August 29 Monday The Dahlia Festival

dahlias_57Seems as though there is always some kind of festival going on during the summer months.  Usually named for a flower, a fruit, or a vegetable, these festivals are really worth the effort.  The Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California and the Asparagus Festival in Stockton are some down-home country festivals that got completely out of control.  Thousands of people crowd the hundreds of booths and the original concept is lost.  Can you count the Apple Festivals and Strawberry Festivals that are dotted all over the United States and Canada?  A google search will open your eyes to that one!

dahlias_60Our short little camping trip north was inspired by one such festival.  The difference with this one is that it isn’t a town or village thing, it is a chance for a local grower of dahlias to open their land for just six days a year to the adoring public.  I had no clue just how adoring the public was until we arrived at the parking lot on Monday morning and found row after row of cars, buses, vans, and fields filled with folks admiring the dahlias.

Silverton seedsLet me backtrack a bit. When we woke up Monday morning, the skies were cloudy and overcast and the temperature was in the low 50’s.  A very light mist created a chilly, damp atmosphere.  Remember I said I only brought shorts?  Even though the forecast was for 85 degrees and sunshine for the entire week, I should have known better.  Digging around in the few clothes I brought delivered my kayak pants, just in case, so I donned the kayak pants and the one sweatshirt I managed to pack, and I was ready for the day in spite of myself.

Silverton seeds-9Even though I had no WiFi in the park, my iPhone had 5 bars and 3G, so I loaded up google maps to locate the Swan Island Dahlia Farm. It was just about an hour north in Canby, an agricultural paradise between I-5 and the mountains in the northern part of the Willamette Valley. We took our time, and when a sliver of lavender blue appeared in the distance, we ambled off the course to find amazing fields of annuals grown for seed by the Silver Falls Seed Company

I used to grow annual larkspur for drying, and always had trouble finding seed that was an individual color not a mix.  Lying in front of me were gorgeous fields of blue, lavender, pink, and rose, all perfect tall lush flowers of larkspur.  Other fields were filled with godetia, one of my favorite little annuals, and other flowers that I didn’t quite recognize.  In a way I was delighted to have subdued skies so the colors would show up more dramatically in the photos.

dahlias_32It wasn’t long before we arrived at the Swan Island Dahlia Festival, to join in the admiring crowds with their oohs and aahhs.  Even little kids were getting into the thrill of seeing a truly amazing huge dahlia bigger than a dinner plate, amazed at the sensory overload of row after row of flowers bred in every conceivable shape and color.

Swan Island Dahlias is the largest and leading dahlia grower in the United States. The farm is now located in the town of Canby, in the rich soil of the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The farm was originally located in Portland, Oregon, with some buildings on Swan Island, which is where the farm derived its name. There was also a roadside stand in Sellwood, a suburb of Portland, so the business was known as both Swan Island Dahlias and Portland Dahlia Gardens at that time.

dahlias_28Swan Island Dahlias was moved to Canby, Oregon on rented land in the 1940’s. Around 1953, 20 acres of farmland was purchased in Canby, and the business was relocated to its present site. This particular bit of information was helpful because Mo grew up near the real Swan Island and picked beans there and she couldn’t understand why the dahlia farm in Canby was called Swan Island Dahlias!

If you have ever grown dahlias, you know how much work they can be.  A difference in this part of Oregon is that the climate allows you to actually leave your dahlias in the ground over the winter and still have flowers come up in the spring.  Where I lived, I had to lift my hundreds of dahlias one by one every winter, divide them and pack them carefully in sawdust in the root cellar.  I treasured those flowers, believe me.  So I was like all those little kids ooh-ing and aah-ing through the fields, thrilled and amazed, and especially excited when I would find an old friend variety among the bunch that was still in cultivation. 

dahlias_51After we wandered the 40 acres of fields, we visited the big storage shed where one of the granddaughters in this family owned business demonstrated how to arrange dahlias while she talked about every possible cultural need.  Many folks asked lots of questions and I was amazed at her knowledge. Grandpa passed away in 2007, but the family carries on with this beautiful family business.

