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.


02-13-2021 Three People Traveling in the MoHo

Once again we headed for a coast, but this time instead of the Oregon Coast our destination was the Northern California coast.  For the first time in the 13 years we have been traveling in this MoHo (not counting the two prior years in the baby MoHo) we had a guest traveling with us.

My eldest daughter Deborah often visits on Sunday mornings.  She only lives an hour away and comes to spend some time with us and with her son who lives across the street from us.  Especially in this time of COVID she and her son are part of our “bubble” and the visits provide a sweet interlude.  On one such visit, as we were talking about our upcoming travels, we came to a great idea.  Deb has been working from home, has had her first vaccination, and has lots of leave accumulated that she needed to use.  In moments, we decided that a joint trip in the MoHo would be a great way for her to use her leave.

It was in 2013, three years after purchasing the MoHo, that Mo and I had the large sofabed replaced with a comfy dining booth with seats that make down into a reasonably comfortable bed.  In all that time, except for when it was first installed, we have never used the bed.  Mo and I tested it before this trip to be sure we remembered how to convert the booth to a bed and packed a large cushy sleeping bag for Deborah. 

On this Saturday morning we woke to rain, but we had been following the weather and knew this would be the case.  Predictions for our six days on the road indicated rough weather for most of the trip.  Undaunted, we didn’t even consider trying to reschedule.  Changing dates is easy for us as retired folks, but not so easy for my working girl.  Besides, we were all excited for the trip.  Deborah works hard, has a partner who is disabled, so doesn’t get away very often. 

The predictions for the weekend included rain and snow over some of the passes, including sections of Highway 199 that is our route to the coast from Grants Pass.  The predictions were just a bit off, thank goodness, with temperatures on our route remaining in the low 40’s and no snow except on the mountains around us.

For Deborah, the winding road along the cliffs bordering the Smith River was thrilling, with waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides at every turn, and the Smith at the highest level we had seen yet in our years of traveling this route.

When we began the trip, I prayed to the travel angels to be with us and let it be a memorable time for Deborah with no glitches.  The first day out lived up to every expectation in spite of the rain.  As we approached Jedediah Smith State Park the rain stopped and there were a few moments of sunshine peeking through the clouds.  It was Deborah’s first visit to the redwoods.

We parked the MoHo and took the Tracker on the park roads.  The campground had recently opened and the day use area was easily accessible.  The Smith River was running high and wild and people were fishing along the bank. The park road meanders beyond the river to a place where we know there is a very large tree and a little bit of a wide place in the road to park. 

We stopped, the sun came out again, and we enjoyed taking photos of the huge tree that seems to draw us each time we visit this area.  I have photos of Nickie and Jimmy and Erin and Mui at this same tree.  I used the opportunity to teach Deborah how to do vertical panoramas with her phone the same way Erin taught me at exactly the same location.

Leaving the park, we continued on the Redwood Highway toward Crescent City, with the mist making the redwoods even more mysterious. 

Once again the travel angels were with us, bringing out a bit of sunshine and letting up on the rain as we parked at our favorite Chart Room to order fish and chips to go.  The dining room was open for inside dining, since numbers in Del Norte county are down.  Deb and I looked inside and it felt claustrophobic even though people were spaced well. 

Sticking to our “to go” plan, we ordered our fish and took it back to the comfy warm MoHo for a perfectly fabulous lunch.  The servings are huge and we knew that there would be plenty for our early lunch and for dinner once again when we got settled into our park in Eureka.

Leaving Crescent City, we traveled along the coastal highway 101 through misty rain.  At a location about 20 miles south of town there was a traffic stop due to a huge slide that was being repaired. 

As we were parked waiting for our turn to pass, we saw large amounts of mountainside continuing to slide toward the road. UhOh.  We were lucky to get through, and learned later in the afternoon that Highway 101 had been closed at that slide after we passed.  Thank you again, Travel Angels!!

Checking the map, we decided to take a short alternate route south for about ten miles that meanders through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.  For reasons I cannot explain, in all our trips south on this route, Mo and I have never stopped at this state park.  It was gorgeous with huge groves of trees that seemed even taller due to the steep slopes on either side of the road.  We parked at the closed visitor center where Mo took Mattie for a walk in the meadows and Deborah and I ventured onto a short trail where dogs weren’t allowed.

