Posts Tagged With: Oregon

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.


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.


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

Oregon Trail: Day 5 – Finding Pilcher Creek Resevoir

We didn’t have far to drive with the trailer today so took a leisurly morning of blueberry pancakes before hitting the road. We drove up highway 30 through Haines in search of Pilcher Creek Resevoir. We had come across mention of it on but the instructions for finding it were vague. Today was cooler (95 degrees) but a dip in cool mountain lake still sounded refreshing.

In Haines we decided to follow Anthony Lakes Road (Elkhorn Scenic Byway) towards the mountains where we believed the resevoir to be. The road was a pastoral beauty of gentle curves across a lush green valley full of happy cows and derelict barns. But was we started to assend into the forest it didn’t seem we were on the right track. We had to travel some distance before we could find a place to turn ourselves around.

We doubled back towards North Powder and on the way spotted a sign for Pilcher Creek Rd.  We followed a quilted patchwork of an old reassembled road for a few miles until it turned to gravel. It brought back memories of hauling our trailer up to the ghost town of Bourne a few days back. As the road wore on we became disillusioned – where was this lake? Nothing showed on the GPS. There was no cell service and finally the road had Dead End sign ahead. We had given up and were looking for a place to turn ourselves and the trailer around when a car came up through a thicket covered side road. I flagged them down and asked some young teens if they knew where the lake was. “That’s where we’re headed” said the passenger. “Your are welcome to follow us”. They assured us if we took the thicket covered side road down a steep embankment there’d be a place for us to turn around. 

They were correct. We found a grassy field at the bottom of the hill and were able to turn ourselves and double back yet again following the crumbs of dust left behind by the teens speeding along the gravel road. 

A few more miles of turns an twists on back roads (we never would have found this place on our own) and we found ourself at a near deserted resevoir where we swam and had a picnic lunch. 

     The lake was a perfect temperature. And the scenery, nestled in the mountains was breathtaking.  We  had a little wildlife entertainment as well – saving a dragon fly from drowning and watching an osprey being scolded by birds half his size. 



After lunch we headed towards La Grande. The gravel road at the top of hill giving a stunning view of the valey below, a view these happy cows enjoyed daily..


We made our way to Eagle Hot Lake RV Park between Union and La Grande. There’s a hot spring here so the air had a faint sulfur smell when the wind blew just right. Butted up against a hill on one side and a wetland on the other the spot is going to be lovely in a few years when the trees they’ve planted grow enough to provide shade. Although it was 5-10 degrees cooler today than in previous days there was no cloud cover or shade to be had at our campsite.

We decided to head to town for dinner instead of trying to cook and eat outside in this heat. We found an old school steakhouse called Ten Depot where we had a nice dinner of Eastern Oregon Beef. 

We returned to our site just as the sun was setting and had time to walk out into the marshland preserve to watch it set as the full moon rose over the hill behind our camper and the watched Venus and Jupiter form a “superstar” in the night sky. Unfortunately the marshland nearby made the mosquitos quite unbearable to be outside so we retired early and tended to our bites before bed.


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Oregon Trail: Day 4 – Ghost of the Oregon Trail

We should have done better pre-trip research because Monday morning we realized access to Hells Canyon from Baker City isn’t the best point of entry. The loop road (Hells Canyon Scenic Route) was closed for construction. We tried to find something to do. We had already paid for two nights in Baker City and so didn’t really have an option to go somewhere else.

We made a leisurely morning of it before we decided to head to Halfway, Oregon. Halfway had renamed itself in the early 2000 boom (it was a small town familiar with booms and busts over the years). Beyond Halfway was the fabled ghost mining town of Cornucopia (we found a listing of ghost towns of Eastern Oregon) and decided another ghost town (sans trailer in tow) would be the order of the day.

But first we took a detour to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center where we were greeted by a very credible Buffalo Bill impersonator (refer to this blog’s 2013 visit to the Buffalo Bill Museum in Wyoming)

We spent the better part of an hour taking in the dioramas of life on the Oregon Trail. I didn’t realize just how brutal the Oregon Trail was. It took on average 140-180 days to travel the 2000 mile trail. It was so treacherous that on average there was a grave every 80 yards along the trail. Most deaths where not caused by glamourous Western Expansion murders, suicides, or indian attacks, but more often than not by small pox and dysentery. I mean, you can see the anguish in these dioramas.




