03-22 to 24-2021 Off to the Smith with Deborah

Once again we decided that a shared camping trip with my daughter Deborah would be a great way to spend some time in a beautiful place.  Our plan was to camp near the Smith River in California so Deb could hone her fishing skills.

Mo and I had camped at Redwood Meadows RV Resort in Hiouchi back in November of 2010 in a nice little spot adjacent to a tiny bubbling creek.  Even though there is a bit of road noise from Highway 199, it isn’t terribly intrusive and the site we like is set a bit apart from some of the other sites.  We made reservations, and during the process discovered that Redwood Meadows is owned by the same people who own the Shoreline RV Park where we camped in Eureka.  When talking with Brenda at the office while making the reservation I mentioned Shoreline in passing and Brenda made sure I received a 15 percent discount since I had camped at one of their parks.  I never asked if the discount had an ending date, but was happy for the little bit of additional savings, more than the 10 percent we usually get for AARP, AAA, or military discounts.

After spending several days with Deb in the MoHo last month, we knew how to manage the small space and enjoy being together.  This time Deb was insistent that she provide one of our meals, and had a great pot of beef stroganoff with wide noodles all pre-cooked and ready to go.  We hoped for another supper of fresh caught fish, and maybe a third night of fish and chips at our favorite spot in Crescent City, not far west from our camping site in Houichi.

Deb purchased a 2 day fishing license for California, in addition to tags for both salmon and steelhead, and came prepared with pole, bait, and a tackle box of goodies.  She read up on local fishing stories, best bait to use, and where the good holes were located.

We left Grants Pass around 11, knowing that we couldn’t check in to Redwood Meadows until 1PM.  Since it was Sunday, no one was in the office, but I knew exactly where to find the envelope with our check-in information.  I have to say that Brenda was so helpful and considerate throughout this entire process.  She called a couple of times before we left home to double check how we were doing and make sure we knew that she had saved our requested spot.  I was truly impressed with how well everything was managed at this park.

We knew the weather might be a bit iffy for a day or two during our visit, but Deb was undaunted.  She had no qualms about fishing in the rain if need be.  That first afternoon after we set up the rig Mo settled in with Mattie while Deb and I got in the Tracker to scope out where the fishing holes were located, what Mo called, “A reconnaissance trip”.

Some of the maps that Deb had were hard to understand and it took awhile to get a good picture of where the various sections of the river began.  For fishing these waters it is imperative that you know exactly where you are on the river since the rules vary by section.  Deb also discovered that the entire section of the river required barbless hooks so she needed to pick up some of those on her way to our home before we left. 

Our RV park was just a short distance from the main entrance to Jedediah Smith State and National Park, right along Highway 199 where the Smith River flows west and north toward the ocean 7 miles distant.  With a bit of wandering about we found all the fishing holes Deb wanted to try, and even saw a few people fishing in the late afternoon.

Back home we settled in for supper, a truly grand meal thanks to Deborah, with plenty for leftovers.  By the time we returned, Mo had started a lovely campfire and after dinner we sat outside to enjoy the evening and roast a few marshmallows with the super roasting sticks that Deborah sent to us as a gift after our last camping trip.  My old sticks were short, and these new ones extend to a perfect length, with two prongs on the end to keep the marshmallows from dripping off as they get hot, and metal that stays cool to the touch, maybe titanium?

After a great night’s sleep, with no problems from the highway noise, we woke to a cloudy morning with rain predicted for much of the day.  After breakfast the three of us piled into the Tracker, Deb with her gear and Mo, Mattie, and I with coffee and phones and a book to read while Deborah fished.

The first site we explored was right near the bridge where Highway 199 crosses the Smith River.  Named Society Hole, we were tickled to see the fishing symbol on the sign at the entrance to a parking area that even had a small outhouse.

Deb headed down to the river, and in spite of the chilly and damp weather was thrilled to be fishing once again.  It has been awhile since she got out with her poles.  Her favorite fishing was during her years in Texas along the coast where she fished in the ocean with great success.  She also fished successfully for trout in Pelican Bay near our previous home in Rocky Point.

She walked the rocky bar adjacent to the river, casting into the deep pools as far as she could reach, but to no avail.  We noticed that with the incredibly clear water of the river we should have been able to see a fish or two.  Not a one appeared, either visually or on Deborah’s hook.  Still, it was a lovely morning for all three of us, especially when the sun peeked through now and then. 

I spent some time walking the gravel bar as well and was amazed at the gorgeous river worn rocks.  Most of the geology of the upper Smith is in serpentine and various types of metamorphic rocks, including jade and jadeite.  I have no clue which of these rocks were actually jade, but picked up one to take to daughter Melody, who informed me if I didn’t bring her one, I didn’t love her!

By early afternoon I received an expected text message from an old friend.  Ben Marshall, a soil scientist who worked for me in 2008 and 2009 in Sonora California was traveling from Coos Bay to his family home in the Mother Lode area in California.  Ben now lives with his wife Meghan and two young boys in Maryland, where he is an MLRA Leader for soil survey.  That is the position I was in just before retiring when Ben worked for me.  I remember long conversations with Ben about how he really wanted a wife and kids, to build a family.  Ben met Meghan at a Basic Soil Survey training class and they fell in love.  Meghan applied for a job in my office, and it was a bit of a difficult thing because my supervisor was adamant that having partners in the same office was not a good thing. I told my boss, “If we don’t hire Meghan, we will lose Ben”.  The rest is history.  Meghan came to work for me as well, she and Ben got married, moved to Maryland and now have two sweet little boys. 

Ben, traveling with his youngest boy, arrived in late afternoon.  Masked and careful, even his young son, we had a great visit, catching up on old times and laughing with the memories of soil survey in those years.  It was great to see him.  It is lovely when people from a past life care enough to make an effort to visit.