dahlias_101Thoroughly overloaded with dahlia heaven, we were still in for a big surprise when we entered the indoor display, with three rooms of dahlia arrangements.  I knew about the indoor rooms, but imagined something a bit like a county fair, with vases of flowers.  What an understatement.  The huge displays in the three large rooms were mind boggling, huge lush over-the-top craziness, piles of dahlias of every color and type.  Hundreds of flowers in a single arrangement and literally hundreds of arrangements.  It was a great way to pick your favorites and then go to the order desk to buy tubers for spring delivery. It’s a good thing I don’t have a lot of room or a long growing season, or I would have parted with a good chunk of money.

dahlias_144When we finally left the farm, the sun was warming up a bit and we ambled around Canby to explore the town and the area.  We found Molalla River State Park, a perfect place for Abby to run in the off-leash dog area, with many trails along the river, but no overnight facilities.  Just north of the farm, we found the Canby Ferry crossing the Willamette River and saving many miles of travel for folks going north.  The ferry is free for pedestrians, but we just chose to sit on the bluff above the river and watch for awhile.  I couldn’t help comparing the gentle crossing with the wild currents of the Yukon River at the ferry in Dawson City.  This crossing took all of two minutes, and the cars lining up on either side of the river had at most a 5 minute wait in line. I love how these remnants of older times appear on the back roads of Oregon.  Many of the old ferries have been replaced by bridges, so it was nice to see this little piece of history still in operation.

Capture 37 milesWe traveled home through Silverton, with a stop at on of my favorite grocery stores for a few supplies.  Back in camp, we decided we had time for some good biking on the beautiful trails and enjoyed the emptiness of the day use area even though the campground was still full to the brim.  No one was swimming, and no one was out on the bike trails either, and the waterfall trail was nearly empty.  Abby is pretty good at going along on the leash while we bike, but now and then she gets a bit excited and crosses over to the wrong side.  We have learned that if I stay in front of Mo, Abby will try to keep up with me and not dawdle.  The best part of this for Mo is that Abby actually helps pull her up the steep parts of the trail!  I finally said, “My turn to have Abby, this hill is steep”!  We switched, and I couldn’t believe just what a difference she made.  Mush! Abby!!

Home to camp and grilled veggies and another beautiful campfire.

The rest of the dahlia photos are linked here

Tomorrow: We meet Russ and Donna and hike the Mackenzie River waterfalls


August 28 Sunday Camping at Silver Falls State Park

Capture 255 milesIt has been less than two weeks since we returned from our long trek to Alaska, but a short three day jaunt to a beautiful Oregon State Park seemed just so simple.  We planned this trip for a couple of reasons: For one, we loved Silver Falls when we visited in the spring of 2010.  The real reason for the trip, however, was to see the dahlias in full bloom during the Swan Island Dahlia Festival nearby in Canby. 

I grew hundreds of dahlias at one time, selling cut flowers at a weekend farmers market along with my dried flower bouquets and fresh herbs.  It was a good time in my life, but oh sooo much work.  Here at Rocky Point, I don’t have much opportunity to grow dahlias, although I still plan to at least try. Mo and I plan to downsize by 2020 or so, and my one request is that we do so in a place where I can putter in a real garden with a real growing season and grow dahlias. 

As we readied for the short trip, 255 miles total, everything seemed just incredibly simple.  The MoHo was spotless and lovely, and I only needed clothes for three days and two nights. With the temperatures predicted for the area in the mid 80’s, shorts were in order, and I didn’t even bother with sweats or long pants.  (Oops, we live in Oregon for pete’s sake!). Food was simple as well, just two dinners, a couple of breakfasts, and some hiking food for daytime.  Gee.  We were loaded and ready to go in no time. After the long preparations for the Alaska trip, this was such a delight.