There was a great interactive exhibit where you could pack your own covered wagon before heading out on the Oregon Trail. Which items would you have to leave behind? The children’s toys? The family heirlooms? The barrel of whiskey? Hell No! My superior “Tetris Skills” allowed me to pack everything in my wagon. I would have owned the trail!

The Interpretive Center was on a high bluff overlooking a preserved section of the Oregon Trail which you could see from the bay windows (it looks cloudy but its 103 degrees out there!). 

The Interpretive Center is only 5 miles from Baker City, so we continued (runing low on fuel) to Richland about an hour away towards Hells Canyon. We gassed at the only station in the region and headed on towards Halfway where we had lunch at the only open (or still in business) restaurant in town – Wild Bills!

We asked about the roads to Cornucopia and one waitress said the roads were passable and so far as she knew there were still a few buildings standing. We decided to go for it.

We headed North past Halfway to the end of the county road where it turns to gravel just as the waitress had said. It would be approximately 6 miles before we came to the ghost town (a mining boom town which at one time extracted $10M in gold (back in a day when that was a meaningful number). Today we would find out that most of the claims were owned by GE who were trying to mine uranium there for the war effort.

Towards the end of the road we came across a man in camouflage hunched over sitting on a camo-ATV on the side of the gravel road. We approached slowly. I rolled down the window a crack it open and called out…is there a ghost town around here? He quickly turned and I half expected to see a half-crazed zombie ready to tear us limb-from-limb. But instead I was greated by a very nice man who I noticed had sawed off a finger or two at one time as he pointed us in the direction of the old ghost town with his stubs. “When you get to where the road is real bad, you’ll know you are there. You can keep going on if you want..but I woudn’t if I was you. Feel free to park and get out and walk around.” And so we did.


We parked and got out and walked around. Although we were high in the mountains it was still hot, around 100 degrees. We wandered through old buildings and decaying machinery and cars and made our way through what had once been a vibrant and bustling boom town.


Then we headed back towards the new cabins where we had met our would-be zombie. He and a friend flagged us down and volunteered to show us the Cornucopia jail which they were lovingly restoring to its former glory. Should we walk into the cell? What if they capture and keep us here? Do we dare risk our lives? Sure! Why not! It was fascinating. Basically the jail was built just down the street from where there had one been a bar. It mostly served as a drunk tank in the old mining town which had a repulation for being the most orderly of mining towns of its day (because they said gold fell from the mountainside, making it an easy and prosperous community).

     On our way out of the ghost town we passed what looked like an old hotel. And then we returned the way we came and drove an hour or so back to Baker City for the night surely to dream of life on the Oregon Trail staking a claim for mineral rights in a early boom town of Eastern Oregon.

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GART Day 24: Washington Coast

Sleeping in a guest bed and taking a real shower in beautiful home was a nice reprieve from the road. But it also signaled that our great american road trip, and my sabbatical, were coming to an end.

We went to visit my aunt and uncle in their home for morning coffee and see the work they’ve done on their patio, from the flowers and fountains, to the ingenious netting curtain my uncle designed to keep the golf balls from hitting them when they sit outside (they are very close to the tee). Somehow, Cody received a cup-of-joe as well, not a good idea for a 12 year old to have before an 8 hour drive…



We returned to my cousin’s home where George had prepared another delicious meal. We packed up, said our goodbyes and hit the road north by northwest, heading to the Washington Coast and our beach cabin in Ocean Shores.
We took the scenic highway by Mount Hood where we told the kids about the Timberline Lodge being used as the location for Stanley Kubrick’s movie The Shining; which we told them they could see when they are 16…


We really wanted to do something fun and offbeat for our last day pulling the trailer. Tawny got out a Roadside America app and we looked for funky side trips we could take along the way. There weren’t a lot of options to choose from. So we set our signts on the mysterious Mima Mounds, which we’d heard of over the years but never visited. Unfortunately we were running late after a late start as the kids were hungry and we stopped at one of our favorite places – Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon for lunch. Tawny and I had been to Edgefield 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. Today we just went to the Powerstation Pub for some burgers and fries. Tawny and I noted the need to come down here sometime for a getaway weekend, maybe for one of their outdoor concerts.

