Camping

Coast Guard Rescue and Nehalem​ Bay

Tuesday morning we found ourselves with several hours to explore Fort Stevens before driving to nearby Nehalem Bay State Park to meet Clara and her friend Lia later in the afternoon.

We drove to the South Jetty observation tower to spot ships crossing the Columbia River bar and arrived just in time to witness the United States Coast Guard rescue a teen stranded on a sandbar at flood tide. A gaggle of birders flocked with the Oregon Park Rangers, the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office, the Warrenton Fire Department, and the Warrenton Police Department to watch the rescue unfold.

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MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Astoria

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Watching the rescue with Park’s Department and Sheriff’s Department

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USCG helicopter maneuvering over South Jetty

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Post-rescue prepping for landing

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Landing to let teen reunite with his family

After the excitement was over we turned our attention to the surfers catching late morning waves along the jetty.

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Looking south on Clatsop Spit

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Surfer heading out

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Catching a wave off Clatsop Spit

Oregon_Coast - 22We walked the trail out to the South Jetty for a better view of the Columbia River and to spot endangered migrating brown pelicans.

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The trail to bird nesting area

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Brown pelicans

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Brown pelicans over South Jetty

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We packed up our site and headed south on Highway 101 towards Seaside, Oregon as we waited for our check-in time at Nehalem Bay State Park. We hadn’t been to Seaside in well over 15 years. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon wandering through town and grabbing a quick lunch before heading to Nehalem Bay.

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Beach at Seaside, Oregon

We arrived at Nehalem State Park with plenty of time to trick out our campsite with hammocks, chairs around the firepit, a canopy over our tableclothed picnic table, candles and fairy lights and a regulation cornhole game set. Clara and Lia arrived in their Volt from their first road trip just in time for dinner.

After dinner, we walked over to check out the horse campsites. Not being equestrians, we didn’t know camping with horses in a state park was a thing. But apparently, it is. And the sites looked really nice.

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Horse Camp? Who knew?!

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Campsite Corral

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Camping with horses

With wine glasses in hand and sand in our shoes, we navigated our way through trails of tall grasses across the dunes to the beach at Nehalem Spit for sunset.

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Clara and Lia through the dunes

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Dunes of Nehalem Spit

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Beach at Nehalem Spit

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Tawny

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Clara and Lia

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Tawny, Clara, and Marc

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Riding into the sunset

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Heading back to camp

As the sun set the temperature dropped and the marine layer quickly rolled onshore like a foggy quilt to tuck us in for the night. We kept it at bay with Lia’s pyro-maniacal campfire-making skills complete with toasty s’mores. It was a sweet ending to an already sweet day.

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Lia the “Fire Queen”!

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Clara roasts a perfect marshmallow

 

 

Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Smoke, Fires, and Coastal Detours

We were to travel to Eureka, Montana the last week of August for my friend Karl’s 50th surprise Virgo Barn Dance Party at his Frisky Chicken Ranch (aka Tobacco Valley Ranch). His better half Nikki had been planning it for over a year. Hoards of friends would be coming from around the country and the globe to celebrate a milestone birthday with live bands, brews from Homestead Ales, dips in Dickey Lake, and other sundried shenanigans.

But about a week ago, while we were in Maui dodging Hurricane Lane, Nikki contacted us with a heavy heart to call off the party. The smoke from the British Columbia fires as well as from the nearby Howe Ridge fire in Glacier National Park had left the air quality in Eureka “Hazardous” and “Very Unhealthy” as categorized by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. We heard stories from home about the smoke from the BC fires in Seattle as well. We decided we were going to try and go anyway, even if the party was postponed until next year we love Karl’s ranch and we hadn’t been since August of 2014. We closely monitored the air quality authorities across Washington, Idaho, and Montana. It was bad. We made the decision at the end of the week that we’d abandon our plans for a road trip to Eureka with a side trip to Silverwood Theme Park and improvise a camping trip to the pristine salty air of the Oregon Coast.

We were lucky enough to reserve the last campsites available at Fort Stevens State Park and Nehalem Bay State Park during the busy last week of summer. Our r-pod was already packed and ready to go, so Tawny and I hooked it up and drove ourselves Fort Stevens arriving in the late afternoon. We quickly set up camp, had a surprisingly good dinner at the unassuming South Jetty Dining Room and Bar and then went to catch the sunset on the beach with the skeletal remains of a 112-year-old shipwreck of the Peter Iredale.