Without fish for the Monday evening menu we settled in with a meat loaf I had prepared, just in case.  It was also delicious and once again we enjoyed a nice campfire with marshmallows.  Mo and I put out our awning, a new one that we replaced a couple of years ago and haven’t used since.  Often the winds are too unpredictable to leave out the awning.  This time we were protected from the wind and had no problem.  However, Mo was careful to put the awning up at enough of an angle that the rainwater would run off without pooling and causing any problems.

Another good night’s sleep and we were ready for a day of exploring more holes along the river.  This time we traveled Walker Road, a dirt track that meanders through Jedediah Smith State Park toward the river.  On our last trip through this area we stopped at the visitor center where we learned about Walker Road, but chose to skip it since we were on the way farther south and didn’t want to have to unhook the Tracker to explore it. 

It was absolutely gorgeous!  Most people traveling through this area visit the main park road or the access road to Stout Grove farther north in the park.  It was the first time in all the years we have traveled this route that we had a real reason to explore Walker Road.

Once again, the fishing area was beautiful, the river gorgeous and incredibly clear.  The morning fog began to lift around 9, earlier than we expected, and the sunshine made everything sparkle.  After a few hours at this hole, once again Deborah decided that it might be time to try another spot.  We decided to go home for some lunch and a bit of relaxation before Deb and I drove back to another highly recommended spot.  Mo and Mattie stayed home in the Moho for some down time.

This time Deb and I decided to try another route, a dirt track that showed several access points that we had seen that morning from the west side of the river. The road wasn’t too bad, but we did have to drive through a few deep pools left from the recent rains.  We hoped to get all the way to the area across the river where we had been in the morning, but the last deep pool was too much for the Tracker.

I thought I might need to double check the depth, and it was a good thing I did because the water was 3/4 of the way up the tires, with a soft mushy bottom toward the end, and deep enough to bury the exhaust pipe of the car.  I was glad Deb had some waders with her.  She never used them, but they sure helped me as I crossed that deep pool.

We had Mattie with us on this sunny, gorgeous afternoon and she loved following Deb as she fished along the shoreline.  I managed to wrangle my walker out of the car to help a bit with walking the distance over the rough gravel bar, but I think I had to carry the walker more than I used it.  Still, it was nice to sit there in the sunshine and listen to the river and watch Deb fish.

Once again, incredibly clear water, but no fish.  Deb loved every minute, though, insisted that she didn’t care that much and was just happy to be out there fishing.  It was a magical afternoon.

When we got back to camp, Mo had been visiting with a camping neighbor who had fishing gear in his truck.  He told her that all the fish were gone for the time being, with the local river guides taking vacation time until the fish come back!  He managed to catch trout by traveling 20 miles upstream to his friend’s home right on the river bank and sitting there all day.  Ah well…who knew.  Deb and I thought that maybe next time she might like to go during the Christmas steelhead season and hire a guide to help her learn the river from a local.

With no fresh fish, our plan for Tuesday evening was to take the short drive to Crescent City to visit our favorite spot for fish and chips, the Chart Room.  I knew they were closed on Monday, so we saved that trip for Tuesday.  It was a lovely drive, and when we got there I discovered that my memory of the place being closed on Monday was wrong.  It is closed on Tuesdays!  Ah well.  Instead we rambled back through town along the highway and found another place, one I still only thing of as “restaurant” because that is what I saw on the sign.

The place was funky and charming in the way the coastal coffee shops often are with a laid back vibe and lots of souvenir racks in the middle of the room, fish murals on the walls, and friendly waitresses. We had excellent service, good decent ordinary food, and yes, we ate indoors!  Everyone was masked as they entered the restaurant, and tables were more than 6 feet apart.  Even though Mo and I have only had one vaccination, Deb has had her second, and with numbers going down we felt safe enough. I had forgotten how much fun it is to actually sit in a restaurant, sharing food and background noise with all sorts of people you don’t know.  Why is that fun?  I have no clue, but it was nice to be able to dine inside again.

We went home to enjoy our last campfire of the trip, laugh about the closed restaurant and the lack of fish in the river, and spend another night together in the MoHo.

It was a simple trip, a bit less than 2 hours from home, and yet it felt like another vacation from everyday life.  Deb kept worrying that we were making the entire trip about her desire to fish.  I told her that was great!  It is always nice to have a focus for a trip.  We learned a lot and saw parts of the Smith River that we wouldn’t have seen without Deborah along.  Mo and I love our own company, but having another compatible, easy person to share a trip with had been delightful.  Deb is now hooked of course, and wants her own camping rig. She might decide that a trailer is better for her than a small van, especially since vans are becoming so popular and so highly priced, even for used ones. She spent the entire last part of the trip looking up trailers and vans.

Our trip home was uneventful.  We are used to traveling Highway 199, high on a cliff above the Middle Fork of the Smith.  Such a gorgeous river. We left on Wednesday.  Once home, we discovered that just a day later on Thursday, right near the intersection of Highway 199 and Walker Road a huge redwood fell across the highway, killing two unsuspecting people traveling along in their car.

When Deb and I first explored Walker Road we saw a big tree that had fallen across the road that was being cleaned up. Still, it never really occurred to me that those huge old trees could fall without warning on a perfectly clear, non windy day.  Of course, if you spend any time walking the redwood forests, you will see huge trees everywhere that have fallen at one time or another.  As many times as we have driven through the redwoods on our way to the coast, I never gave it a moment of thought.  I might think differently next time, but it won’t keep me from driving the Redwood Highway.