For Deborah, it was even more fascinating to be up close to the big trees in the beautiful groves along the trail. I had the camera and the phone, but Deb was the one snapping away with her phone.  I think she had more than 1000 photos when we returned at the end of the trip.  It isn’t easy getting good shots in the dark woods, but between the two of us we managed a few good ones.

The rain held off again for our short hike, and only started up when we got back on the road.  By the time we reached Eureka, the rain stopped long enough for us to enjoy an easy setup at Shoreline RV Park, right on the edge of town close to Highway 101.

I think Deborah got a kick out of watching Mo and I do the unhook/setup thing since she hadn’t experienced it before this trip.  We take it for granted and are pretty quick at the shared process after so many years traveling together.

Mo and I have stayed at this park in the past.  It is convenient and close to town for exploring areas around Eureka, but not particularly exciting, with sites spaced fairly close together. Still, it was for only 2 nights and the main purpose of staying at this park was to have close proximity to Eureka and Samoa.

The biggest surprise of the evening happened when Deb and I decided to take Mattie for a walk and after crossing under the highway on a paved pathway found ourselves on the beautiful Eureka Waterfront Trail.  Completed in 2018 and meandering along the salt marshes of Humboldt Bay the trail was a complete surprise.  Reading about the concept and construction of the trail was wonderful.  The project is beautiful and a great accomplishment for the city of Eureka.

There were many interpretive signs along the paved path and long boardwalk.  We also enjoyed the creative benches scattered along the way, although it was too dark to get good photos of any of them

We walked much farther than we planned and it was dark when we returned to the MoHo.  Mo was getting a bit worried about what happened to us, and it hadn’t occurred to me to take a phone with me to explain why we were gone so long. After all, we were just taking the dog for a short potty break when we started out.

After our left-over fish dinner we settled in to watch a little bit of TV.  Seems as though the park now uses some kind of cable box for TV that requires plugging in a bunch of stuff to the TV. Ours is installed behind the wall and we have no easy access to the back of the TV without removing screws and such.  Instead we once again decided to try the mirror casting capability of the phone.  That wasn’t very successful at this park because there were so many rigs so close to us that the phone kept trying to cast to several tv’s that weren’t ours.  Funny stuff! 

It only took a few minutes to shuffle things around a bit for Deborah to make down her bed. We settled in for the night listening to the rain on the roof of the rig, a wonderfully soothing sound for all of us. 

11-24 to 11-27-2020 Bandon Thanksgiving and a night at Harris Beach

Don’t forget that you can click on any photo if you wish to see if full resolution in my gallery

Site A47 had more privacy than we
expected

Between the time we made our reservation and our trip to the coast, COVID numbers began rising in Oregon and the governor once again shut down restaurants for indoor dining.  One of the reasons we chose Bandon over Brookings for this trip was to have an opportunity to spend some time in the little shops and restaurants that make Bandon so charming.  The weather forecast was for rain most of the week, so we wanted to have other things to do than walk the beach.

We traveled north via I-5 toward Roseburg and turned west toward the coast via Highway 42.  However, instead of following the Google Girl directions to stay on Highway 42 all the way to HWY 101 and then back south, we thought the quicker route along 42 S made more sense.  In hindsight, Google Girl sometimes gets it right and we don’t.  I spent most of the time hanging on while Mo navigated the very narrow, very winding road toward Bandon.  It was not fun for me, but I think it might have been for her.  She used to drive a TR7 among other sports cars.

Don’t try this route in a motorhome

It rained a bit along the way, but the afternoon was dry enough that we had time to enjoy a walk along the beach after we settled into our site.

The campground is about a mile from easy beach access at the Coquille River Lighthouse


We were a bit disappointed in the condition of the lighthouse

Adjacent to the town of Bandon, the Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The river extends inland a great distance and was a natural link to the virgin stands of timber in the area, but the bar at the mouth of the river, formed by the interaction of the river and ocean, was a major obstacle for ships entering the river. At times, only a few feet of water would cover the bar, but vessels still attempted to navigate the river in hopes of reaping the rewards that lay upstream. In 1880, Congress passed a bill funding the construction of a jetty on the south side of the river’s entrance that created a deep channel, resulting in a rapid rise in the number of ships entering the river.

A lighthouse at the entrance to Coquille River was the next logical step for improving navigation. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the project on March 3, 1891, but it would be four years before land was purchased, plans were solidified, and the construction crew was assembled.

