Two Trails

Current Location: Brookings, Oregon 49 degrees and 100 percent chance of rain

At  the moment, it is raining and gray and we are comfortably relaxing in the MoHo.  Just a warning for all the blog purists out there who say they don’t want too many photos.  There are 20 photos in this post, more than I usually add, and yet it IS a photo tour of our trail walks yesterday.  If you don’t like photos, then skip it.  I made them big specifically for Nicki, who always requests the big ones so that she doesn’t have to click to get a bigger image.  You can’t please all the people all the time, but you can definitely please some of the people some of the time!

The predicted rain finally reached Harris Beach early this morning.  We knew it was coming, in fact it was expected to show up on our first day here.  Instead, we enjoyed three days of gorgeous sunshine.  Waking this morning to the sound of rain was soothing, and we actually slept in to almost 7:30.  Of course, it helps if someone gets up at 4:30 or so to let the dog out, give the cat a treat, and feed the dog.  Then they are ready to settle in and let us sleep.  Two Trails_156Yesterday, knowing that our sunny respite was soon coming to an end, we were happy for one more day to walk the beach and hike a couple of the trails.  I know that someday, when I am hopefully much, much older, I won’t be able to hike these nice little trails with their gorgeous views, and decided I wanted to do a “Sherry” and take you on a hike, and give myself a place to go when I want to remember just how lovely these walks can be on a sunny day at the ocean.

A short trail we sometimes forget to do is the Harris Butte Trail. The trailhead is just north of the entry kiosk at the park. The Harris Beach Trail also begins at this location and makes a loop around the tree covered butte, but Mo remembered that there is a lot of poison oak along that trail.  With the dog along, I get a bit paranoid about poison oak, so we decided to skip that route, lovely as it is.Two Trails_091

The short hike to the top has a few switchbacks, is a bit rocky in places, and a bit steep.  The hike takes maybe ten minutes at the most, but the view is wonderful.  The hillside is covered with thick vegetation, with only a few limited views of the beach below through the trees.  developed RAW copies

The viewpoint is a great photo site, especially in the early part of the day when the sun is in the east.  Sunsets viewed from this spot must be spectacular, but for no reason I can imagine, we haven’t hiked up here to view the sunsets.Two Trails_101

Below the cliff where we stood, was a great view of the Harris Beach State Park Day Use Area, the one we walked to Tuesday afternoon.Two Trails_105

This is the best spot to view Goat Island, and we noticed there was a kayak parked on the steep shoreline, with a few people (dots of color) moving across the slope.  It seemed as though they were monitoring vegetation or bird sites or something, with the faint impression of some kind of marking posts on the north facing grassy slope.Two Trails_106

With a bit of searching, I found out that Goat Island is the largest island along the Oregon coast. It was the first unit comprising the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1936. The island contains deep soils and a variety of native vegetation condusive to burrow-nesting seabird species.

Goat Island hosts 24% of the statewide nesting Leach’s Storm-Petrels and more than 109,000 nesting seabirds comprising 11 species. The island serves as a night roost for thousands of Aleutian Canada geese in the spring and a wintering area for a small group (40) of Dusky Canada geese.

In addition, it seems that the biggest problems for the nesting birds are boats approaching too closely, low flying aircraft, and “human trespass”.  I would imagine that the people we saw walking across the slope were supposed to be there, and that kayaking to the tiny beach and exploring the island on foot would be illegal.

Two Trails_129The second trail we walked was our favorite South Beach Trail.  This trail can be accessed directly from the big parking lot just west of Highway 101 near the entrance of the state park. Two Trails_125

In addition, there is a sweet little trailhead that begins at the southern end of the campground. This walk leads through deep spruce forest, and is lined with thick vegetation typical of the moist climate in the Oregon coastal forests.South Beach trail plants

Emerging at the aforementioned parking lot, the trail continues down the steep cliff to the beach below.

Two Trails_130With asphalt pavement on the steep trail, it is a joy to walk, either up or down, and there is a nice bench for a break if you need it.  On this spring day, we were surprised that the park staff has yet to do much clearing along the trail and the grasses and flowers were wild and overflowing and lovely along the path.Two Trails_132

At the bottom of the trail, there are a few logs to walk over, arranged conveniently into a rough step like configuration, and the beach stretches to the north and to the south.  Two Trails_142

We usually walk south, because with the tide out we can walk a greater distance before being stopped by rocky cliffs.  The beach shifts and changes with the winds and seasons, and we noticed that the ephemeral brackish water lake was gone, completely erased by tides and winter storms. The large pool was formed by a small stream, emerging from the cliffs, and the water was fresh enough that Abby could swim and even drink.  Two Trails_144

No more.  Now the stream crosses the sand, circumnavigating the large stacks and going directly to the ocean.Two Trails_158

My Keen Targhee boots did their job and I crossed the stream without getting the least bit wet.  It was just a bit cold for barefoot hiking and wading, so I was glad for dry feet this time.