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Olympic National Park Day 3: Toleak Point to Third Beach

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We slept in a bit and awoke to a marine layer. I lit the fire, made some coffee and took out the map to plot our hike out to the rendezvous point where Tawny would pick us up between 2-3 pm.

Shit! The map showed four headlands between Toleak Point and Third Beach that must be passed at low tide. Not only that, I hadn’t calculated the distance we needed to travel, estimated at about 6 miles. It would be our longest hike and it was getting late. I consulted the tide table. Double shit! High tide was at 12:31 pm. It was already 9 am. “Clara, wake up!”.

We quickly packed up our site and started run-hiking with our packs (lighter, but still heavy) towards Strawberry Point (pictured above). We didn’t have time to enjoy the view as you literally could see the sea rising across the sands and rocks. We were in a race against tide and time.

We hustled on to the first headland, Giants Graveyard.

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As we round the headland we paused to take in the headstones laid across Davy Jones’s LockerAnd then we saw…no…we smelled the carcass of a gray whale long since beached on the shore. How apropos, given our location at the Giants Graveyard.

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Unfortunately, we didn’t have more than a few minutes to explore the remains. The smell and the rising waters propelled us on to round the next nearby headland. We had to time and dash past the waves around some fallen trees wetting our toes. We needed to get to another close by headland and then on to Scotts Bluff

We could see our next headland through the fog. A daunting sheer cliff known as Scott’s Bluff. If you make it to Scotts Bluff at low tide you can walk the tideline past it in about 10-15 minutes. If you don’t (and we didn’t) then you have to hike inland up and over several hundred feet of Scotts Bluff with loaded packs – a detour of 35-40 minutes a steep and precarious descent at to return to the beach.

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We kept moving as quickly as we could. There was one more headland ahead impassable at any tide – Taylor Point. We’d have to take an overland trail about 2.5 and climb to just over 300 feet. But before that inland trail was one large rock that could only be passed at low tide. We didn’t make it in time.

We thought we’d be stuck there for around six hours waiting for the tide to go do. No cell reception. No way to contact Tawny and let her know we’d be late. Then we saw a rope hanging off the rocks. It didn’t look like an official trail, but we thought we’d check it out and see if we could get over this huge rock and get to the trailhead.

Luck! We were able to ascend the rock and scramble down the back side with the help of another well-placed rope.

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The Taylor Point trail seemed to never end. We relaxed our pace and took a long break. We were exhausted from the brisk hiking but had no more tides to worry about now. We were home free. Only about four miles to go.

The trail was largely uneventful but beautiful through cool and earthy smelling old growth coastal forest. It held some daunting ladders to descend, but the prospect of a warm shower nudged us along.

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At the end of the trail, we hit the south end of Third Beach. It would be a sandy hike to the next trailhead. I turned on my phone. Success. A signal. I called Tawny and found she was still en route with a 2:30 pm ETA. It was about one-o-clock. We’d made it and would have plenty of time to rest and hike the last 2 miles.

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We rested at the Third Beach trailhead for thirty minutes or so. Ate some snacks and drank our water to lighten our packs. The marine layer started to lift and the sun came out to warm the beach. Day hikers were arriving for picnics on the beach. We donned our backpacks one last time before finishing the last 1.2 miles hiking through the woods to the parking lot off La Push Road.

Tawny and her friend Diane picked us up right at 2:30 and we drove to a nearby National Park Ranger station to drop off the bear box we borrowed before heading back to Seattle. We drove 101 North past Lake Crescent and on to Port Angeles to treat ourselves to a Blizzard and fries at Dairy Queen. We had earned the calories.

We drove on past Hood Canal and into Poulsbo where we stopped at Sound Brewery for pizza before catching the Bainbridge Island ferry at sunset back to Seattle.

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Categories: Camping, Seattle, Washington | 5 Comments

Olympic National Park Day 2: Mosquito Creek to Toleak Point

Day two I awoke to atrophied pain across my whole body. I creaked myself out of the tent and set a fire to warm myself in the 6 am daze of a foggy coastal morn.

We packed up our site by 10 am. Today would be an easier hike than yesterday and my tired muscles and bones welcomed the prospects of a walk on the beach. We needed to make Toleak Point today, a distance of only about 4.5 miles, mostly on the beach. We did have some inland hiking but only with an elevation gain of a few hundred feet. Today tides wouldn’t be an issue. It seemed promising.

We hiked about 2 miles along a beautiful stretch of sunny beach which we had all to ourselves. But eventually, the beach ended at another impasse and we had to ascend into the wilderness to circumvent the inaccessible headlands of the Coast.