In 1939, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for Coquille River Lighthouse and decided it was no longer needed. An automated beacon was placed at the end of the south jetty, the dwelling was disassembled, and the lighthouse was abandoned. The lighthouse stood neglected for twenty-four years, until Bullards Beach State Park was created on the north side of the river. The grounds of the original eleven-acre light station were included in the park, and the park assumed responsibility for the lighthouse.

Over the years there have been several attempts at restoration, since park funding isn’t sufficient to maintain the old lighthouse.  In normal years, the lighthouse tower is open for visitation from May through September, however at the moment the old lighthouse looked quite sad.

The air smelled so incredibly fresh, and the surf was loud enough that we could hear it in camp across the dunes at least half a mile from the beach where we were camped. 

There were high tide and surf warnings posted for the next couple of days so one evening we drove through town in the dark to the south jetty where we could watch the huge noisy waves breaking over the jetty rocks.  Lots of warnings for “sneaker waves” kept me alert and when a big one came roaring in I immediately jumped back into the car.

It rained off and on that first night and the next morning dawned cloudy and wet. We settled into the MoHo for a cozy morning before driving the a mile south to Bandon to explore the small town.  The rain came and went all day, usually with a downpour at just the moment we would head for the car after visiting a shop.  About half the shops in town were open, with masks and social distancing, and we especially enjoyed the beautiful Second Street Gallery, Winter River Bookstore, and the Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique, where we had two tiny cups of creamy drinking chocolate, to go of course. 

This photo is from last year when there was still inside service

The rain poured down as we ran to the car with our little cups of chocolate. I also purchased my first ever macaron (not a macaroon).  I wasn’t impressed, although I do think that maybe the high humidity at the ocean makes it hard to make a light crispy meringue cookie. Who knows.  I don’t have to try again.

We then meandered around the famous Cranberry Sweets.  The store has been in Bandon for more than 50 years and specializes in all sorts of cranberry confections.  I learned that more cranberries are grown around Bandon than anywhere else in the west. Although Bandon is referred to as “The Cranberry Capitol of the World”, more research informed me that most cranberries come from Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Five states grow almost all of the country’s supply of cranberries with Wisconsin producing more than half of all cranberries in the US.  Massachusetts harvests another third, and New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington produce most of the rest.  So much for “Cranberry Capitol”.

Still, the shop was charming and old fashioned, with lots of candies and confections behind the counters.  The hostess told me that they usually had lots of samples around the shop but due to COVID we had to settle for a little bag of free stuff. 

I decided it was time to get some fish and chips to go and tried out Tony’s Crab Shack where I was politely told that Tony didn’t fry ANYTHING, and perhaps I might like to try to fish tacos. Made with fresh caught crab and halibut, they were delicious.  Everything in town was take-out only, with all the restaurants closed for inside seating. We returned home in the pouring rain and it continued to rain all night long.  Funny how wonderful rain on the roof of a motorhome can sound, especially when accompanied by the roar of the ocean.  Great for a good night’s sleep!

The next morning was Thanksgiving, and we woke to beautiful clear skies.  I had precooked much of our dinner, and simply had to reheat the turkey, bake the sweet potato, mash the potatoes, cook a pot of Stove-Top stuffing, and open a jar of gravy.  It wasn’t gourmet, but was completely and totally delicious for the two of us and our socially distanced Thanksgiving dinner.

On our first day in camp I discovered the tsunami evacuation trail.  The path is narrow with signs leading to an area high on a heavily timbered hill behind the campground where people are instructed to assemble if the tsunami warning horns go off.  It would do no good to attempt to drive out of the campground in that situation since most of the highway is in the tsunami zone.

It was a lovely little trail, with moist moss, and lots of mushrooms in the duff under the trees. 

On this beautiful morning it was a perfect time to share the trail with Mo.  Mattie loved the trail and we enjoyed walking in a place where there were no dogs or people around.  Mattie gets so excited when she sees other dogs and always wants to “play”.  That entails lots of energy and training time, trying to get her to sit and calm down.  Walking around the campground can be challenging sometimes when all I want is a nice simple walk.  The trail was perfect for that.

It was surprising how full the campground was on this holiday weekend.  By the time Thursday rolled around, all sites were full and everyone seemed to be having a great time celebrating.  We even saw an outdoor TV broadcasting a football game. 

After our early afternoon dinner we went for another great beach walk, and were amazed that the weather was so perfect.  There was very little wind and the temps must have been in the 50’s.  Beautiful day. 