As I was taking photos, I realized that we rarely do this walk in the early part of the day.  Most of my photos of the ocean from this part of the beach are against late afternoon sun.  It was a treat to have the sun behind me for a completely different kind of light.Two Trails_163

With low tide just an hour or so ahead of us, we saw only one red sea star, too far out to get much of a photo.  There have been times when we have seen more than we can count, along with green anemones.  It is never the same.

This time the most dramatic find was brilliant green moss on the rocks, soft as velvet, and many different kinds of algae covering the sea stacks, still dripping with seawater.Two Trails_179

Just around the corner from the rocky jumble that stopped our walk, is another small beach that lies directly below Mo’s former condo.  Sometimes we can negotiate the jumble, but this time it looked daunting so we didn’t bother.

Two Trails_167We spent a bit of time wondering at how it might feel to ascent this tram, and remembered climbing steps like these to get to the beach from the condo.  Two Trails_175

I am not sure exactly where the state park boundary ends on South Beach, but we assume that once there are homes along the cliff above us we are outside the state park and Abby can run and play off leash.Two Trails_150

Mo threw the ball for her until Abby finally refused to drop it.  I think that was her way of saying she was finally worn out.  For 12 years old she does great, and still loves to retrieve the ball, but she is getting a bit slower.  Makes me a bit sad.  Of course, I am slowing down as well, and that makes me a bit sad too.

September 8 to 10 John Day to Baker City

Currently we are back In Rocky Point, Oregon.  Cloudy and light rain, 43 degrees F

Clyde Holiday State Park near John Day Sometimes I can just sit down at the computer, open up the photos of our travels, and all the memories come flooding back.  It is easy to write and remember what we have seen and done.  Other times I look at the photos, I remember, but writing about it just doesn’t quite come as easily.  Makes me glad I made the effort to write about our days in John Day Fossil Beds while they were happening.

Our original plan this summer season was to stay home, to enjoy our own state, and we did just that.  There are parts of Oregon that are very familiar to me.  The corridor north and south along 97, the corridor along I-5, the road over 140 to Medford, the roads east to the desert.  I have traveled along Highway 26 to Idaho in the past, but never had the time to really linger and explore.  This month we took that time and it paid off with beautiful back roads, amazing vistas, and good memories.

Donna over at Travels in Therapy mentioned Clyde Holiday State Park, and we changed our original plans to overnight at the fairgrounds in John Day in favor of this lovely patch of green along the John Day River.  I have been trying to read and catch up on blogs, and have been surprised at the number of people traveling in this area, often just a day or two apart from us.  Funny how each of us sees something different, or writes about it differently, but many of the photos are similar.

Clyde Holiday State Park near John Day It was a short respite in the two week trip where we actually had telephone  and internet service, giving me time to catch up with phone calls and check on bank accounts.  I was surprised at how the internet, email, telephone messages, all seemed so necessary and yet so intrusive.  I love being connected, but it definitely can be stressful sometimes.  Almost as stressful as not being connected.  Still it was wonderful to hear my daughter’s (plural daughters) voice and to get missed phone messages from my son and other friends. 

Clyde Holiday State Park near John Day Clyde Holiday State Park is right along the highway, just a few miles west of John Day.  It is a bit like camping in a large city park, with grass and a nice river walkway, and a place to build a campfire.

There are teepees for rent that were locked up, but looked as though they would be quite cozy.  It was a busy park, and without a reservation, we were glad to arrive around 2 in the afternoon after traveling south from Fossil.  We got a nice back-in spot, and settled in for the evening after driving in to the town of John Day.  We were in the midst of the Cycle Oregon event, with hundreds of cyclists camped for the night in the fairgrounds.  It was definitely a place where the bicyclists had the run of the place, and we had to be especially careful driving around town.

The next morning we ambled a very short distance east along highway 26, and then highway 7 toward Baker City.  On the way we stopped at Bates State Park, and wandered through the brand new park built to commemorate the tiny logging town that once existed there.  Visiting with the camp host was a treat, and there were only 2 rigs in the entire park.  The trees are young, there is no internet access (he told us we could drive a few miles to milepost 6 to get a phone signal).  He said his busiest weekends might have up to 7 rigs in the park.  We enjoyed his down home conversation, and loved his description of camp hosting in such a quiet park.