overlooking Upper Klamath NWR from Westside RoadWe took our time getting on the road, enjoying the warm, sunny morning. Dressed in shorts and sleeveless tops, we were glad to have returned home to Oregon in August to enjoy what Laurie and Odel called the “elusive Oregon summer”.  Yes, it IS elusive at times, but less so on the east side of the mountains where we live. 

heading west on Willamette Pass hwy 58 smog in our future :(Fire is a given in the west, and as we crossed the Wood River Valley just north of home and the Upper Klamath NWR, there was smoke evident to the east and north from the many fires ignited in Central Oregon over the past couple of weeks.  The route is familiar and a bit boring at times, especially north on Highway 97.  The soils are deep pumice from the eruption of Crater Lake (Mt Mazama) more than 7,000 years ago, and the vegetation is dry lodgepole and ponderosa pine.  Only after the route rises to Willamette Pass does the timber begin to thicken and darken to lush Oregon green.

The Willamette Valley is the heart of Oregon, even though the actual area is very small when compared to the entire state.  Eugene is the largest city south of Portland in this valley, and as we entered Eugene we noticed the brown pall of smoke in the air from burning fields of blue grass, from dust rising from busy plows, and yes, from cars.  I think that is actually smog, although being raised in Southern California I do know that real smog is a bit uglier than what we found on the Eugene skyline.

Silver Falls Campground near site 79hurry up Mom!By the time we got to the park, it was evident that even on a Sunday afternoon, this was a very popular place.  I am glad that we made a reservation back in April, since the park was completely filled for the entire week!  It was warm and sunny, and we were glad for a shady site with power and water to enjoy the late afternoon.  Jeremy was really anxious to get out of the rig and explore, and I put on his fancy city harness and he was out of the rig before I could get down the steps.  He is funny, sitting quietly for the harness, and the minute the last snap is done he jumps down to the door knowing it it time! Even at 15 years old, I think he might want to explore farther than I would want, so I keep him harnessed when we are camping for safety.

paved bike trail from the campground to the dog areaAs the evening progressed, we took the beautiful paved bike trail to the dog exercise area, a special treat in a state park because this one if for dogs off leash!  To our surprise, on this warm Sunday evening, there were no dogs there.  Families were everywhere, with children playing in the swimming area along the Silver River, bbq’s going at every picnic table, volleyball and soccer games in progress. The park is within easy driving distance of Salem, Albany, and even Portland, and from what we saw on this Sunday afternoon, it is a popular place to spend a Sunday.

popular swimming area on a warm Sunday eveningThe presence of huge, extended families with grandmas, grandpas, babies, aunts and uncles, all enjoying the afternoon together was heartening.  Most of these families were speaking languages we didn’t know, but with the din of so many conversations that really didn’t matter. The language of a park on a Sunday afternoon is universal, after all. We had a great time letting Abby run uphill, hoping to wear her out.  Later in the day, we expected to have to leave her in the rig while we hiked the waterfall trails where dogs are not allowed.

the dog exercise area is leash freeThe Silver River was low at this time of year, and I was surprised to see just how lovely the falls looked even with less water.  The stream slips over South Falls in a clear, wispy ribbon, much different from the crashing torrent we experienced in April last year.  The trails were full of families, dads carrying babies in backpacks, grandpas with canes (me with my walking sticks!) 

even with the river fairly low, South falls is lovelyOne more time I did a stupid crash, this time thank goodness without the camera in my hands!  Stepping out of the MoHo I missed the step and bent the weak ankle one more time in a direction it doesn’t particularly like and went down.  I know to hold on to the door handle, and had a good grip, so didn’t go all the way down.  Mo laughed again, saying I must have bones of steel because with all these stupid falls I don’t seem to break anything. Who knows what that is about.  This time again, it was a big divot I didn’t see because it was UNDER our entry rug.  Sigh.  Hold on tight and keep your eyes down, I guess.