Home again to the MoHo where after many years of hearing about it, I actually figured out how to cast the phone to the TV with the included app on my Samsung phone.  We turned on Netflix on the phone, and with our unlimited Verizon plan we were able to watch movies and even live television on the big TV with the right apps.  My daughter Deanna told me about this capability a long time ago, but I never managed to figure it out until this trip. On a chilly evening having some TV was great entertainment.  The Verizon signal in the park was perfectly adequate to stream a movie.

Bullard’s Beach State Park has some beautiful picnic areas

On Friday morning we took our time with a lazy breakfast, a little bit of news, and some reading time before packing up.  Checkout time wasn’t until 1PM, and we only had a little over two hours to travel along the coast south toward Brookings and Harris Beach State Park.  I didn’t make a reservation for Harris Beach, thinking that winter on the coast would be open without a problem.  We planned to arrive around 2 in plenty of time to snag an open site before evening.  Things have changed in the camping world!  When we arrived the park was completely full except for one site, the only ADA site in the park, number 37 in the B loop.

I must say I was grateful for once to have my little blue disability card to hang from our windshield.  We settled in to enjoy our last evening on the beach and Mo built a nice big campfire.  Only problem with the campfire is that the ADA site has a very tall metal fire ring, I suppose so that it is safer.  It took a very long time to get that metal warm and I spent campfire time in LOTS of clothes and blankets trying to warm up.

One of our favorite holiday treats are the wonderful lights at Azalea Park in Brookings.  We knew that this year the big light show wasn’t happening, but the city of Brookings was attempting to do something at least and made arrangements for businesses that usually displayed their lights at Azalea Park to put lights up on both sides of Highway 101 and down into Harbor.  We hopped into the Tracker at dusk to go check out the show.  I must say that it was a bit of a bust.  There were a few nice lights near Fred Meyer, but the rest of them were scattered along the road with lots of space in between displays.  Oh well, at least they tried.  We heard the next morning that someone had stolen one of the big displays on the very first night of the show, the 4 piece Dragon.  So sad.  Maybe that is why so many businesses chose not to display their lights in the unprotected lots along the highway.  Eventually the dragon was recovered.

Here is a photo of the dragon from the park show last year

The next day we didn’t have to check out until 1PM and with no rush to get back home we enjoyed every last minute of park time.  I took Mattie around the campground, and walked out toward the overlook that has such a beautiful view of Harris Beach.  I felt no need to climb down to the water. 

There were so many people on the beach I was amazed.  More people and dogs running around on Harris Beach than we have ever seen even in summer.  I guess as many people have said, RVing is the great COVID escape and everyone and their dog or dogs is on the road and filling up the campgrounds.

We left in brilliant sunshine, driving as far as Cave Junction about 30 miles west of Grants Pass before we encountered the fog.  Grants Pass is often foggy in winter, sometimes without any lifting in the afternoon.  This was one of those days.  I always say, if we must have fog, we might as well have it at the beach.  It was nice to get home to our cozy house, the steamy hot tub, and TV without having to figure out the casting thing.  It was a great four days of ocean time, and a perfect way to handle a quiet Thanksgiving for just the two of us.

10-31-2020 A Colorful Halloween

Remember to click on the photos for a larger version. 

Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine.  It was especially sweet when I lived in Klamath Falls very close to the historic neighborhood on Pacific Terrace.  Every year throngs of people from all over the city would flock to the wide parkway lined with decorated historic homes.  We would get trick or treaters at our house, but the most fun was going with kids and family on “the terrace” to people watch and see all the kids and eat popcorn from the house with the outdoor popcorn machine and watch movies projected on garage walls.  It was a great time for me and for my grandkids who later grew up in that house on The Terrace.

Halloween on Pacific Terrace in Klamath Falls

Here at Sunset House, we live on a somewhat narrow rural road, with very few children around us.  Most folks in our open neighborhood are older, and many are retired.  We also have no sidewalks, and in the three years that we have lived in Sunset House we have never had a single Trick-or-Treater come to our door.  Most years I do a lot of decorating, both indoors and out.  Somehow this year I just couldn’t get in the mood.  I put up some “fall” decorations, lights and pumpkins, but left the Halloween stuff I have collected over the years in the big orange bins that I store in the mezzanine in the RV shed.  Ah, well…what can I say.  This year has been so demanding in so many ways and so mentally exhausting. 

