Posts Tagged With: Roadtrip

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.

Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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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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

Mount St. Helens & Silver Lake

Having planned our summer road trip during winter we found ourselves in June – just a few weeks prior to leaving – having to make adjustments to shift our trip forward a few days. We called around, adjusted reservations, and were lucky enough to find a place on short notice just a few hours outside of Seattle.

On Friday July 1st we rolled our R-Pod into Silver Cove Resort to a warm, partly shaded campsite along the canals connecting to Silver Lake. We found the resort friendly, clean, and they gave us a great spot with a few trees from which we could hang our hammock in the late afternoon sun.

Saturday we headed into Castle Rock to find a pharmacy for Tawny. She’s had perhaps one of the worst colds ever and hadn’t been able to shake it. Castle Rock is a tiny little town with a disproportionate number of antique and second-hand stores. We made the rounds and found ourselves a dozen new vinyls as well as some other gems and trinkets.

From Castle Rock we headed back up Spirit Lake Highway, past our campsite, and on towards Mt. St. Helens. It’s been just over 36 years since the volcano erupted on May 18th, 1980. I remember it well. I was about 10 years old and on a field trip on North Vancouver Island with my mother who was pursuing a Masters Degree in marine biology at the time. We were out collecting varied specimens of Chlorophyta, Phaeophyceae Ochrophyta, and Rhodophyte (or green, brown, and red algae. We were more than 600 miles away that day and at about 8:35 AM we heard a huge explosion. Some thought it may be military exercises nearby. Somebody else joked about it being Mt St. Helens since it had been in the news so much lately and it was just a matter of time. Nobody took it seriously, but somebody – perhaps my mother – said, “Take note of the time, it just may be St. Helens!” Indeed, it was. After returning home to Anacortes we learned that my father and sister said our dogs had gone crazy at the explosion (250 miles away) and that they hadn’t head the explosion. Apparently the sound wave traveled up and over major metropolitan areas such as Seattle. Days later we got a phone call from my grandmother in Tulsa, Oklahoma telling us their cars were dusted in ash from the explosion. That awesome power left a lasting impression on my 10 year old psyche. One I’ve never forgotten.

Even so, I’d never been to Mt. St. Helens and yet today I find myself unscripted and unplanned within a 45 minute drive to the Johnston Ridge Observatory (so named after volcanologist David Johnston, who was at the researching the mountain when it erupted).  Memorized there are his last words “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!”. It must have been a spectacular way to go. Unfortunately, he remains were never found.

The devastation of the area is still evident and stark, but softened by a colorful blanket of new life flourishing in the form mountain lupine, paintbrushes, lupines, and mountain daisies.

We arrived just in time to listen to a forest service ranger give a synopsis of the events of May, 18th, 1980. The power and devastation of this mountain was awe-inspiring. Many observed in silence while trying to wrap their heads around the statistics the ranger rattled off; “Spirit Lake was swept away like a squeegee up the side of the mountain, and then dropped back to its current location 200 feet higher and twice the size than it was before”, or “They measured the mountain in the days before the eruption using state of the art equipment and over the course of 60 days it grew at a rate of 5 feet a day, one day adding over 17 feet!; they initially thought the equipment was faulty.”, or “The mountain lost nearly 1,200 feet in altitude that day i.”

We hiked a nearby trail, took in the panoramas, watched a short movie, and read the placards at the interpretive center before heading back down the valley to Silver Lake and our campsite. We built a fire and grilled our dinner over the open coals before finally making the last glow of the day, and the last glow of the coals toast our marshmallows, into to tortured dreams of impending lahars (rhymes w/s’mores).