The Union Creek Forest Service campground seemed much more inviting even without hook-ups than camping in a city RV park jammed up against the interstate 84.  We wanted to spend plenty of time at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, and still have plenty of time to explore Baker City, touted as an amazing place to visit by all the Travel Oregon booklets we had been collecting.9-09-2013 Sumpter Dredge

Not far west of our evening destination, however, was a turn-off to the historic town of Sumpter and the Sumpter Valley Dredge. As we approached the old gold mining town, the huge piles of tailings left behind by the dredge were evident all along the drainageway.  I was familiar with dredge gold mining from other areas in the Idaho mountains, and have tried to map soils on landscapes forever altered by hydraulic mining in California.  But I had never actually seen a dredge or understood  how they work. If you are interested in the actual mechanical workings of the dredge and its history, click here.

Day 5 John Day_036This huge dredge was used in the Sumpter Valley from 1935 to 1954.  It was interesting that during this time there was a second gold rush to the area, and it lasted until the price of gold again went too low to make it profitable.  I appreciated the Oregon State Park volunteer that offered incredibly detailed information about the dredge, its operation, and back stories of the people who lived in Sumpter and ran the dredge.  The little museum room at the state park had a nostalgic photo album of the reunions of original dredge workers over the last decade.

visiting the Sumpter Valley Dredge When we arrived at the park, the lot was almost completely empty, but as we started to leave, some kind of amazing parade of vintage cars entered town and turned into the park.  I think there must have been 50 to 100 cars, all shiny and perfect, and they all poured into the lot as we were leaving so we got some nice close up looks at them.  Sure did look like those folks were having a great time in their old cars.

For more photos of the Dredge and Sumpter click here 


the Oregon Trail Interpretive CenterWe arrived at the campground, just a few more miles down the road, opened up the Fantastic Fan for Jeremy, and drove the short 20 miles into Baker City. Just 5 miles east from town is the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.  The building sits high on a hill, with a magnificent view of the Blue Mountains to the west and basin and range country to the east.  It was hot when we got there, even though it was late afternoon, so Mo walked around with Abby while I explored the center.  Of course no dogs are allowed inside, and the trails, while open to dogs, were made of hot asphalt, not good for doggie paws.

I enjoyed an hour in the various exhibits, then walked Abby while Mo took a turn.  When she came out, we decided that it really was too hot to try to hike down to the Oregon Trail wagon ruts, but from the high point you could see the scars in the desert where thousands of people fled their lives in the east for the Promised Land of Oregon. 

the Oregon Trail Interpretive CenterI have no idea why but somehow the stories were depressing instead of inspirational to me.  I felt the pain, the sadness, the death and loneliness of the trail.  There was a special exhibit of narrated stories of individuals traveling that was especially touching.  I could see young women, pregnant or with young children, following their husbands wild dreams into new territory.  They left behind friends, family, and familiarity and in most cases never saw their loved ones again.

Made me think of how much I love to travel, and yet how much I love to be home, how much I love to be able to talk to my kids, or even get a text or a facebook post from them.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

It was a wonderful exhibit, but definitely left me feeling somewhat pensive.  I was glad when we returned to our hot, dry, very open and very empty campground to all the comforts of our “covered wagon”.  Good food, water, a toilet, a shower, lights, shelter, all taken completely for granted most of the time, but not on this night.  As I fell asleep I was still haunted by the stories of the trail. More photos of the Interpretive Center are here.camping at Union Creek FS Campground

The next morning we continued east to Baker City, leaving late enough to be leisurely, and yet early enough to explore what we thought might be an area that would require several hours if not an entire day.  Our first stop was the visitor center, which was closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Great.  We finally found a sign outside where there were a few brochures, and picked up the Walking Tour Guide.  Whew!  At least we could see some of the famous historic buildings and have a clue what they were about.

We walked the town, a bit disappointed with the guide that didn’t include even half of the buildings that we could see with Historic Register signs on them.  The galleries were a bit disappointing as well, with one of them actually lit with fluorescent lights, and many of them not even open.  Geez, it is only September!  The nicest parts of town were the beautiful Geiser Grand Hotel, although we were only allowed in the main part of the lobby as unregistered guests.  We also were impressed with the Carnegie Library, now a city art center that seemed full of life and activity. 9-10-2103 Historic Baker City

Baker City was once the Queen City of the Mines and was considered a cultural oasis in the emptiness of Eastern Oregon.  There were restaurants, fine hotels, orchestras and opera, and beautiful elaborate homes.  By 1900, the population was nearly 7,000 people, more than either Boise or Spokane at the time.  We enjoyed parts of Baker City, but didn’t find a lot to keep us there more than a couple of hours.  I would say that the Chamber of Commerce has done a great job of promoting their town, they got us to go there, but we still didn’t spend any money.