Still, yesterday I felt like Mo and I needed something to add a bit of cheer and variety to our days.  How about a picnic?!  On the previous day and on many others I pass our beautiful Riverside Park on the way to various errands.  I often think, “Why don’t we take Mattie walking in the park more often?”  Even from the car the brilliant colors of all the beautiful mature trees in the lovely park caught my eye.  Time for a picnic and a walk along the river.

We planned to go on Saturday afternoon at 3.  The time was rather specific because from my previous day passing the park I could see that the colors were most brilliant in the late afternoon light.  Before 3 was too flat and after 4 the light would be too low in the sky to illuminate the leaves. I packed an egg salad sandwich picnic (our traditional picnic favorite for the last 18years) and we packed up the dog and drove the 2 miles from our home to the park.

I also wanted Mo to see the brilliant color of all the street trees that line both main streets of downtown Grants Pass. Sixth  and Seventh Streets are one way thoroughfares that link the southern and northern parts of the city and the color right now is gorgeous.  I am more often the errand runner in town, and knew that Mo probably hadn’t had an opportunity to see the town street trees.

As we approached the park, I suggested that we drive the town streets before going to the park.  I had seen on the news that Grants Pass was due for a truck parade, said to begin at 3:30 pm, and I thought it might be smart to drive through town before the hoop-la began.  Oops. 

Turning north past the park on 7th street, we were suddenly right in the midst of the big truck parade.  You all know which ones I mean, but I am not going to talk about that part.  Neither of us would have chosen on purpose to get caught in the middle of this parade, but somehow there we were.

My liberal friends will be aghast and my conservative friends will cheer, but we actually got a big kick out of the whole thing.  It was loud and the trucks did spew a lot of diesel, but in general most drivers were polite, and were simply excited by their cause.  I saw no guns, although many of the trucks did have gun bumper stickers. I was thrilled to see that there was not a single confederate flag anywhere. I would have never chosen to participate in this parade, but simply wanted to see the downtown trees.  I will be glad when all this is over, to say the least.

I thought about how parade deprived we are in this stupid COVID year.  Grants Pass usually has at least half a dozen parades and many amazing events throughout the year that have all been cancelled.  I love parades and I found myself laughing out loud. 

Then the best part came as we approached the main business section where we discovered throngs of kids and families trick-or-treating along the sidewalks.  Business owners (the ones that are still open) were passing out safe treats in safe ways to the kids. 

It was so encouraging to see them having fun in their costumes as they walked along the streets. It was a great alternative to door to door trick-or-treating that has been discouraged in Grants Pass this year.

It was a gorgeous, blue sky day with temperatures around 70 degrees, much warmer than the icy Halloween nights my kids grew up with in Idaho and even on Pacific Terrace.  The street trees in town were amazing.  Many of them much taller than I ever noticed in their summer green cloaks.

When we got to the park, all was quiet, as most of the big flag draped trucks were continuing around the city loop.  We parked and then walked along the river to find a perfect picnic table with a view for our late lunch/early supper. 

Riverside Park is truly a treasure, and the mighty Rogue River was deceptively quiet on this lovely fall day.  We thought once again that someday we might launch at the park and try this quiet part of the river in our kayaks.

Whomever is responsible for this beautiful city park should be commended.  The plantings are wonderful, and among the big giants there are new plantings to take over when needed. 

There were several varieties of oaks, maples, and sweet gums in addition to some beautiful old redwoods, pines, and firs.  The expansive lawns allow for lots of play area and the playground for the kids now has a new spray park that was added this year. The ducks, geese, and pigeons were as happy as ever to hang around the picnic areas hoping for treats.

Mattie was thrilled with the entire day, especially the parade part.  She sat in the middle of the Tracker console watching everything intently.  She never barked, but she was very excited about the whole thing. 

Of course, kids and ducks in the park were exciting to her as well, and she loved every minute. It was a surprisingly lovely afternoon and left both of us in a happy place.


10-13- to 10-17 2020 Freedom!

With Covid19 creating all sorts of problems for travelers this year, it has been wonderful to have a way to get out a bit in our own socially distanced space.  The MoHo is the perfect solution to getting away, and the only even remotely unsafe activity is buying fuel in any state that makes us pump our own.