03-01-2021 A Birthday Bridge Bash for Mo

Before I go much farther, I need to mention that “Mo” is Sharon O Sligar.  That nickname has been around for almost 20 years, bestowed on her by my sister for some complex reasons.  The name stuck, mostly because Mo likes it.  She said the other day to someone who asked, “Yes, my given name is Sharon, but many friends know me as Mo.  I like that nickname”.

With our southern desert sojourn postponed indefinitely, I asked Mo what she might want to do for her birthday.  Dinner out?  Oops…maybe not yet.  A cake?  Nah, she isn’t particularly a cake lover.  Maybe a pie. 

Yesterday afternoon she presented me with a plan.  She has “A Guidebook to Places of Special Interest: Southern Oregon and Northern California”, published by the Medford Mail Tribune way back in 1992.  Reviewing some of the local interesting spots we might have missed, she decided that a round trip drive to the 5 covered bridges in Josephine and Jackson counties was what she wanted to do to celebrate her day.

We have visited 4 of these 5 bridges in the past, and both of us thought that it would be fun to follow the back roads listed in the guidebook and photograph all the bridges on the same day.  Some of you may remember our covered bridge trip in other parts of Oregon that we did in 2012.  On that camping adventure we spent several days driving to more than 40 bridges, but we didn’t visit the bridges in our own local area.

Springtime is close here at Sunset House, but the mornings are still frosty and often foggy. No worries, however, with predictions for a sunny day ahead it was perfect weather for a drive.  Following the directions in Mo’s book, I mapped out a somewhat reasonable route for us to get to all 5 bridges in a day.  It was basically a big circle with a couple of extended arms.

After perusing the route and checking timing for traveling in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, we decided to visit the Grave Creek Bridge early in the day.  We have seen this bridge before, on a sunny morning in early March in 2018. I never blogged our visit, but we both remember it well for the sweet man working on the bridge who told us many stories about the local area.  He especially loved working on the covered bridges.

Here is the photo I finally found from our visit in 2018

Here is a bit of a funny story about the photos of that day.  I somehow lost them.  Not on my computer, not in Google Photos, not in Lightroom or uploaded to my extensive galleries on SmugMug.  I couldn’t figure it out.  Finally, I searched our calendar and came up with the day of our visit, and searching my Facebook uploads I found 5 photos of that morning.  I had tons of photos both before and after in my galleries online and on the computer.  For once, the facebook uploads saved a memory that might have been lost if I hadn’t posted it.  Rather amazing.  Although the process took an entire hour out of my blog writing time this morning!

The Grave Creek Bridge is in Sunny Valley, about 15 miles north of Grants Pass, and can be seen from Interstate 5. It has six gothic style windows on either side, concrete abutments, a Howe truss, rounded portals and a shake roof. It is quite a lovely bridge, with views of the creek below.  The old wooden river crossing is the last covered bridge on the north-south Pacific Highway system. It was built in 1920 in just four months. When Interstate 5 was built nearby, ownership and maintenance of the Sunny Valley Loop Road, which includes Grave Creek Bridge, passed to Josephine County.
In the late 1990s, the bridge was closed to traffic and was reopened in 2001 after repairs to the approaches and housing.

In 1846 the first emigrant train from Fort Hall, Idaho, to travel the southern route to the Willamette Valley camped on the north side of this creek, then Woodpile Creek. Martha Leland Crowley, 16 years old died of typhoid fever during this encampment and was buried 150 feet north of the creek on the east side of a white oak tree that was later removed for the present roadway, Thus the name “Grave Creek”.

The nearby Applegate Trail Interpretive Center provides a first hand look into the local area, history, fabulous displays, theatre & more. Sadly it was closed both times that we visited the bridge. There are many local museums that are closed due to COVID.  Someday we may have to return and visit.

The design is “Covered Howe through truss”.  After our previous covered bridge explorations, we enjoy paying attention to the different types of construction and trusses.
Length of largest span: 105.0 ft. Total length: 220.2 ft. Deck width: 18.4 ft. Vertical clearance above deck: 15.0 ft.

We parked on the south side of the bridge, and I walked through taking a photo of Mo driving through in the car.  We then parked on the north side of the bridge, trying to figure out where the buildings from the old town site shown on the information panels were located.  Seems as though they are all now gone, with nothing but open fields  and a few newer houses to mark what was once the small village of Fort Leland.

Returning to the interstate, we drove south over Sexton Pass toward Grants Pass and on to Rogue River.  Even though the skies were clear, at the approximately 1900 foot elevation at the summit, we saw a lot of smoke throughout the valley where Grants Pass sits along the Rogue River.  It seems that sunny clear days are often burn days this time of year, and burning is a very popular option for rural folks.

As long as we have lived in this area, we have never traveled the road north from Rogue River along Evans Creek toward the tiny hamlet of Wimer. It was surprising to discover this rural broad valley that is just over the ridge from I-5 and our Valley of the Rogue. 

When we arrived at the bridge, we drove through the bridge to the north side where it seems that everyone living in that area congregated.  The little store and gas station were both busy, and with 5 roads coming to the intersection at the bridge. It seemed as though most everyone knew each other, hollering “hi”from their trucks. We were definitely the outsiders.  Parking was limited but we took a spot in a wide place across from the store to explore the bridge.  It was a bit scary to walk back across the bridge to the park.  This bridge has no pedestrian pathway.

The Winer Bridge was saved from destruction when local residents battled to initiate a rebuilding of the weakened structure in 1962. Community members insist that the original bridge was built in 1892, and a sign posted on the bridge claims title to that date.  The Hartmen Brothers, bridge builders of Jacksonville, replaced the Wimer Bridge in 1927.