Onward to Ocean Shores. Running late we skipped the Mima Mounds (another time) and headed straight for the ocean stopping only for gas. We rolled into Ocean Shores about 8pm and went directly to Bennet’s Fish Shack for dinner. We love this place. It has some of the best fish and chips on the west coast and never fails to deliver. It was a satisfying way to end the day before parking the trailer at our beach cabin and deciding to deal with it tomorrow.

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GART Day 23: Burns and Bend

Monday was perhaps the most boring drive on the entire trip. We drove from Mountain Home, Idaho to Bend, Oregon via Highway 20 passing through Burns, Oregon. Much of this drive follows the Oregon Trail. This drive was monotonous at 65 miles per hour with 160 GB of iPod playlists. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for weeks at a time at perhaps 5 miles per hour via a covered wagon watching scrub brush after scrub brush passing by as you noted and named such landmarks as Stinkingwater Creek.

What this drive lacked in landscape it made up for in meaning. We were on our way to visit my aunt, uncle, cousin and her family in Bend. Along the way we drove through Burns/Hines where my grandparents had lived when I was a kid. It completed a circle of sorts for me in that my friend Ross and I had made a similar trip when we were 17 and drove from Seattle to Albuquerque and back during a mid-winter break. During that trip we had first stopped in Moraga, CA (where my aunt, uncle and cousin had lived at the time) before next driving all the way to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Later on that trip we had driven from Twin Falls to Burns to visit my grandmother who doted on Ross as if he were a celebrity grandchild. On this trip we first stopped in Burns for lunch at the Broadway Deli, which was unfortunately overpriced, and underwhelming. Apparently, the four of us being added to the local economy had overwhelmed the deli staff so much they kept apologizing for the slow service because they were “so busy”. The comment made us gaze around at the few scant tables occupied by a smattering of a few other patrons who were mostly lingering after their sandwiches had been consumed.
As we left the deli I realized I didn’t recognize Burns although I had been here many times before. All my memories of my grandparents home was of my grandparents home, a nice home and yard. But I remember it always been very hot there (which it was today as well) and we didn’t go outside much. And clearly, Burns didn’t have much to offer for reasons to go out. It was interesting to go back to Burns and it stirred some memories for me, like when my grandmother gave Ross and I my grandfather’s collection of Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Frank Sinatra and other Big Bands and Crooners cassette tapes for us to listen to on our drive back to Seattle. It was my first exposure to this genre of music at 17 and it had a tremendous impact on our musical education and appreciation. I shuffled the iPod on the way out of town to pull a few swing songs into the mix.
The drive from Burns to Bend was perhaps the even more boring and desolate than the previous 150 miles. We tried counting the scrub brush but lost count around 7 billion. There is no shortage of sage brush in this world. We have plenty.
But Bend was an oasis. My cousin’s new home was beautiful. The view of the Deschutes River gorgeous and relaxing. So much so that we took the kids (and their super sweet dog Ginger) on a walk along it and Cody tried his luck (no luck) again at fishing. The walk along the Deschutes played out like a brochure for moving to Bend, couples walking the river, people kayaking, fly fishing, swimming in the river, or walking their dogs. It was picture perfect and topped only by the fabulous meal my cousin’s husband George cooked for us. And the insalata caprese with nasturtiums my aunt made with exquisite tomatoes from her friend’s garden. It was a very lovely evening with family and nice to see Clara connect again with her cousin Emi and for everybody to meet Cody. It was also very nice to sleep in a real bad again, but I must admit I was a little melancholy about not sleeping in the r-pod and the winding down of our Great American Road Trip.












Thanks for hosting us, cousin Jill. Great to see you, your family, and Mary and Dick again. Cheers!

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