On October 1 we loaded up the MoHo and headed north to Washington State to visit my daughter Deanna and her husband in addition to my grandkids and great grandkids.  I realize that was 3 weeks ago, and I have yet to write the stories. That will come later. I somehow never managed to finish processing the photos before Mo said, “Hey, maybe we can go to Medicine Lake”.

As much as we love Medicine Lake, nestled in an ancient volcanic caldera in the highlands of far northern California, we haven’t been there in six years.  Six.  Looking back at the blog and the photos I was amazed that it took us so long to return to one of our favorite camping spots in the west. As I reviewed the years and went back over our calendar, I saw many factors that seemed to get in the way of our plans, not the least of which was the many years of fires creating smoky skies and closed forests in California and Oregon.  This year wasn’t much different until mid-October, when the rains dampened the mountains a bit and the Forest Service re-opened the campgrounds in the California forests that had been closed for weeks.

We took our chances without reservations.  After all, it is October, and at 7,200 feet nights are freezing and visitors might be few and far between.  Most of the sites at Medicine Lake, in the 3 campgrounds, are on a first come first serve basis, including our favorite, number 43, in the A.H. Hogue Campground. 

We packed up food and warm clothing, loaded the kayaks, hooked up the car, and were on the road south by 10AM.  Fuel is still reasonable in Grants Pass, but we knew that boondocking for several nights would require a full gas tank.  We knew there was a Pilot on our route south near Mt Shasta and Weed,and that would be the last opportunity to top of the tank before we settled into to camp for a few days without hookups.  In fact, not only are there no hookups, we knew from experience that there is no cell service, no internet, no water, no trash pickup, no power, and we were ready for a few days off the grid.  Nice to take a break from all the “stuff” out there going on right now.

We headed south on I-5.  Funny, the map to Medicine Lake on Google shows an almost identical time and distance whether we travel south on the interstate into California, or back over the mountain to Klamath Falls.  We decided to make it a loop, going south on the way down and returning via Klamath Falls.

Highway 89 was pleasant and smooth, without too much traffic, but once we turned back north on Forest Road 44 and then to Forest Road 49 toward Medicine Lake it changed.  There was no traffic, I think we saw only one vehicle in the entire distance, and that was a pickup pulling a boat and trailer that was stuck in a ditch.  Three guys gave us a thumbs up and we drove on.  No cell service anyway so there wasn’t much we could do to help.  The road was very narrow and very rough!  I reminded myself to open the dish cupboards slowly.  After bumpy roads all sorts of things can fall on your head if you open them too quickly.

It was 2:30 or so when we arrived at the campground and to our surprise, it was completely empty.  There are 56 sites in Hogue, a few less in the adjacent Hemlock Campground which was also empty, and a few more in the Medicine Campground where there was one big rig tucked in under the trees far to the west of our campground.  We unhooked up on the main road and drove right to our favorite spot. 

Site 43 is on the lake side of the road, and once in place the rig could be leveled without too much difficulty.  There is a beautiful stone firepit, a nice picnic table, a short easy trail to the water and a 180 degree view of the lake.  We spent some time reviewing favorite campsites we have enjoyed throughout the years, and this is by far top on the list.

It didn’t take long for us to settle in. We put out our chairs and listened to the silence. Took Mattie for a walk around the campground road and decided that we would wait until the next day to unload the kayaks since the breeze had kicked up as it often does in the late afternoon.  Supper was simple, reheating last night’s pizza in a skillet and still had to start up the generator for a few minutes to get it nice and hot in the microwave. After supper we returned to our chairs to enjoy the sunset.

Our sunset was spectacularly unspectacular.  With no clouds, fires, or pollution to create color, the sun dropped behind the mountains to our west with an unceremonious ‘plop’.  It was to be the case for each of the three nights we waited for sunset as we camped at Medicine Lake.  Still, the afterglow on the lake was lovely as the skies darkened.

The first night was the coldest, and when we woke the next morning it was 32 degrees.  The day was clear and gorgeous once again and we decided to spend some time exploring the local roads a bit before unloading and launching the kayaks for an afternoon paddle.  Lava Beds National Monument is just 16 miles north of Medicine Lake on a decent dirt and gravel road that descends from the volcanic highlands to the lava wilderness below.