We chose a camp on the A loop again, but it was more open than I might have liked.  Our neighbors were right behind us, with their campfire so close to our back window that I had to close the night shade all the time so they couldn’t see inside.  Our fire was far enough forward in the site that we could sit there without being in their back pocket, and we were glad that the folks directly on our other side seemed to be indoor types, so we had a bit of space to ourselves.  I couldn’t believe how many kids were in  that campground, and dogs, and bikes.  It was some kind of biking heaven, I guess, with tiny little kids on trainers with helmets bigger than they were.  The sound of screaming, laughing kids and barking dogs was almost deafening.

home for a couple of nightsSo often, in this lifestyle, we hang with retired folks in sedate RV campgrounds that are quiet and calm.  We are retired ourselves, and live in a community that is composed mostly of retired folks or summer visitors.  My grandkids are all teenagers now, and as I sat at our campfire watching all those kids, I realized just how insulated we can be from the din of family life.  Have I used the word “din” a lot?  Hmmm.  Sunday afternoon at Silver Falls State Park was a lovely and noisy place.

Next: the dahlia show!

The rest of the photos are linked here


Final days on the Oregon Coast

camping at South Beach SP (17)Even though we arrived home Sunday night, May 8th, soil survey work was the priority this week and blog updates were a bit lower on the list.  After seeing the blip in blogger, I was just as glad I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to update! The other BIG priority was completing our work on the greenhouse, but more about that on another post.

Thought I would mention SmugMug.  I saw the website on E-Squared and Mui’s blog in addition to  Froggi Donna’s blog, and decided to check it out.  I have used Picasa for all its handy features, but with the volume of photos that I take and upload, I still have to pay a fee for storage.  The SmugMug site isn’t free, but it IS delightful, and after perusing it a bit, I decided to go for it.  Eventually I will manage to upload all my past photos to the site, and that takes time on a satellite connection, but for now, at least all my current photos are there.  One of the things I love most about SmugMug vs. Picasa is the ability to organize photos into categories and subcategories, which makes for much easier viewing.  Here is an example:  a link to the set of galleries that are from our recent Oregon Coast Trip.   

camping at South Beach SP (5)Of course, the other major feature available with SmugMug is the ability to store all your photos at the original resolution, and to download them again at that resolution with no charge.  I learned about this once the hard way, losing some photos and going back to Shutterfly (which I used prior to Picasa) to retrieve them, only to find I had to pay for a shipped CD to get full resolution.  SmugMug is a great backup, for a fee of course, but worth it in my opinion.

After four gorgeous sunny days in the Brookings “Banana Belt”, we drove north to South Beach State Park just south of Newport to spend a couple of days camping with Mo’s brother, Dan and wife Chere.  They traveled from Beaver Creek Oregon to spend some time at their favorite beach park.  Even though the water is actually half a mile from the campground, I can see why Dan likes it.  He has two big dogs who need lots of space, and there are miles of lovely trails and open space where he can run the dogs each day.  Chere loves the cozy comfort of the motorhome and a great book, so it’s perfect for them.  It was wonderful to see Dan looking so healthy and happy, since just last fall he scared all of us with a bout with throat cancer.  Pretty amazing how he came through the surgery and radiation, and according to all the reports, he is back good as new.  He is getting back his sense of taste, and looks wonderful. Of course, there will be periodic checks in his future, but the worst is over.

family at South Beach (10)camping at South Beach SP (3)We enjoyed the morning walks with all  the dogs, and the hike to the beach was nice, even though it was cloudy, and quite windy.  The two days went by quickly with long afternoon campfires, spurts of rain, and bits of blue emerging from the clouds now and then.  We shared dinners and breakfasts and on Saturday evening trundled off to Newport to explore the Old Town area, find some fudge and some gorgeous coastal art, and check out the harbor sea lions.