I didn’t learn that the Wimer Bridge had collapsed in 2003 until I began writing this blog!  The following is from a website about the bridge:

“On a hot summer afternoon, in the quiet community of Wimer, Oregon, local residents were startled to hear a giant crashing sound coming from the vicinity of their covered bridge. Customers at the Wimer Market, only a dozen paces away, rushed out to witness the unthinkable. The historic Wimer Covered Bridge in Southern Oregon had spontaneously collapsed into Evans Creek. Those who were the closest also heard shouts for help coming from inside the rubble and scampered down the bank, over the shattered shingled roof and lifted broken wooden beams to rescue a man and his two young grandsons. They were the last persons to stroll through the old covered bridge on that fateful Sunday.

The July 6, 2003 incident shocked and saddened a community. The weekly Rogue River Press expressed what many residents felt with the simple headline in its next issue: “It’s Gone!”
Ironically, the covered bridge was scheduled for a major overhaul. Engineers had completed blue prints just two months earlier and the construction project was to go out for bid in September that year. Jackson County had acquired grants for over a half million dollars for the renovation that was due to begin in 2004. But the tired old structure couldn’t wait and gave way in mid stream. Obviously, there has been a change in plans.”

Originally Built 1892, Rebuilt 1927, Rebuilt 1962, Collapsed 2003, Rebuilt 2008
with “covered through trusses”. Length of largest span: 86.0 ft., Total length: 170.9 ft., Deck width: 17.1 ft., Vertical clearance 10.1 ft.

We walked back through the bridge to the tiny park on the south side along Evans Creek.  Mattie had a chance to run around a bit and we found a very sketchy restroom that served well enough in an emergency.

Our next bridge on the loop was a considerable distance south and east in the town of Eagle Point.  We have been to Eagle Point by way of Sams Valley many times. However, we had never followed the narrow back mountain road along East Evans Creek through the Sams Valley. 

The road was narrow and twisty in some places, with larger ranches scattered throughout the landscape and many large “grows” visible along the narrow valley adjacent to the creek.  It was a pretty drive, and we were especially glad that we made the decision to do this part of the tour in the early part of the day rather than later in the afternoon ad would have been the case if we had chosen a counter clockwise route.

Crossing Dodge Bridge at the Rogue River we thought about having a picnic, but the fee to enter seemed silly and there were dogs and people around the few picnic tables.  Instead, we continued toward Eagle Point and the third bridge of the day.

The Antelope Creek Bridge is sometimes called the Butte Creek Bridge, and is just a block or so south of the beautiful old Butte Creek Mill which burned on Christmas morning in 2015.  People are continuing to make donations toward restoration of the old mill, but even after all these years, the site smelled like fire.

We parked near the bridge, across the street from a charming little town square and a big bright mural on a well lit southern facing wall with no parking in front of it.  Mural photographers will know just how hard it is to find conditions like this when trying to photograph murals.

The Antelope Creek Bridge originally spanned Antelope Creek some 10 miles southeast of Eagle Point. In August 1987, the structure was loaded onto a makeshift trailer and volunteers hauled it to the city of Eagle Point. When the bridge was rebuilt at the new site, arched openings were cut into each side so school children could be watched as they crossed the span. This alteration caused the bridge to be removed from the National Register of Historic Places.
Since then, the bridge has been re-sided in a fashion that represents the original design. Now only ribbon openings appear under the eves.

Construction is with Queenpost through trusses over Little Butte Creek on the Pedestrian Path in Eagle Point. Length of the largest span is 58.0 ft.

After visiting the bridge we decided we really wanted a place to rest a bit and enjoy our picnic lunch.  Driving through town, we discovered a fairly new city park, Lucas Park.  The bathrooms were new and spotless, with picnic tables scattered around the large grassy play area.  There were several families with young children playing on the kid toys and we watched a young woman with a baby in a stroller completing many laps of what looked to be a quarter mile paved pathway.

We sat for some time in the sun enjoying our lunch and watching people playing and visiting.  It felt like normal life pre COVID.  It was outdoors, and no one had on a mask.  I felt like I was in some kind of twilight zone!. Little kids were roller blading and scootering around the path and moms were putting kids in and out of strollers and laughing with their friends.

The next bridge on our tour required us to travel east on Highway 140, the familiar route we would take when returning from Medford to our prior home in Rocky Point.  The Lake Creek district is visible from the highway and the Lost Creek Bridge is several miles toward the mountains along Lake Creek and Lost Creek.  It is a lovely area of ranches with some historic buildings in what was once a small community.

Note that the little dog at our feet is NOT Mattie.  We had to leave Mattie in the car when two farm dogs came running toward us when we parked.  This little girl was insistent that she be a part of our photo.

We have visited Lost Creek Bridge in the past as well, and once again, I cannot find any photographic record of the visit.  I even remember taking photos of the old buildings and of daffodils by the bridge, so surely it was in the springtime.

The Lost Creek Bridge, at only 39 feet long, is the shortest of all Oregon covered bridges. Since 1979, the structure has been closed to traffic.

Many Jackson County residents, including Shirley Stone, daughter of pioneer John Walch, claim the Lost Creek Bridge to have been built as early as 1878-1881. If authenticated, this would make it Oregon’s oldest standing covered bridge. Johnny Miller, the builder of the Lost Creek Bridge, also roofed the nearby span at Lake Creek in the 1880s, thus lending credence to a sign nailed on the bridge: LOST CREEK BRIDGE, BUILT ABOUT 1881. The span may have been partially or totally rebuilt in 1919, hence the official construction date in that year.

Features of the bridge include the usual county Queenpost truss design, a shingle roof and flying buttress braces. The rough wooden flooring consists of diagonal planking, and hand hewn truss members provide structural stability. A new roof was installed by local residents in 1985. Portal boards were added in 1986, restoring the look of the span in 1920 before accommodations were made for log truck traffic.

The Walch Memorial Wayside Park abuts the bridge site. Descendants of John and Marie Newsome Walch built and maintain the park, which includes picnic tables, a bandstand, cooking areas, an early 1900s outhouse, and manicured flower gardens.