Information from the website:

“Medicine Lake Highlands is the largest identified volcano (in total area) within California, and is one of the most unique geologic features in North America. Because this subrange of the Cascades is somewhat remote, the fascinating nature of this area is largely unappreciated. The great Medicine Lake shield volcano’s broad, gently sloping profile (stretching some 15 miles from east to west and nearly 25 miles north and south) belies the fact that it is actually larger in mass than nearby Mt. Shasta. The Medicine Lake Highlands Volcanic Area exceeds 200 square miles and takes in portions of three National Forests; the Modoc, Klamath and Shasta-Trinity in Modoc and Siskiyou Counties. On the Shasta- Trinity the area lies within the boundaries of the McCloud Ranger District. It rises east of Mt. Shasta near the south end of the string of Cascade volcanoes that stretch northward from Mt. Lassen into British Columbia. Approximately 100,000 years ago the great volcano underwent a series of eruptions which undermined the center of the mountain and the crest subsided to create a huge crater or caldera. Around the margins of this subsidence, new, smaller volcanoes arose; they are called rampart volcanoes. Medicine Lake now partially fills the crater. Geologists speculate over what events took place that caused the unusual shapes and features to form and how a series of eruptions changed the face of the countryside in the area. One thing is clear, however; more than a million years of volcanic activity have produced a landscape that is perhaps California’s most diverse volcanic field. Furthermore, volcanic eruptions that produced geological features within the Medicine Lake Highlands were no less dramatic than the volcanic eruptions which took place on Mt. St. Helens.”

We had camped in Lava Beds last March and wondered how the campground and surrounding area had fared after the devastating Lava Beds fires that started on July 22.  Seventy Percent of Lava Beds National Monument was burned but we had heard that the visitor center and most of the campground was saved.

Traveling north as we descended to the wild lava covered landscape we discovered the Mammoth Crater site.  As with most of our travels on this trip, there wasn’t a soul around and we let Mattie walk ahead of us on the trail to the viewpoint.  When I declined to continue on the steep part of the trail, I received a very reproachful look.  Mattie won, and I am glad she did because the view from lower point was spectacular.

We read that Mammoth Crater and Modoc Crater are responsible for about 70% of the lava flow in Lava Beds. The lava that flowed from both of these craters is also responsible for the majority of lava tube caves found in the park. Mammoth crater once contained a massive lake of lava that overflowed instead of erupted, leaving behind the empty crater. The lava from this crater was highly fluid and traveled all the way to the northern part of the park, creating lava tube caves all along the way.

So heartbreaking to see this grand old juniper gone and the CCC table destroyed

This what this campsite looked like in March

This what it looked like this week after the fire

Continuing north towards the main park road, we turned toward the campground, excited to see that it was open and that people were camped.  Surprisingly, there were far more people at Lava Beds than up the hill at the beautiful lake!.  Driving through the campground to our previous camp site we were devastated to see that the fire had destroyed another of our favorite campsites.  Last spring I took many photos of the ancient juniper that shaded the magnificent picnic table made of juniper planks attached to huge lava rocks.  We loved the view when we camped last March, but today the view was much more open, but much more devastating.  The park will recover.  Juniper and grass and sage adapt to fire, but there won’t be junipers like this one for another couple hundred years.

As we returned south and up the mountain toward Medicine Lake, we again remarked on the striking and dramatic view of what the fire crews managed to save.  On one side of the road was evidence of serious heavy equipment clearing out the highly flammable underbrush and how the combination of clearing and the firebreak of the road managed to stop the fire.  It was impressive!

The winds were light when we returned to camp in the early afternoon and after lunch, around two, we decided to unload the kayaks and go for a little spin on the lake.  The light winds were tolerable, but one of the things we love most about this lake is the beautifully still, glassy conditions that can make it such a delight to paddle.  By the time we returned to camp after an hour of battling the “light” winds, our arms and shoulders were tired and our bodies were ready for some rest.

Relaxing again with our boring sunset, we made a plan for the following day.  Who knows why we need a plan, but somehow setting a general time for what we want to do feels better when we are in a place where there are no deadlines, nothing we have to do and nowhere we have to be.  It is an old joke for us, and goes all the way back to our very first camp together at Medicine Lake in 2003.  We sat at the picnic table and Mo said, “Well, what do want to do?”.  “hmm…well, we can eat and then we can do something, then we can eat lunch and do something, and then we can eat dinner.”  Ever since, “we can eat and then do something and then eat” has been our inside joke.