I hadn’t heard that NOAA “National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration”,  decided to move to Newport.  Dan showed us the new site under construction.  What a loss for Seattle and what a huge boon to the town of Newport.  The new site is just inside the harbor beyond the famous Newport bridge, and very close to the open ocean.  In Seattle, the facility was many miles from open sea on Puget Sound.  We talked about what a difference Newport will be for the 175 families relocating there.  Some may love it and others may have a hard time with the isolation of the Oregon Coast after all the amenities of a big city like Seattle.

family at South Beach (3)We left South Beach early Sunday morning, deciding on the route east from Florence directly to Eugene.  I love Florence, which has an actual downtown, a beautiful kayakable harbor and estuaries, and beautiful surroundings. We had a spontaneous Mom’s Day breakfast at a comfy little local restaurant before traveling the easy route east. Florence isn’t as warm as Brookings, but the convenience to Eugene was impressive.  We put Florence on the “possibility” list for our nine-years-out relocation to a less snowy place! Who knows, magic happens and wherever we should be will show up when the time is right, I am sure.

family at South Beach (33)On the way home, we decided to detour north a bit to La Pine and visit Mo’s other brother Roger and wife Nancy.  Roger was recuperating from back surgery just three days prior, and was in amazing shape considering he was barely out of the hospital.  After a great visit, we traveled the last leg of our trip south and home.  It’s always amazing to me as we cross the Wood River Valley west of Chiloquin to see the massive green slopes of the trip routeCascades rise above the rich valley.  The sun was setting between the clouds and the mountain crest creating a brilliant backlight to the shadowy clouds.  As always, it was good to be home, knowing that part of my family is close by in town.

We drove about 700 miles and this time our costs averaged about $89 per day.  We never paid more than $4.00 per gallon for gasoline, and found that Florence actually had the cheapest gas at 3.79 pg at the local Fred Meyer’s. State Parks in Oregon are certainly cheaper than California, with our partial hookup (water and electric with cable at Harris Beach) sites costing 27.00 per night and an $8.00 reservation fee for each park. Both parks had on-site dump stations. We only ate out twice along the way, not wanting to miss fish and chips on the coast or a Mom’s Day breakfast that I didn’t have to cook.  It seems that travel for us manages to average out somewhere around 70 to 120 per day, whether we are cruising around in the motorhome or on a ship.  I know that motorhome travel can be much more thrifty if you boondock more and move around less, but so far, we have wanted to enjoy our trips without having to manage our travels around the most thrifty options.  I am sure if we were full-timing, the choices would be far different.

Another gorgeous sunny day on the Oregon Coast May 4

Still have no good internet access, so am sitting in the Mojo Café in Brookings.  Managed to upload three days of blog fun but the photo upload is crawling along and I am going to give it up and head back to camp.  The rest of the photo links will be posted sometime when access is a bit better. (Photos are all posted now both on Picasa and Smugmug with a link at the bottom of the post for this day!) Good a time as any to catch up on a very few of the 200 plus blog posts in my reader list accumulated since we left Monday morning.  Gee, you are all so prolific!!

lots more photos of the beach and ocean follow this onemorning hike on the South Harris Beach trailI woke up as the sky was barely lightening to see a shroud of fog hovering over the ocean, but by the time we got up at 6:30 it was completely gone.  There was barely a breeze and the skies were completely clear.  We planned to kayak again today, this time on the Pistol River and estuary about 17 miles north, but first we decided to begin our day with a hike down to the beach. 

This time we took the South Beach Trail, another well maintained route down the cliffs to the ocean.  South Beach Trail takes off just a couple of sites east of ours and meanders through deep green forest before approaching the view parking lot and cliffs to the beach. The path down the cliffs is steep, but not too much so to manage easily back up without stopping.  It is even paved with asphalt, so no slipping and sliding on loose rock and gravel makes it really enjoyable.

morning hike to south beach (20)morning hike to south beach (26)

Once on the beach, the sun was so warm Mo had to take off her jacket and we walked as far south as the incoming tide allowed, throwing the ball for Abby and enjoying the warm, windless morning.  I haven’t experienced the beaches of Oregon without wind very many times, so I thought it was wonderful.  Abby even wore out after much fetching, and once even stopped to rinse her sandy ball in a tidepool before picking it up again and bringing it to Mo.  Did she do that on purpose??  It seems so, but who knows.  Abby IS incredibly smart.