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We had to climb some ropes up and down the rugged terrain. We also had some trouble hiking across Goodman Creek (which you have to cross 2x). It was confusing and we lost the trail for awhile before we eventually picked up the scent again. Doing so rewarded us with beautiful views and vistas of the Washington Coast.

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Eventually, we found ourselves in sight of a great expanse of beach below us with Toleak Point on the horizon.

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We descended to sea level and made the mile or so long hike along the beach to find a camp site near Jackson Creek (a sorry excuse for a water source that made me glad we had both a water purifier and an ample supply of iodine).

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We set up camp and hammock in an envious spot which we quickly made a home. After settling in we relaxed in the sun and sand of a lazy afternoon.

There was a low tide that day and I made my way out to Toleak Point to explore the tide pools for sea creatures and seaweed that reminded me of times along the Pacific Coast with my mother as she collected samples of the sea for her Master Degree in Marine Biology some 37 years earlier. A pleasant memory complete with the salty smells of ocean decay.

After ample exploration, we cooked a proper meal and headed back to Toleak Point in time to enjoy a spectacular Pacific Sunset.

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Back at our site, I built a warming fire and we waited for a symphony of stars to present themselves to us, one note at a time. We saw a few shooting arpeggios before turning ourselves in for the night to ready ourselves for a harder hike tomorrow. All-in-all I slept well knowing it had been a near perfect day, the music of the stars still playing in my head.

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Categories: Camping, Washington | 2 Comments

Olympic National Park: Oil City to Mosquito Creek

My daughter, Clara, went on an eighth-grade backpacking trip with her middle school (Explorer West) a few years ago from Oil City, Washington to Third Beach, near La Push. It was a transformative coming of age accomplishment for her; profound enough she wanted for years to share the experience with me.

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This year we finally found the time to make the trip together.

After a weekend trip to REI to procure the latest in comfort camping gear we headed to our cabin in Ocean Shores for the night to pack and provision ourselves for the 2-night/3-day 15-mile trek.

Friday morning we drove to the Olympic National Park Ranger Station at Lake Quinault to secure our backcountry wilderness permit and borrow a bear barrel to store our food out of harm’s way (a requirement for the permit) before driving North along to the coast towards Forks, WA (of Twilight fame).

Ten miles down dusty gravel Oil City Road we came to the end – little more than a wooded parking lot with a placard marking the trailhead.

We donned our overweighted backpacks, said our goodbyes to Tawny and her friend Diane and headed down the trail together.

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The trail started deceptively easily, perhaps a flat mile along the scenic Hoh River.

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But as soon as we spilled onto the Pacific Ocean it was not only an angry rising tide that greeted us but a brutal half mile or more of obtuse flotsam blocking our path.

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The Ranger at Quinault had warned us to beat the tide around Diamond Rock Shoal. She said today’s tide at 4:19 pm would barely be low enough to round the point. If we missed the window we’d have to wait until the next low at 5:13 am Saturday morning! We hustled our way scrambling towards Diamond Rock.

The rocks around Diamond Rock Shoal required bouldering across large boulders slapped rhythmically by the ocean. The aggregate rock was jagged, the sharp edges softened only by a slippery layer of seaweed attached to each boulder like an ill-fitted toupée. I slipped and scraped the length of my left leg early in the traverse. Soon after we found ourselves at an impasse. The tide was too high to round the point and the inland land to steep to circumvent the tide. We decided to cross the rocks timed against the waves. I went first. I counted out the waves…”That’s the biggest wave, probably the seventh”. I had a chance to hop, skip, and dance my way around the shoal with 65 lbs of backpack upon me. I made it. I turned to watch Clara who was rightfully hesitant as she was skeptical. She paused. She counted. She timed it and then went for it. A foot wet. A skip. A hop. A jump. Dry land. We’d made it. We took a rest of salmon jerky, trail mix, and  water.

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The next stretch of coast was easy-peasy. A lovely walk along the beach of Jefferson Cove. But remember, my daughter had been on this hike before. She knew what was coming. We walked the beach North…to the end. A wall. “What now?”, I asked. Smugly Clara pointed to the cliff wall…”Up”, she said. Before us hung a distressed rope and wooden ladder in horrible disrepair… and it started to rain…

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Feeling a sense of accomplishment upon ascending this ladder I looked down at the beach and across the ocean. “Ha!, I got you!”. No problem I thought. We hiked on and within a few feet of rounding a traverse, there was another ladder. And after that yet another! Would it never end?