The bridge was nearly lost in the 1964 Christmas flood. As swirling waters and heavy debris lashed at its piers,residents and concerned bridge enthusiasts prayed during the night that the bridge would be saved. According to a local newspaper, the skies opened and the water receded as morning came. The journalist questioned, “Was the bridge saved by prayer?”

The final bridge we wanted to see was in the southern part of Jackson County.  Our route required traveling more than 50 miles through Central Point, the outskirts of Medford, the town of Jacksonville and the community of Ruch toward the Applegate.  Nothing new along the way for us as we have traveled these routes for years.  We thought maybe we could stop for an early supper in Jacksonville where inside dining was supposedly allowed this week.  However, it was only 3:30 when we reached Jacksonville and we were still full from our late lunch.

Instead we continued south along the Applegate River toward the McKee Bridge.  I do have photos of our visit to this bridge back in 2011, when we made a day trip from Rocky Point for a picnic.  Abby was with us on that day and one of the photos I took of her is still a favorite.

The rustic, well-known covered bridge spanning the Applegate River, just eight miles from the California border, was built in 1917 by contractor Jason Hartman and his son Wesley on land donated by Aldelbert “Deb” McKee. The bridge was used from 1917 to 1956, originally serving the mining and logging traffic.

In 1956, the bridge was declared unsafe for vehicular traffic. The combined efforts, in 1965, of the Talisman Lodge, Knights of Pythias, Upper Applegate Grange, and the Jackson County Court restored the roof, thereby keeping the aging structure open for pedestrian use. Little upkeep followed, and by the early 1980s County officials were worried about the strength of the bridge. During the summer of 1985, more than $40,000 in labor and materials were dedicated to repair the bridge and keep it open for pedestrians. Jackson County officials then announced that future County investment in the bridge would be impractical, and has looked to private efforts for ongoing preservation of the McKee span.

The McKee Committee was formed in January 1989 with the goal of raising $25,000 for preservation and maintenance of the span. By mid summer, a major portion of the funds, or volunteer labor, had been generated. Included in the final fund-raising was the sale of memorabilia and the production of an historic quilt featuring a bridge motif.

Features of the Mckee Bridge include a Howe truss design, flying buttresses, open daylighting windows at the roofline, and a shingle roof. Lindsay Applegate, for whom the stream is named, prospected the area on the way to the mines in California. The discovery of prosperous mines caused a north-south route to be developed in the area, and the covered bridge was used as a rest stop, until 1919, because it was halfway between Jacksonville and the Blue Ledge Cooper Mine to the south. Length of the largest span is 122 feet.

The picnic area next to the bridge is quite lovely, with a large gazebo with picnic tables and a big fireplace.  Surprisingly there is an old upright piano in the gazebo and I had to give it a try.  Neither Mo nor I could figure out how a piano could be left outdoors in the heat and humidity and winter cold without getting completely ruined.  When I played it a bit, I understood.  The sound was tinny and terribly out of tune, so much so that Mattie averted her head when I started playing.

By the time we left the park and began the long journey back home through the Applegate Valley, we were both fairly worn out.  I was glad Mo was driving.  There was no birthday dinner and no birthday cake or pie waiting when we got home.  Instead we got out the fixings for tacos that we enjoyed the evening before and had a perfectly delicious meal, right at home, ready in about 5 minutes from fridge to table.

Mo said she didn’t mind in the least and that her birthday had been especially satisfying.


02-17-2021 Camping Beside the Trinity River at Hayden Flat

The sun was shining on Wednesday morning when we left Eureka.  We knew that our weather on the route home from Eureka was going to be a bit of a challenge. The possibility of skipping the Trinity River and Highway 299 route east to Redding and instead driving back north on 101 was eliminated by the road closure due the the slide south of Crescent City.

With weather predictions for snow on I-5 on the way home, we accepted the possibility that we might have to stop in Redding before we hit snow at Dunsmuir and Mt Shasta.  The other option was that we might have to stop in Yreka.   We thought about simply driving fast and going directly home on Wednesday, skipping our planned night of camping at Hayden Flat.  The thought was so disappointing to all of us, especially Deborah, who said she had no problem returning a day or two late since she was still on work leave for the rest of the week.

When we left Ferndale and drove back north to Arcata the sun was shining brilliantly and the weather reports for the day ahead were close to perfect.  Traveling east on Highway 299 is a beautiful route and the best way to cross the coast range of California from the ocean to the Sacramento Valley.  There are other routes that Mo and I have taken and said “never again” in the MoHo.

The initial climb to Berry Pass isn’t particularly difficult, with a few steep hairpin curves.  The road is wide and well marked and we arrived at the Burney Point Vista just west of the pass in time for lunch.  The parking area wasn’t full but there were several Cal Trans work trucks lined up. 

Must be their lunch time too.  We parked with a view over the distant mountains, opened up the slide for comfort and settled in for a nice lunch.  The sun was warm inside the MoHo but it was brisk and breezy outdoors.

I brought out the frying pan and the olive oil and we managed to turn our cold limp french fries into something delightful for a yummy lunch.  Deb and I enjoyed a bit of the sandwich meat also heated up and much tastier than it had been the previous evening at the restaurant.

We switched drivers, so that I could drive and Deb could be in the front seat during the next section of highway which was much more curvy than the first part.  The route along the Trinity River is beautiful, climbing several hundred feet above the river far below and then dropping down again to river level. 

Mo and I had camped at Hayden Flat several years ago, and hoped to do so again.  There are two sections of the campground, with the lower section on the river side of the highway and the upper section across the road from the river.  As we approached the campground, we saw the road down to the river camp, but missed the turn. 

