Archive for the ‘Oregon’ Category

“Sunshine!”  I snarled.  “South on the 101, east on the 20, south on the 5, and I’m not stopping until it’s sunny and dry!”

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Oregon.  I love Washington.  But after almost a month of travel, I did not love the weather that kept Steve coughing in his sleep for three solid weeks and left me staring at the camper ceiling in the dark thinking, “Sleep deprivation is prohibited by the Geneva Convention, isn’t it?” and “I wonder if he’ll stop coughing if I smoosh this pillow over his face?”

We all lived through the night.  🙂  South we went, and in Depoe Bay the storm-wracked Pacific Ocean was putting on quite a show:

Up to the walkway the Pacific exploded...yee-hah!... and RUN! 🙂

I took one last shot of the Oregon coast before we turned inland at Newport:

The Oregon coast, stunningly beautiful in any weather

The 20 was such a lovely drive that we enjoyed our detour to the 5.  True to my word, I stopped when I found sunshine:

Mt. Shasta shining under its own little cloud

That night, we all slept in blissful silence and woke up refreshed, ready for the banzai run down the 5.  Now we’re back in southern California:

This flock of Birds of Paradise look like they want to fly

Let’s cue up an old song in our heads:  “Everything is beautiful, in its own way…”

More to come…   🙂

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A gale-force storm was on its way to Astoria, so we started heading south.  We stopped at Fort Stevens State Park to view the remains of one of the casualties of the Graveyard of the Pacific:

A Columbia River entry attempt destroyed the Peter Iredale in 1906

View from inside Peter Iredale's rusty ribcage

We headed south and made it to Seaside as night fell.  Should I gloss over the ensuing misery?  The howling winds rocking the camper, the wrong-way turn as we sought a sheltered spot in the blinding, pounding rain, the sleepless night parked behind a Hollywood Video?  Nah, no gloss.  🙂  But the next day things improved as we headed further south.  Look at this beautiful roadway bridge, looking as if it rose of its own free will out of a cleft in the mountain:

A beautiful feat of engineering design by Glenn S. Paxson

The 101 wraps around Neahkahnie Mountain thanks to an amazing bridge/road designed by Oregon state bridge engineer Glenn S. Paxson and built during the Great Depression by men who obviously knew what they were doing and had pride in their work.  The stone masonry that covers the reinforced concrete bridge in this picture extends along the railings around the mountain, and is so harmonious with the mountain itself and the ocean below as you drive.  How often is a road so beautiful it rocks you back?

A little closer look at the sort of work they did in 1937. (See the car headlights?)

The view from the road ain't bad either... 🙂

One last bit of prettiness before I sign off — many of the little towns along the 101 have welcome signs that are works of art.  This one is carved, painted, gold-leafed, and has a cutout with a 3-D ship made of metal inserted (sorry about the power pole, but I’m not going to photoshop that bit of reality):

A good first impression of the town

My city has a welcome sign made of recycled plastic.  The less said, the better…

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After spending the night in Cape Disappointment State Park, we crossed the Astoria-Megler bridge over the mouth of the Columbia River into Astoria, Oregon.  I like the visual rhythm of the bridge trusses and rocks in this photo:

Astoria-Megler Bridge -- over four miles long

But I like this shot of the bridge as well:

View from the Astoria Column

The 125-foot-tall Astoria Column was built in 1926 by the Great Northern Railway.  Its purpose was to attract suckers  tourists like me (it worked!).  I climbed its interior spiral staircase (164 steps!) and stumbled out gasping onto the viewing platform for a panorama of mountains, river, ocean and city.  There were gorgeous vistas, spitting rain, and sporadic gusting winds trying to blast the camera out of my hands:

Astoria Column viewing platform (hang on to your camera!)

The column has Pacific Northwest historical scenes carved and painted, spiraling, into its concrete exterior.  I don’t know how many sinking ships are depicted, but we learned that the Columbia River Bar is still the most treacherous in the world when we visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  A Columbia River Bar Pilot has to take the helm of every ship that needs to make it through the perilous collision of river and ocean.  (The videos of this are incredible, BTW).

At the museum, my inner nerd finally had free rein, fell in love with ancient technology, and grabbed the camera:

Oil lamp mounted on a gimbal to keep it level regardless of ship movement

I’m starting to understand the steampunk fascination with old technology applied in a beautiful way.  Ship compasses, candles, lamps and so forth have been gimbal-mounted for over 2000 years (thank you, ancient Greeks), and sailors reading this would be amused at my admiration for something they take for granted, but hey!  How cool is that lamp?  🙂  Bear with me — just one more photo out of many:

This combination skylight, air vent and bench seat came from the deck of a paddlewheel ship that plied the Columbia.  I admire the problem-solving ingenuity, the craftsmanship, and the desire to make a thing beautiful as well as functional.

Speaking of which — wait until you see the road we drove down later!…

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Up the 97 we went, crossing the Columbia River from Oregon into Washington near the dam at The Dalles:

One of 14 major dams on the Columbia River

Bridge at The Dalles

We drove around befuddled in farm country for a bit until we picked up the 14 and headed west through the Columbia Gorge.