morning hike to south beach (31)We are unhooked from internet and telephones, but still have the morning news with the cable here at the park.  It’s amazing how one thing after the other gets all the focus.  The killing of Bin Laden and the decision about whether or not to release his death photos have completely superseded the tragedies in the south.  I don’t understand why news can’t actually be news of what is going on everywhere, instead of what happens to be the “big story” of the moment.  The flooding and tornado damage in our country is more important to me that all the political posturing about the Osama thing.

sunny skies, incoming tide, wind 40 mph  Pistol River launch siteWe spent a bit of time relaxing in the morning sunlight before taking the baby car north on 101 about 17 miles to our planned launch site on the Pistol River.  Once we passed through the beautiful forest and started the descent to the ocean, the difference in wind speed was intense.  Parking first at the maybe too windy for kayaking the Pistol Rivernorth side launch, then at the southern approach, we walked out to the river to asses the situation.  I think the winds were close to 40 mph and the tide incoming.  We thought it would have been ok going upstream, but were a bit worried about getting back downriver.  Driving upriver to some other listed launch sites didn’t yield anything more promising, so we once more traveled back to the Pistol River State Park day use area and saw that even with the incoming tide, the connection between the river and the south arm estuary was completely dry.  It was cold and the wind was intense, so we looked at each other and said, “Maybe not”.  Time for Plan B.

the float plan catapulted off the submarine.  Truly amazing stuffIn some of the literature we gathered for the area while driving about town, Mo found information about a little known historical site.  In the Brookings area, you can hike to the only spot in the continental US where enemy bombs were dropped during WWII. Nobuo Fujita, a young Japanese warrant officer, flew his small pontoon plan off a Japanese sub on the Oregon coast near Cape Blanco on September 9 1942. His assignment was to drop incendiary bombs into the forest, start a huge fire and panic the nation.  Only one bomb out of five detonated, and it ignited the woods up in the hills near Mount Emily. Due to wet conditions and the fact that the bomb only partially detonated, the fire only spread 75 feet.  It was quickly put out by four forest service workers. 

Twenty years after he dropped his bombs the  Brookings Jaycees invited Fujita to visit during the Azalea Festival.  He came to ask forgiveness, and presented his sword to Brookings.  You can read more detail about this amazing little piece of history here.

WWII Bomb Site Hike (15)We drove several miles east along the Chetco River before turning off on the dirt and gravel road to Mount Emily and the bomb site.  The trip reminded me of the many years I spent driving remote forest roads like this one exploring wild areas.  The nice part about this trip is that I was only going to hike on trails and I didn’t have to climb these steep slopes with a shovel and a pack through thick brush.  In this area, the conifer forests have been burned, and the canopy is often dominated by second growth alder.  While a coniferous forest is often lovely, they are also very thick and dark, and a bit forbidding.  I really enjoyed the fluorescent lime green light filtering through all the leaves of the springtime alders.

excellent sign stories of the history of the bombingAfter almost 14 miles of winding road, without seeing another single car coming or going, we found the trail head.  The hike was perfect, some ups, some downs, about a mile each way through beautiful forest to the bomb site.  The signs were wonderful, telling the story with photographs of the Japanese sub, the pontoon airplane, Fujitsu and his son, and the people responsible for putting out the fire. As usual, the hike back to the trailhead seemed to go much more quickly than the hike out, and the ride back to town also seemed to pass much more quickly.  We again passed our special stops found on the way in, the lovely little campsite along the creek, and the amazing very tall waterfall hidden among the alders.


nice trail, some ups, some downsOn the way back down the road, we were discussing how little wildlife we had seen.  In the bomb site brochure, it was mentioned that the remoteness of the road often allowed for seeing a bear or two scampering across the road.  Literally minutes after we had this discussion, we suddenly saw two bear cubs scamper across the road.  It was much too fast for us to truly catch anything with the camera, but then one cub ran up a tree right next to the road, and obligingly waiting for us to take his photo.  Once again I am we saw two baby bears running across the road and then this one ran up a tree right by the roadreminded of how much I want a real SLR with a real telephoto lens when I go to Alaska!  The baby bear was sure cute, and Mom and sibling were no where to be seen down the incredibly steep slope.