 

The morning dawned as still and gorgeous as it had the previous day and even with a temperature of 38 degrees, we decided that waiting till ten to get on the lake would be a mistake.  It was a perfect choice, and while our feet were a bit cold, the early morning sun warmed our backs wonderfully.  We paddled across the lake just in time to see a fat and very fluffy coyote racing across the meadow, spooked out by a woman who was walking with her two dogs and didn’t know that coyote was right in front of her.  We also saw herons and merganser ducks, an osprey, a young eagle, several deer, lots of sandpipers, a lovely family of grebes, and a couple of kingfishers. Our campsite was a virtual aviary of pine siskins, stellar jays, and black headed juncos.  Of course, with only the phone, I have very few wildlife photos and none that are worth showing. I do miss having a great camera with a great telephoto lens.  Every time I try to zoom in with the phone I get a blown-out murky photo that is not the least bit satisfying.

By the time we got off the water two hours later, the winds were rising.  We were so glad we hadn’t waited in spite of the chill.  Lunch of grapes and cheese and crackers was perfect and we settled in for a bit of chair and book time before heading out for our next planned activity.  Mattie loved the sunshine and relaxing part of the day and took full advantage of the freedom to be off leash with not another soul around.

The short hike to Little Glass Mountain is just north of the campground and is about .4 a mile long one way.  It is in a field of pumice, shaded by old lodgepole pine.  I am not a fan of lodgepole, but here they are thick and healthy and quite lovely.  The little cones are just about perfect.

Little Glass Mountain has been identified as the area of most recent volcanic activity about 300 years ago. These eruptions first spread white pumice for miles around. A nearby cinder cone, Pumice Stone Mountain, was completely covered with pumice and a startling, smooth, white dome remains. These pumice eruptions were followed by flows of black volcanic glass, called obsidian. There are other obsidian flows in the Highlands area, some of which are over 1,000 acres in size. Prehistoric people used this material to make arrowheads and spearpoints. Many archaeological sites have been identified, and some artifacts indicate that the Highlands have been inhabited for at least 4,500 years.

The temperature was perfect, Mattie could again be off leash with no one around, and the level path to the glass flow was delightful.  We reached the obsidian, wandered a bit farther toward the west end of the flow and then returned the way we had come.  Once in the past we thought to take off cross country and discovered that the flat landscape and lodgepole forest can be misleading.  This time we stuck to the trail.

Our last planned activity for the day was to take off again in the Tracker and explore a road east of the campground that was marked, “Private Cabins”.  It was a short trip, and a short road, but it led to a surprising number of forest service type cabins and homes that were nestled and tucked away in the thick dark lodgepole forest on the southeast side of the lake.  From the campground, there is no clue as to the number of homes that are hiding there in the trees.  We hadn’t seen them when kayaking on that side of the lake.  It wasn’t particularly inviting to me.  I have lived long enough in a dark forest that I appreciate open skies and sunshine and was grateful that the campground is on the south facing side of the lake.

Our remaining activity of the day was a small one.  Haul the kayaks back up the short slope to the waiting car.  We both discovered that the leg strength required for getting out of the kayaks can be a bit challenging.  Sure hope we can continue to do that for a few more years.  Surprisingly, once we got the boats up the hill, getting them on top the car wasn’t difficult.  Still managing that without much trouble.  Good news.

Saturday morning we woke easily after a night that was a bit warmer than the previous two nights, with a temp of 47 degrees at 7 AM.  There were a few more people around, with two more sites occupied in our campground and a couple more east of us in the Hemlock campground.  We were both really delighted with our Medicine Lake trip this year, and know that we won’t be worried about trying to camp there in the early fall months until the snow flies.

The return trip to Grants Pass through Klamath Falls held a little bit of extra fun.  We had arranged to meet Katie, a good friend of ours, currently a soil scientist at the Klamath Falls office where I worked after retirement until 2017.  Katie is an amazing young woman, full of life and full of adventure.  It was wonderful spending a leisurely patio lunch with her as we caught up on life’s random craziness.  Sorry Katie, I forgot to take photos so I stole this one from your Facebook page.  You and your sweetie!

On the trip home I remembered what I love most about the Klamath Basin.  The thousands, maybe millions of birds are staging for migration.  Klamath Lake was thick with coots, ducks of all kinds, grebes, pelicans, and egrets lining the shoreline.  The aspens were turning on Highway 140 as we approached our old home in Rocky Point.  It was a perfectly beautiful trip without a speck of drama and a lot of quiet time for us.