The Columbia was once a wild, roaring beast of a river rampaging its way through the Cascade range.  Locks and hydroelectric dams changed all that.  The Gorge itself is mile after winding mile of forests and mountains, some with tunnels carved through for trains or cars; little towns strung along the highway like beads on a string; and always, the gigantic river nearby, glimpsed through the trees or dominating the landscape in the clearings.  You can follow the tracks of the Lewis and Clark expedition (pullouts, historical markers, signage galore), and imagine their astonishment if they could see the changes that have taken place since their journey into the unknown.

View from a trail at a rest stop along the Gorge

Most of the 190 miles between The Dalles and Vancouver were serious eye candy. Vancouver itself?  Not so much… 🙂

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After we left amazingly beautiful Crater Lake, we continued north on the 97 toward The Dalles and the Columbia River Gorge.  Since we were in no rush, we pulled off the freeway and headed for a visitor’s center near another lava cave, but it turned out to be closed and blocked off for the night.  Hmm, I said, bummer, did a 180, and drove until I found a day-use parking lot tucked in the woods.  I decided it might make a good night-use parking lot as well. (I don’t actually recommend this as a rule.  It’s better to turn off into one of the many little parking spots scattered through the national forest system and tuck in for the night.  No risk of a $250 fine that way).

Anyhow, this area is used as a put-in for kayaks and such on the Deschutes River — which changes from serene…

…to active…

…to rock’n’roll:

There is a very nice section of trail with zigzagging paths lined with split rail fences, leading to platforms with stunning views of the river.  It has a plaque:  “This project constructed in cooperation with the family & friends of Michael Todd McDonald, 1961-1984.”  I’d like to thank them for such a wonderful gift to the public.

And off we went, up the 97 toward The Dalles and the Columbia River Gorge.  More later…


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Okay, I had a little delay in posting the photos from the next stop on our itinerary, Crater Lake.  I’ll explain why in a future post, but right now, I just want to show you some photos that I hope will do Crater Lake justice:

Crater Lake

That’s Llao Rock in the background, and Wizard Island to the right.

The cleanest, clearest lake I've ever seen

Thousands of years ago, a volcano that is now called Mount Mazama blew up with the force of Mt. St. Helens times 100, and collapsed on itself.  The ash it spewed spread as far as Canada, Yellowstone Park and Nebraska, and it could cover present-day Oregon eight inches deep.  In the Sinnott Memorial Overlook on the lake’s rim (an interesting and informative visitor center) there was a tiny, poignant exhibit in a corner — a replica of a pair of sandals found buried under a deep layer of ash in a cave.  I can’t imagine the terror of the Klamath people as the mountain exploded.

What remained after this cataclysm was a caldera that eventually filled with rainwater and snowmelt — over 500 inches of snow a year.  Crater Lake is incredibly clean and clear, thanks to no development or runoff.  At almost 2000 feet deep, the deepest lake in America, it swallows all the colors of the light spectrum except blue.

Wizard Island is actually a dormant volcano lying within the caldera of dormant Mount Mazama, and there are about twenty more cones hiding underwater.  There are vents heating the water at the bottom of the lake — Mazama’s sleeping, not dead.

The entire 33-mile Rim Drive was snow-free and open, and we took advantage of it. There are so many beautiful overlooks, so many trails:

Castle Crest Trail had wildflowers in a meadow and bridges over rushing streams.

We spent a couple of days at Crater Lake.  On our second day, work crews with a drilling machine were installing ten-foot tall snow poles at the edges of the roads.  The poles had strips of reflective tape around the tops; snow was in the forecast and time was getting short.  We had spent the first night in the visitors center parking lot, but got kicked out the second night.  🙂  As we headed down the mountain toward the closed Mazama campground (and another, slightly less illegal parking place), the tops of the snow poles twinkled in the headlights, guiding us down through the pitch black night.

I liked the Maxfield Parrish light on these grasses and trees

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There, I said it.  The overpriced corporatized coffee behemoth, scourge of mom and pop coffeehouses nationwide, blah-diddy-blah.  I don’t care — it gave me a place to go this morning to post this.  Ahhh, Starbucks.  Breakfast sandwich, coffee and wi-fi, electrical outlets at every table for laptops.  It’s drizzling out there (surprise! Washington in October, go figure!) but cozy in here.

This country is so full of stunning, gorgeous, knock-your-socks-off beauty.  I forget that sometimes, but this trip has been a continuous reminder…

The Alabama Hills’ cowboy movie deja vu voodoo outside of Lone Pine:

On the Arch Rock Trail, Movie Road, Alabama Hills

June Lake Loop’s chain of lovely lakes, each with its own personality:

Gull Lake on the June Lake Loop off the 395 outside of Bishop

Lava Beds National Monument, the coolest, most interesting place I’d never heard of:

Sentinel Cave, Lava Beds National Monument

Crater Lake’s embodiment of  “blueness” and mind-boggling creation story:

Crater Lake National Park

Deschutes River’s wild, rip-roaring waterfalls alongside its walking trails:

Benham Falls, Deschutes River

The Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side, heading west through forested cliffs carved with drive-through tunnels, breathtaking views at every turn in the road:

Train tunnel through Columbia River Gorge, Washington side

…well, you get the picture(s)!

I’ll be writing more about all these wonderful places, the people we’ve met, and the things we’ve done and learned.  Talk to y’all later…

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