Back in Brookings, we decided it was time for some coastal fish and chips.  Funny thing, being a harbor town, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish places around. We both remembered a place south of town where we once had a great dinner with friends, but couldn’t find it.  Finally found it with the help of the phone and the place was closed up tight.  We then drove back through the 101 strip, but nothing appeared, and we decided to go down to the Harbor to see what was there.  I had heard about the Oceanside, and after much dinking around, we finally found it.  It was also closed up tight!

seagulls like the white cars By this time we were both pretty tired and hungry and grumpy, but neither of us was quite ready to give up and go home and eat soup.  We passed a funky little restaurant called the Chetco Seafood Company, with a blinking beer sign in the window, and a couple of people leaving with go bags in their hands.  Tired won out, and we parked Abby where her barking wouldn’t get attention and went in.  First sign of a good choice was the decent glass of chardonnay for 3 bucks.  We ordered fish and chips, and kept asking each other, “Is this really this good or are we just hungry?”  I decided it really WAS that good. The fish was light and incredibly fresh, the breading thin and light and delicately spiced and not the least bit greasy.  The fries were perfect and the cole slaw perfect as well. We shared a cup of chowder filled with fresh pink? clams to start and it was perfect as well.  Maybe we were just hungry, but it may have been the best fish and chips I have ever eaten.

More photos of our day are located here.

Baptism in the Winchuck River

(The rest of the photos for this day are HERE on my SmugMug site)

morning hike to Harris ButteAs I mentioned previously, Brookings is in a sort of “Banana Belt”.  Most of the Oregon Coast is chilly and windy much of the year.  There are often beautiful days with sunny skies in the fall, and sometimes when it is least expected.  Those clear warm fog free days happen more often in Brookings than farther north, and even more than in Crescent City to the south in California.  The rainfall here is around 74 inches a year, with precipitation falling on 150 days.  I am comparing notes and paying attention because while we were at Fred Meyer the other day, Mo just happened to throw out the thought that Brookings might be a nice place to live. 

Harris Beach Day 2 (4)The original plan when Mo built her house was to live there ten years or so and then move on to something smaller and more manageable, perhaps a condo in a place where there was no winter snow.  She chose Brookings once, and having lived on the California coast for more than 25 years, the chilly fogs don’t bother her in the least.  I, on the other hand, am a sun worshiper.  I need light and warmth.  I often think I could live in Florida.  I love green and flowers and plants.  Brookings right now is filled with green and flowers, and it looks terribly tempting.

Harris Beach Day 2 (11)Thank goodness a decision isn’t imminent.  Mo has lived in the big house at Rocky Point for almost nine years now, and the “ten years” has evolved.  So many things to love about Rocky Point, and Mo’s home is lovely, with her assistance throughout the building process, it is a very personal space.  The large beam in the living room and much of the woodwork came from huge Douglas firs milled right there on the property. So now the plan is 2020.  Instead of a certain number of years, we picked a date.  Arbitrary to be sure, but in our 80’s, the thought of shoveling snow isn’t a good one.  So, again, somewhere in Southern Oregon, but it could be just about anywhere.  It’s kind of exciting to have this change out there in the future, something fun to think about and now I look at Brookings in a completely different way.

Harris Beach Day 2 (22)Yesterday was one of those gorgeous, sunny days, with temperatures climbing into the 60’s. We hiked a couple of the trails in the park, first to the Harris Butte, and then again down to the beach in the early morning sunshine.  It was a perfect day for our plan to get the kayaks in the water.  We have a copy of the “Canoe and Kayak Guide” for Oregon South Coast, covering the sloughs and rivers from Newport to the California border.  Our choice for yesterday was the Winchuck River, a smaller river near the southern border with an outlet to the ocean.  The guide warned of low water, but this time of year we thought things would be in good shape.  The suggestion was to launch before high tide, paddle upriver till the tide shift, and then follow the tide back to the launch site near the ocean. 

