getting a kick out of seeing Ohio folks out here. Wish a few more of you could make it out here. Ahem.

There were so many neat parts of this trip. It was definitely nice to hang out in Pacific City and rest up, but the journey was really the best part. The picture above is a lighthouse off in the distance - I can't remember which one - but the picture is taken from Highway 101. It was maybe the prettiest drive I've ever been on. We said when we arrived in Pacific City that we didn't need to drive 101 through Oregon again. We've done it, it's amazing, we can explore other places now. I don't know, though. I could totally do it again. There were a lot of places we didn't stop, and there are some places I'd like to stop at again. Sometimes once isn't enough.

Today is the first day of fall and in Seattle it's raining. Of course it is. Just like how summer arrives like clockwork after July 4, today the rain has returned. The forecast will be the same for the next 5 months: rain, getting colder, some more rain, dark. That makes it even more pleasant to be writing about our summer adventures.

The news isn't all bad, however. With the darkness comes the twinkle lights all over downtown. Pretty soon Nordstrom will have it's Christmas decorations up, and Macy's will have the big star on its downtown store. Shawn is going to call the chimney sweep this week so we can have our fires in that beautifully crafted fireplace this winter. We will finally start seeing snow atop the Olympics again.

But until all that happens, let's keep thinking summer, just for a little while longer.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Summer Vacation, Day 3 - Southern Oregon

I mentioned the fog already, right? Fog on the left coast, especially San Fran and points north. It typically burns off in the afternoon or late morning, but it makes everything feel more like fall than dog days of summer. We appreciated this - Seattle has had the warmest summer on record, I think. It isn't that it has been uncomfortably hot and humid like Ohio, but it's been pretty close to uncomfortable. When it's consistently 80 degrees and the sun is beating down, the lack of air-conditioning becomes more noticeable. I'm not going to lie, I sort of liked it. I liked being warm and feeling the heat of the sun because we miss it so much in the winter months. By now, however, everything is pretty dusty. The rain will be welcome.

Anyway, that picture up top is the first stop on day 3, Whalehead Trail, OR. I took that picture from the trail from the parking lot down to the beach. A word about the trail: uh, they could have warned us it was going to be like scaling a rain forest tilted on its side. Steep, weedy, and more than a little dangerous. Here are some pictures from the less intimidating parts of the trail:

The trail itself was really neat, just a little scary. The hike was completely worth it, though. The beach was fabulous. It had all the makings of the Oregon scenery: large rocks jutting out of the water, cliffs that end abruptly at the shoreline with steep drop-offs, and of course, the mighty Pacific.

Just amazing scenery. And it was completely deserted because of the trail. It was lovely.

Oregon's coastline is mostly protected. The government was really smart and made a lot of it state parks, so most of it is completely unspoiled, with lots of trails for hiking and picnics, etc.. It makes for great days of sight-seeing.

Our next stop was Gold Beach, where we were able to see the sun again. I think the ocean and coastline is so lovely overcast, but when the sun shines, it's just magnificent.

Gold Beach was less striking and more beachy, but gorgeous nonetheless. They had an information center there, swings and several picnic areas with a trail or two for taking in the scenery.

After Gold Beach, we headed to Cape Blanco, one of the many lighthouses along the coast. The lighthouse was a fair elevation up, and it was again foggy and windy when we got there. The wind was blowing everything over sideways - it was like thunderstorm wind. The views were amazing but I was too afraid to get too close to the edge because I was afraid I would blow right over the cliff! Definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Lighthouses are so cool. I think this one was decommissioned in the 1990s, and they have turned it into a little museum.

That picture above was taken from a scenic view pullover spot, I think. I'm not sure. It's completely overwhelming to drive up 101 through Oregon - it's all so beautiful and striking.

Also that day we stopped at a creamery called Face Rock Creamery. They have the BEST cheese. Uh, and they sell wine so you can walk around tasting cheese and drinking wine. At the Oregon coast. I mean, throw on a football game and I'm in heaven. They also make ice cream, which was equally as wonderful as the cheese.

I've never been anywhere that has such consistent beauty as Oregon. There is not a single spot of it that isn't amazing. Well, except Eugene. Boo Ducks. :)

Next up, central Oregon and wrapping up the vacation blog. I know I need to wrap this up because there is so much more to write about! Lorelei had her first day of 4th Grade, Shawn's parents came to visit and we toured some of Washington, etc. I promise, I will get caught up soon. Until then, it will be nice to relive the summer little by little.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Summer Vacation, Chapter 2: The Mighty Redwoods

In this second installment of our summer vacation, I'd just like to say that there are trees, and then there are TREES. There are the 90-year-old oak trees hanging around the hills of Seattle that give the city such character, and then there are these thousand-year-old Redwoods that have endured fires, storms, people invading their areas, all kinds of infestations, and yet, here they are.

We toured two main parts of the Redwoods National Forest, one just south of Eureka and one just north. They truly were stunning, and it's hard to convey that in just two dimensions. If you've been there, you know what I mean.

That tree in the picture above is called "Big Tree." I know. Kind of stating the obvious there.

What was interesting on that second day is that there was fog all throughout the coastline rolling in off the ocean, but once you got a little ways inland to the Redwoods, the fog lifted and the day was beautiful. Someone along the way explained that the heat of the valley (90+ temps) keeps that area from being overrun with the fog rolling in off the Pacific, which is normal for this time of year. It's San Francisco weather. So what we saw of the coastline on that second day was this:

We stayed the second night in Crescent City, CA - about 100 or 150 miles north of Eureka. After the Redwoods, we stayed pretty close on the coastline, traveling 101 the whole way. The ocean was really wild and active. I think that's what I love about the Pacific. It's wild and loud and in your face all the time. Love it.

We never did get out of the fog/overcast weather on day 2 (except for when we were in the Redwoods), and it was chilly - 60s. There was basically a 15 or 20 degree difference between the Redwoods and the coastline. Dress in layers.

Crescent City is a lazy little town that caters to the tourist crowd. We had some amazing fish & chips at a little restaurant right on the marina area. It looked like it was pretty close to where the fishing boats come in and out. You know it's good when Shawn asked our server whether he should get the $27 steak or the $11 fish 'n chips and she recommended the fish 'n chips.

The restaurant was on the water and looked out to a landing where all the sea lions were hanging out. Talk about loud. Those guys bark more than Gretel at the dog park.

They were all right dinner companions, though.

There is something magical about seeing trees that date back to the middle ages. It was a great day - and something Shawn and I won't soon forget. I hope Lorelei remembers, too.

Next up, crossing into the most beautiful state in the Union.