It seemed impossible to get down there in the Mo Ho from the vantage point of the road.  As we continued a few hundred feet toward the upper camp we were disappointed to see strong green gates announcing that the campground was closed.  Previously reading on the internet (when we still had a signal) we also discovered that the upper camp had been converted to a group site campground. We wouldn’t be able to camp there without reservations even it if had been open. An important side note; we had NO internet signal on any of our phones from Berry Pass on Highway 299 until the next day as we approached Weaverville)

A bit disappointed we slowly continued east along the highway, exploring the possibility of boondocking in one of the wide flat areas along the river.  There are many access points and even a spot with porta potties for the many people who kayak this river.

Continuing past an RV Park which looked a bit iffy and very crowded, we decided to turn around and keep looking for a pleasant roadside night spot along the highway.  Surprise surprise!  On the return trip we saw a wide spot for Hayden Flat Lower Campground, and pulled off to check out the access road.

It wasn’t as bad as we thought.  We unhooked the car to drive down and explore our options and decided getting into the empty campground was a piece of cake.  I drove down in the motorhome while Mo and Deb walked around to select our site. 

We finally settled on the perfect spot, with a fire ring overlooking the river and a nice level place for the MoHo.  As is often the case, an empty campground provides way too many choices to make it easy to decide where to be. The road was above us so there was a bit of road noise, but we didn’t imagine that would be a problem as evening progressed.  The sound of the river was loud as well, so that masked anything unpleasant that drifted down from the road.

Within minutes of getting settled in, Mo had unloaded the firewood and started a nice campfire.  She had packed enough wood for a possible fire on one night, and decided that it was time to get it going even though it was only 2:30 in the afternoon.  Mo does love her campfires.

We sat in our chairs in the warm sunshine, enjoying the fire, the river and a glass of wine letting the afternoon slide by peacefully.  Deb laughed and said she had wondered what we might have had planned for our time between parking and dinner.  She said we usually had some kinds of plans, but this time our only plan was to simply sit and enjoy.  She loved every minute of it. 

Our firewood was getting low and the fire was burning low as well when we all tried to find some kind of wood lying around camp.  Deb offered to drive off in the car to the RV Park we had seen earlier to get some firewood.  Sure enough she returned with a big bunch of wood for only 5 bucks.  In state parks it costs 5 bucks for about a quarter of what she got.  The extra wood extended our campfire long enough that we were able to heat the enchiladas over the fire and still have plenty of coals left for roasting marshmallows together.Dinner was delicious, with homemade enchiladas heated on the fire and another bit salad.

Deb and I both said we didn’t really like marshmallows, but roasting them was fun.  Somehow the marshmallows tasted delicious.  I can no longer say I don’t really like roasted marshmallows.  We talked about how our marshmallow sticks were just a bit short and Mo mentioned the telescoping sticks we had seen once in the past.


It doesn’t take much for Deb to notice small details.  This morning (a week later) a package arrived on the porch. It was a gift from Deborah thanking us for the trip and a nice little canvas case of telescoping marshmallow sticks!!  Yayyy!

The night was dark and cold and beautiful if not starry.  The clouds moved in shortly after sunset and we all slept well.  By morning, it was dark and dreary once again, and as we packed up to drive east the rain began.

I drove for a time, following the river and watching the rain get heavier and thicker until it turned to sleet and then to snow.  We were still 50 miles west of Redding as the snow started sticking to the road in earnest.  At a particularly snowy summit we decided it would be best to unhook the Tracker. 

Mo drove the MoHo and I followed in the Tracker.  As fate would have it, very soon after we passed the summit the snow once again turned to rain.

A few miles before we reached Redding we pulled over again to hook up the Tracker and continued toward town.  Stopping just outside of the city where 299 intercepts I-5, we once again checked the weather.  Although we thought we might stay in Redding for the night, the predictions for I-5 over Mt Shasta were encouraging.  Mixed rain and snow over Shasta was predicted, however the weather cams for Siskiyou Pass at the Oregon state line were daunting.  We decided to continue north toward Yreka with a plan to stay at an RV park there to wait out the storm.

Crossing Shasta was easy, with just a bit of snow, but nothing Mo and I haven’t managed in past years traveling to and from Grants Pass on I-5 over Mt Shasta.  Once down in the valley south of Yreka the snow let up and it began to rain.  We searched the internet and found the Waiika RV Park.  Near the Rain Rock Casino, it was an excellent choice.

We pulled in, signed in, and settled in for a night of waiting and watching the weather cams over the mountains on our route toward home.  The park was pleasant enough, with a level site with full hookups, and very nice, very clean bathrooms with great showers.  A quarter for 5 minutes of good hot water seemed like a real luxury.  I used three quarters and I think Deb said she used 4.  Another big salad and leftovers for supper were perfect.

I don’t think any of us slept very well, wondering what the next morning would bring.  We didn’t know for sure if we would be able to get home or not.  As soon as it was light, I started checking the web cams, Trip Advisor, ODOT Road Conditions, and any other resources I might find to let us know how the route ahead was being affect by the weather.

We were thrilled to see that the route looked do-able and packed up the MoHo and were on the road by 9.  With only a tiny bit of ice and fog at the Siskiyou Summit we were pulling into the driveway at home by 11:15.  It rained off and on along the way, but once again for the last time on this trip the travel angels kicked in and the rain stopped just long enough for all of us to unload the car and the rig as we settled back in here at home. 


From the beginning to the very end it was a perfect, delightful trip and a wonderful way to share our travels with my daughter.  I will treasure the memory always.


02-16-2021 California’s Lost Coast and More Redwoods

With predictions for sunny weather on Tuesday, we were happy that we had saved the best day for driving the wild Lost Coast roads.  There was only a little bit of fog lingering in the morning at the fairgrounds as we packed up snacks and jackets, water and supplies for our day trip.