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At 400 feet or more above the sea we reached the top of the trail, we would follow through the wilderness for the next 3 miles. It seemed doable, but within minutes we were confronted with this obstacle:

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Trying to minimize the mud on day one I tried jumping from a rock to a log only to cut and bruise my head by cracked my skull on a sharp branch. But we carried on and while the trek continued treacherous at times, it wasn’t without its fauna and vistas to make it worthwhile.

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Sweaty, spent, and exhausted we finally found ourselves at Mosquito Creek where we quickly found a place to put our tent within a driftwood clearing out of the wind. I reached into my overburdened pack and presented my daughter with an A&W Root Beer (and myself with a Fremont Interurban IPA) which I had snuck into my provisions. It was a well-deserved treat for a hard won campsite on the rugged Washington Coast.

We set up camp and made dinner (black beans and rice with fresh guacamole burritos). Divine.

As we built a fire to offset the wind and the chill of rain soaked shoes and clothes, the skies cleared long enough for a spectacular sunset. It was a Day-of-Hell and a Hell-of-a-Day. We were both so sore and tired from our grueling hike and yet satisfied we had made the first leg of our trip. At this point, we were committed. There was no turning back. In 2 days Tawny would be at the Third Beach parking lot between 2-3 pm to pick us up. We had to continue on. We took a few Vitamin A (Advil), watched the sunset, and went to bed.

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Categories: Camping, Washington | 2 Comments

Whales & A Sandy Sunset

After a full day of sand in our shorts, sun on our backs, and a simple dinner we returned to the beach like nesting turtles to watch the sunset. As we stepped out onto the and we saw the unmistakable spray of a whale’s spout on the horizon not far from the shore.

We believed them to be either grey or humpback whales very close to the shore. Whales are common in this area but not usually at this time of the year. Many locals were noting how unusually close to shore they were. Some saying they could actually hear the whales song.

While the whales were spouting in the evening light we decided to hike once again up the Giant Sand Dune of Pacific City and watch the sun set from that impressive vantage.

While I retraced my steps from earlier in the day Clara and Morgayne decided to take on the steep sand-walled ascent. The views on the way were similar to those earlier in the day, but bathed in magic-hour light. As I walked through a small wooded area towards the top of the dune I encountered a deer making its way home for the evening.

As the girls reached the top we all spotted the deer again, running across the steep west facing slope off-limits as far too dangerous for us.

In the warm bath of sun-set light the girls finally let me take some pictures of them before running off to film their own set of Instagrams, and Snapchat stories to share with their friends.

As the last rays dwindled across the sky we made our way down the great dune and in for the evening. Campfires were set along the beach with families cooking late dinners, playing games, and listening to music. It was a near perfect day. But we could just make out the encroaching cloud of a front on the horizon. There was a storm coming as we lay heads down securely in our trailer for the night.

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Hiking Pacific City’s Giant Sand Dune

Wednesday brought us spectacular weather which we spent at the beach. Before the day warmed we decided to make the trek up Pacific City’s Giant Sand Dune which is part of Cape Kiwanda State Park.

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We hiked the saddle to the left of the dune which was a little less steep, but possibly no less work slogging through deep hot sand.

We were told to stay to the right of the fence, which didn’t seem to deter many people. But several park rangers were on site managing a prison work crew repairing the fence so we didn’t deviate from the beaten path as we made our ascent, each step punctuated by a stunning view of the Pacific.

Front the top you could see 360 degrees across Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City with Chief Kiwanda Rock (Haystack Rock/Haystack Arch) dominating the view.

The girls seemed in Heaven, loving the views and loving the sand. It has long been a dream of Clara’s to look across rolling dunes and have the experience to roll or run down a large sand dune. Here was her chance.

We ran down the dune, hot scalding sand on our bare feet. At the bottom of the dune we found ourselves in the tide pools at the base of the cliffs of Cape Kiwanda where we cooled our heels before heading back to our car parked on the beach and a day of relaxation watching the surfers and boogie boarders in the Oregon sun.

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The Dory Boats of Pacific Beach

We had been told to watch out for the returning dory boats of Pacific Beach. “Stay clear of the boats when they are landing on the beach, listen for the horns and move out of the way. Dory’s don’t have breaks”. The boats are known to rush the beach at high speed, catch a wave and land well onto the beach so awaiting vehicles with trailers can winch them back home. The 100 year old traditional fleet of uniquely flat bottomed boats heads out most mornings from the reserved stretch of beach between Haystack Rock and the Giant Sand Dune of Pacific City and returns on the midday tide.