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Oregon Trail: Day 9 – America’s Birthday

What better way to start America Day than with coffee in your cup and bacon and eggs in your belly. 
After breakfast a snafu thwarted our plans of hanging around a pool and barbecuing all day long. Instead we did a little research (asked the neighbors), packed up the cars with beach food, drink, and floatation devices, and headed about 40 miles west of Yakima on Highway 12. We were looking for a place to cool ourselves from the sweltering triple digit heat of Yakima by planting ourselves on Rimrock Lake. Rimrock is notorious for having steep rocky slopes and limited swimming spots but the neighbors gave us some tips about where to go.
They must have shared the same advice with everybody else in the Yakima Valley because every nook and cranny of lake access was full. We continued to drive Tieton Rd around the lake and eventually found a forest service road that from the GPS looked like it could reach the lake. We put the Pathfinder in 4WD and headed down the road…but it got narrower, steeper, and more rutted as we went until it because impassible. We turned around defeated. 

As we got back to the main road and were just about to head back and give up I spotted another lake (and forrest service road) on the GPS just down the road a bit. We decided to give it a try and to our surprise found ourselves at a nearly deserted Clear Lake where we were able to escape the heat of Yakima (temperature was about 93 at 3000 feet of elevation) and the crowds.

We spent our afternoon swimming, grilling and eating hot dogs, and catching a little sun before headed back to Yakima to grill up dinner for Julie’s extended family.      

We spent our evening making ribs, corn on the cob, grilled asparagus, and potato salad. It was hot outside but with some sprinklers on we were able to cool it enough to enjoy Julie’s mother’s green thumbed yard and decorate for the occasion.


After dinner we did some had some safe and sane fun with glow sticks in lieu of sparklers in the front yard after sunset. 

 Happy Birthday America! USA! Nothing makes you appreciate your freedom more than another Great American Road Trip and the 4th of July is a fitting way to draw another adventure to a close.

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Oregon Trail: Day 7 – Pendleton Underground

It was a shorter drive from La Grande to Pendleton than anticipated so we rolled into the Wildhorse Casino and RV Resort well before check-in time. We had reserved this place on a lark, because they have a big cineplex and figured we could pawn the kids off on a movie and do a little gambling. We got a shady spot next to the cutest little custom trailer and set up our camp. 

After settling we headed into town to tour the famous and long lived Pendleton Woolen Mills Unfortunately we arrived just after their 11am tour started and the next tour wasn’t for a few hours. We decided to shop the store instead and found ourselves the new owners of an heirloom Pendleton wool blanket.   


We had made reservations for a one-o-clock tour of the Pendleton Underground which we had heard about when we were on the tour of Kam Wah Chung Cultural Heritage Site in John Day. But before the tour we stopped for a quick lunch at local brewery.

We arrived for our tour just a few minutes late and it was already underway. It was excruciatingly hot out – about 107 degrees. The tour highlighted about 70 years of history under the town of Pendleton, from card rooms, bars, and opium dens, to Chinese laundries, jails, butcher shops, and ice cream parlors. It also included a tour of one of Pendleton’s many brothels. Unfortunately much of the tour wasn’t air conditioned and while the history was interesting it was also painfully hot and a bit long (90 minutes). But by and large we learned a lot about the Pendleton Underground (much of it built by the Chinese who were unable to get work in the mines.

 The history of the brothels and the beloved Madam Stella Darby (who ran brothels in Pendelton from 1928-1967) was interesting. She ran what were called the Cozy Rooms which was a transitional and safer form of prostitution. The Madam also ran a regular brothel but as her girls wanted to get out of the business she’d transition them to the Cozy Rooms where they could still make money seeing clients but in a safer environment. She’d help to teach the girls in the after hours (basic education and business accumen) aand match them with husbands so they could leave the business.  There’s a bronze of her outside the building.


After the tour we headed to the Pendleton Aquatic Center which had a few water slides and pools where we could cool ourselves before heading back to the Wildhorse Casino RV Park to make dinner. Even after cooling ourselves down the camp site was registering 108 in the shade.

After dinner the girls did watch a movie (but in the trailer with the AC on) which allowed us to go lose some money at the casino and catch a funnier than expected comedy show before retiring for the night.

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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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