By the time we began the long ascent up the grade toward the ridgetops, the fog was moving through the hills, sometimes obscuring the views. At other moments we could see bits of blue sky and ocean in the distance.  This was the third time Mo and I have driven this scenic backway, and somehow it wasn’t quite as scary as it has felt in the past.

I guess we might be getting used to it a bit.  Still, sharing it with Deborah added a bit a newness for us as well, seeing it through fresh eyes.

The steep grades and ocean views provide some thrilling moments. Negotiating oncoming vehicles is sometimes a bit daunting even though the road is technically a two lane road.  However, a UPS truck passed us as we were parked taking photos, and barely slowed down.

A bit later, as we were crawling down toward the ocean we suddenly were confronted with a big two trailer gravel hauler coming up the 16 percent grade around a narrow curve.  How in the world can they do that?

The steep grade from the crest of the hills south of Ferndale and the Black Sands beach at ocean level are no doubt the most exciting part of the journey.  The views open up in all directions, with peeks at the distant ocean framed by beautiful hilly fields of grazing cows.  We took our time descending, stopping often for photos.

 

At the bottom of the grade we stopped near the black sand beaches at a viewpoint for Shiprock.  I think this one looks more like a ship than the one in New Mexico.

The sun was gorgeous, but the wind was definitely chilly.

After passing through Petrolia I thought to check the map on Google Maps.  Because Mo and I had driven this route in the past, it didn’t occur to us to remember to put the California Gazetteer in the Tracker for the trip. Just south of town we came to an intersection for the road toward Honeydew or another road heading west called Lighthouse Road.  With no map, no internet, and no clue where we were heading, we decided to explore.  If it was called Lighthouse Road maybe it would lead to a lighthouse or at least to a beach, right?

After seven questionable miles, some through flooded and wet zones, we emerged at a wonderful campground with camp tables for picnicking right  on the beach.  We were at the outlet of the Mattole River and the Lost Coast Trailhead.  It was a delightful spot, with plenty of full color brochures of our location and a wonderful map to use as we continued our explorations of the remote roads leading back to Highway 101.

After lunch we walked over the dunes to the wild empty beach.  Mattie could run crazy free in the sand and Deborah was thrilled at the magnificence of the wild storm-induced surf

 

The roads through this part of California are narrow and winding and nowhere along the route is there a cell phone signal.  Even with the printed map, it was hard to gauge just how long it would take us to get from point to point.  The scenery along the way was often spectacular as we drove from dark forests to high ridges and back down again. 

As we got closer to Highway 101 there were more and more residences and farms tucked into the forest, often surrounded by very long, very tall, very expensive wooden fences.  Although Humboldt County prided itself for being the marihuana capital of the world, I would imagine that may have changed some.  We did see evidence of many grows, both small and corporate.  The climate of this area has always been among the best for growing good weed.  

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived back on Highway 101 and continued north toward the southern entrance of the Avenue of the Giants.  Being so late in the day, traffic along the byway was light, and we had no competition for parking at the roadside mileage stops.  We found a printed map of the Avenue, with mile markers listed for each interpretive stop.

We drove quite a distance to find the Bolling Grove, especially noted for its plethora of beautiful gnarled burls on the grove redwoods.  We all remembered milepost 10.5 but not one of us could remember that we were in the Bolling Grove parking area.  That became somewhat important a bit later during our visit when Deb needed to make a 911 phone call to let rescue workers know where we were located.

We thought we were the only ones in the grove until Deb saw a man lying in the creek.  I was walking toward where I had seen Deborah go into the woods but I couldn’t manage the trail to get down to the water.  Deb found a route through the thick undergrowth climbing over the huge downed redwood logs to get down to the water to the couple.

Here is her story in her words.

“When I first saw them, same vantage point Mom took this pic from, the woman was trying to help him crawl out of the creek. The creek was so loud it was hard to hear them. She said he had broken his leg but while on the phone with emergency services he told me he broke his finger. I said you broke your finger, incredulous, he said again and I heard femur. I ran back up and Mom and Mo gave me Mattie’s little wool blanket to cover him while we waited. EMT’s were there pretty quick and were going to hoist him up with a rope. I showed them the easier way around the trees how I got down there. Then two more times as more EMT’s arrived. They were able to get him in the basket and carry him out but it took a bit. They think he fractured his hip. He only had light long sleeved shirt on and was soaked when I found them. Mom said he was pretty gray as they loaded him into the ambulance but his wife said they told her he would be OK. Still don’t know if he was trying to cross over on one of the logs or fell in the rushing water. He had on good hiking boots so that was a good thing.”

It was just a truly lucky thing that we were at that grove and that Deborah’s phone actually had a signal.  My phone and Mo’s phone and the wife’s phone had no signal and there was no one else around. The wife was afraid to leave her husband alone to try to climb out to find a place where her phone would work.  I suppose if we hadn’t been there she would have eventually have had to leave him but I am glad she didn’t.

After that bit of excitement that turned out OK, we were all a bit shaken, and Deborah’s adrenaline was running very high.  We had planned to have dinner in Fortuna at the Eel River Brewing Company and Pub, and were glad that Fortuna was only about half an hour north from our location in the park. Deb had read the reviews and the online menu and we were all a bit excited to have a real meal in a real restaurant.

The pub was empty except for a few folks waiting for tables in the outside tented dining area and we settled in for a short wait.  Once at our table, we noticed that most of the customers were the kinds of people you would expect to find in a popular pub.  There were lots of good looking strapping young men drinking beer and eating simple food.  We ordered a Philly cheesesteak sandwich that advertised peppers onions and cheese on their own special beef, a mac and cheese that was glowingly described and a simple french dip for Mo.  We waited a very long time for our food, happy that we had ordered an appetizer of yummy onion rings.