Unfortunately we were here a week before the 57th Annual Dory Days Festival July 15-17 sponsored by the Pacific City Doormen’s Association. While sponsored by the Doormen’s association we did notice a few boats being “manned” by Dorywomen as well.

We were lucky enough to catch the dory boats landing with their catch limit of what appeared to be black rockfish. We tasted their previous days catch later that day in the form of fish tacos ordered at Ben & Jeff’s Tacos shack in town.

 

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Tillamook & Haystack Rock

A scenic Highway 6 took us out of Portland and landed us in Tillamook, Oregon land of cheese, dairy cows, rivers, and rugged green hills along the Pacific coast.

We intended to hit the Tillamook Cheese Company and pick up some curds or a block of cheddar before heading south to Cape Kiwanda for a few days.Before we arrived at the Tillamook Cheese Company we drove past Blue Heron French Cheese Company and decided to stop there first. They had a petting zoo (which I wasn’t about to go near) but Clara and Morgayne picked up the first chicken they found and subjected it to various torturous photos shoots before heading inside for cheese samples. Inside, Morgayne found a piano and sat down to entertain the tourists with a song.

From there we tried to go to the Tillamook Cheese Company but it was a zoo. Hoards of cheese loving tourists crowded outside, the parking lot was gridlock, and the RV parking was full. We decided against it and instead headed another 20 minutes or so south to Pacific City and our destination Cape Kiwanda. We checked in at Cape Kiwanda RV located directly across from the main beach at Cape Kiwanda State Park and Recreation Area. The sun was coming out so we set up camp amidst an abundance of bunnies that freely roamed the campground. This one is apparently named Basil and lives in the bush next to our spot.

After we shared part of our lunch w/Basil we took advantage of the sunny weather by heading to the beach. As soon as we walked onto the beach, saw Haystack Rock and the Pacific City Giant Sand Dune we decided we should book more time here. Rain was in the forecast and we all thought it better to avoid going on to Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park and the dunes there where we’d be sitting in the forest in the rain a mile inland from the ocean. Pacific City offered a few more restaurants, and indoor pool at our current spot, and a 2.5-3 hour shorter drive back to Seattle on Saturday. We cancelled reservations at Honeyman leaving that for another time, and were lucky enough to be able to extend our stay at Cape Kiwanda. With the remaining vacation booked we relaxed and took in the spectacular views and some vitamin D.

After the beach headed to the Pelican Brewery to have dinner on the deck and watch the sun set over Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock. Pelican Brewery has some fine beer (and they make their own root beer as well). But the wait was long, and the food overpriced and mediocre. But the views and the sunset didn’t disappoint.

 

 

 

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Edgefield Anniversary

We stopped at Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon for lunch at the tail end of our Great American Road Trip in 2013. Tawny and I had been to McMenamins Edgefield 22 years ago when we were first dating. We stayed in the historic hotel, ate at the fancy Black Rabbit Restaurant, and drank beers in their movie theater. This year, on our anniversary of 17 years, we decided to head back on our way to the Oregon coast.

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We arrived early to navigate the narrow driveways and parking lots of Edgefield with our travel trailer in tow. Last time we were here we nearly got trapped in a narrow driveway with another car coming our way. The other driver had to edge her Prius into the bushes so we could squeeze past. As we slowly rolled by her I apologized for thinking I could bring this rig into this lot. She was very gracious about the whole thing, apologizing that she couldn’t pull her car over any further. It was just after we passed her that we realized the other driver was Zooey Deschanel. Star struck, I secretly hoped we might have another chance sighting of her on this stay. No such luck.

We were too early to check into our room so we headed to the 102 degree spa pool on a hot day. It was a sweatbox but relaxing all the same. Afterwards we got to our room, changed and spent our afternoon and evening exploring the many side attractions of the quirky resort: glass blowing, ceramics studio, gift shops, the winery & distillery, many gardens, blackberries, fire pits, and finally took in a movie (Finding Dory) and dinner at the Power Station theater and restaurant during the movie.

It was nice and relaxing day to celebrate our anniversary. There were several weddings that were happening on the estate that same evening. It gave us pause to reflect on the our 22 years together and the similar adventures that await those young couples.

Somehow during the day we had made reservations for a morning tee time at the chip & putt golf course. We rousted the girls out of bed and headed to the course. Morgayne had never held a golf club before and Clara had only hit at a driving range. Both were surprising naturals and held their own against Tawny and I (who are a couple of hacks). My only redeeming moment of triumph was an impressive birdy on hole 4 of the East course on a 30 foot chip onto the green that luckily rolled into the cup.

 

Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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