keeping Abby safeThe launch was lovely, on a sandy beach with shallow water that deepened quickly.  We paddled upstream under the Highway 101 bridge and followed the river along the farmlands and river homes along the way.  Even this close to the ocean, the water was really shallow, with some gravel bars and areas that  were less than 4 inches deep.  We managed to get through it without grounding, a good test of the new kayaks, but then as we reached some very shallow riffles the current got very strong as the river made what looked like a gentle drop.

paddling upstream against the currentI think we paddled for a good 20 minutes, going absolutely nowhere, before we decided to get out and portage the riffles along the rocky beach.  We thought if we could get around the riffles, we could continue upriver a bit more.  I held Mo’s boat in the strong current while she got back in with Abby, and then attempted to launch into the current myself.  I thought of my friend Jeanne, a whitewater kayaker who launches her tiny shoe kayak off rocks and over waterfalls.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t manage getting into my boat in a simple fast current.  I must have hit the current sideways, or still wasn’t balanced in the middle, and over I went into the very cold water.  Even though it was only a couple of feet deep, the current was incredibly strong, and it took every bit of strength I had to hold on to my boat and paddle to keep it from going downriver.  Our cockpits are large, open things, and even if we had skirts on, these aren’t the kind of kayaks that you roll over and back up in deep water.  Instead, my cockpit filled with water, and my boat banged on the rocky bottom until I could get it hauled up on shore and dump all the water out. 

shallows and a swift current stopped us just beyond this stony beachI’m glad it wasn’t terribly cold out, with sunny skies, and I again remembered some kayaking advice, “Dress for the water, not the weather”.  Of course, I probably won’t ever do that, since a wet suit seems to be a huge pain in the neck, and I like easy fun comfortable kayaking.  It definitely taught me another lesson, though.  I saw just how easy it is to roll over in a kayak.  In all our years of boating, this has never happened to me, and I get cocky and sometimes don’t wear my lifejacket.  I had it on yesterday, since I usually do wear it in unknown water, but now I will wear it all the time, even in gentle Recreation Creek.  Good lesson.  I didn’t need it yesterday, but I could have.

outgoing tide and the confluence of the river and the oceanAmazingly, I had the camera around my neck and inside the jacket and it didn’t get wet.  The water and 2 bottles of beer were safely stashed inside the closed hull with wallets in a dry bag so all was well.  Once back in the boat, we decided it might be time to go back downstream.  Paddling up, I don’t think we really realized how strong the current actually was.  In no time at all we were back at the launch site, floating easily and quickly by all those cute little river houses out to the sea.

We also read about the danger zone where a river meets the sea, and now instead of heading into the waves to play, we stayed back cautiously.  Again I think of Jeanne, who reads my blog faithfully, who will probably laugh at my caution.  Jeanne climbs mountains in Nepal, jumps off waterfalls in Costa Rica and skis down back country cliffs in wild British Columbia.  I love watching her adventures, but I have no plans to ever try any of those things. In Harris Beach Day 2 (49)fact, yesterday looking at the surf, I wondered out loud how people manage to take kayaks out there.  I think true sea kayaks are more nimble creatures than our comfortable, big cockpit, wide, stable boats.  Maybe someday I’ll go take a surf lesson on a warm day with an instructor.  Maybe.

We saw no sign of the recent tsunami damage at Brookings Harbor

no sign of the tsunami damage last monthWe didn’t get back to camp till 4 or so, and after a very late lunch of egg salad, we both fell into a weary nap. The evening was long and warm, and a bit later Mo built a great campfire that we enjoyed long into the dark night. There wasn’t a bit of wind and the fire felt wonderful.  It is nice that in this state park, campfires are allowed, but don’t plan to bring any firewood from any other area.  It’s called “Burn it Where You Buy It”, and is important to keep beetles and other pests from traveling from one place to another.  The California check station now asks specifically if you are carrying firewood as well as certain kinds of produce.