Sad to say, the food was so bad that we considered it nearly inedible.  Such a disappointment!  The mac and cheese  and the french fries were cold, and there were no peppers or onions to speak of in Deb’s philly cheesesteak. The smoky flavor of the meat in her french dip didn’t appeal to Mo.  However, the amber beer was excellent and the red wine that Mo and Deborah had was OK! 

At first we weren’t going to take our food home.  It was obvious from the fact that we didn’t eat much that we weren’t exactly happy, and Deb indicated to the waitress.  The waitress avoided us as best she could and we made no more complaints.  In the end, we finished our drinks and asked for boxes.  We agreed that thinking we might get good food in a pub that catered to a young working type male might leave something to be desired.  Still, I am glad we took the food with us because with a bit of reworking it tasted just fine the next day.

Our day on the lost coast was almost a complete success.

02-15-2021 President’s Day in Victorian Ferndale

As we were planning our trip, we kept a close eye on the weather.  In spite of the predictions for rain throughout the trip, there was a small weather window for Tuesday, the 16th.  A slight chance of sunshine and only partly cloudy skies were predicted on several weather websites.

We talked about the options of visiting the tiny town of Ferndale on Tuesday rather than Monday.  Walking around a Victorian themed town in the rain might not be nearly as delightful as enjoying it during that sunny weather window. We were also a bit concerned that our visit to Ferndale coincided with President’s Day in addition to being on a Monday when small town shops are often closed.   

However, we had bigger plans that would require sunny weather much more than a simple day in Ferndale.  The Lost Coast backway was an experience that Mo and I have shared a couple of times and we wanted to share it with Deborah.  We woke up to another very gloomy day Monday morning and prepared to follow our original plan for a slow easy day moving and visiting the little town.

We took our time with an easy morning, sharing coffee, playing one more hand of Hand and Foot.  Around ten we packed up the MoHo, hooked up the car and prepared for our very short travel day. 

It was a short 21 mile jaunt from our park in Eureka to our next camping location near Ferndale. Between Eureka and Ferndale is the tiny historic hamlet of Loleta, once the location of the Loleta Cheese Factory.  As we planned the trip, knowing Deborah was a cheese lover, we included a cheese factory visit.  Sadly, that was not to be.  The cheese factory succumbed to bankruptcy just last fall.  The wonderful aged white cheddar is no more.

Mo and I have camped at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale in the past.  When we were last there the park was nearly empty but due to the wet grass the park host put us on the pavement.  This time, when we arrived, the park looked partially full and the wet grass sites were soft and there was a lot of mud.

The caretaker was an extremely friendly, talkative, jokester full of pithy comments who finally decided that the campground was much too soft for us and instead helped us settle in along the midway area of the fairgrounds.  We were behind a gate, although it was never locked so that wasn’t a problem.  He assured us the “homeless types” were not a problem here because he made sure they weren’t encouraged.  He also assured us the the police drove through repeatedly throughout the night so we shouldn’t be worried.  It hadn’t occurred to us to be worried but we smiled and nodded and said Thank You.  He also was completely unconcerned about taking our money and said he would get back to us for that part in the next couple of days.

This photo was taken on our sunny Tuesday, not the day we arrived in the rain.

We settled in, unhooked the Tracker and let Mattie have a nice little run on the thick very wet grass.  Our friendly camp host also called around to some of the local restaurants to check if there was inside or outside seating available.  Deb wanted to treat us to a nice dinner out while we were on this trip and our fish and chips luxury from Crescent City wasn’t enough to satisfy her.  We decided to save the eating out day for Tuesday, when we knew we would be tired from a long day exploring the Lost Coast.

The trip to town was walkable, but not on this day in the gloom, and probably not for me.  When we arrived in Ferndale, I decided it would be best for me to try using my walker instead of sticks.  It was an excellent choice.  Sometimes standing around gives me a lot more trouble than walking and I had the option of not being in a rush and being able to sit down while Deborah browsed to her heart’s content.

Ferndale is a truly charming place, and even in the pandemic it was lovely to visit.  The architecture is beautiful enough from the outside that indoor shopping wasn’t needed to enjoy the town.  However, a few shops were open where we meandered and perused the lovely offerings.  One store we especially enjoyed has delightful linens, soaps and lotions, art and jewelry.  It was a shop Mo and I had visited in the past and it was nice to see it thriving in spite of Covid.

After browsing the main street of the charming town, we decided to visit the cemetery.  I managed to walk the distance without having to reload the walker and Mo drove there to meet us as we arrived.  I think the Ferndale cemetery is one of the most charming we have visited.  Only one I remember that comes close is the beautiful cemetery on the hills around Natchez, Mississippi.

Mo stayed with Mattie when we discovered a sign saying no dogs were allowed.  She took her for a nice walk and by the time Deb and I returned she and Mattie were on their way to the car as well.

After walking the cemetery, where I was most grateful for my little red walker on those hills, we discussed exploring the beach just five miles west of town.  Not surprising that all three of us were happy to give up more explorations and return to the warm and cozy MoHo. Deb and I played cards and Mo again watched news as we whiled away the chilly afternoon all snugged up and happy.

Dinner was precooked ribs I brought from home and a big salad.  I thought of my friend Jeanne who loves my ribs. I know that if Jeanne comes west from her Vermont home to visit, those ribs are an absolute must! We shared a bottle of Druid’s Fluid, a lovely red blend from our local Troon’s Vineyard that Deb brought along on the trip to celebrate Valentine’s Day and chocolate.  It was just as good with our ribs!

It was a perfect day even with the gloomy weather and we were excited to read weather reports that indicated our Tuesday day of explorations would be lit by brilliant sunshine and no rain.