September 2 Duluth

the rest of the photos for this day of travels are here.

Duluth (2) Our campsite at Jay Cooke was perfectly comfortable, and after a very wild night of hard rain and thunder, it was good to know we didn’t have to rush off anywhere in a hurry.  Planning two nights in one place is great, because then there is at least a day to explore some of the local area. Once we reach Niagara Falls, Labor Day will be in the past and we do hope to spend a bit more time relaxing and seeing the local sights. 

We asked the waitress last night what shouldn’t be missed in Duluth, and she insisted that the Skyline Drive and Enger tower was something that everyone seemed to think was the thing to do.  After a relaxing morning, a good breakfast, and a good MoHo cleanout, we took off again in the Tracker to see a bit of the town.  Duluth (5) The visitor center near Spirit Mountain has a great display of panoramic photographs labeled with all the sights of the Duluth Harbor and is a great way to get oriented to the layout of the city.  They also provided two maps and a full page of descriptive directions for negotiating the Skyline Parkway.  The drive was dramatic even on a cloudy day.  The gardens at Enger park were filled with hostas and other familiar perennials that we grow at home, but they were so much bigger than what I can grow at Rocky Point.  Amazingly, the tower was open and there was no fee to climb the several flights of stairs to the top for the view of the Duluth Harbor.  In fact, no one was around except the pigeons, and Abby even managed to climb all those stairs to the top.

Duluth (37)After winding around the bluffs overlooking Duluth, we drove down to Canal Park to explore that area as well.  By then it was raining, so we got out the umbrellas and raincoats and made an attempt to see some of the area.  The Lakeshore walk follows the shoreline for a couple of miles but with the rain we decided to have lunch instead.  I was tickled to find my favorite Walleye on  the menu and enjoyed the succulent, delicate white fish found only in these cold northern waters.  The last time I had walleye was in St Paul several years ago when Mo and I traveled there during winter. I wasn’t disappointed.  Both times I have had walleye, it has been the most delicate, tender, moist, fresh, sweet fish I ever ate.  Bar none. 

Duluth (44)We checked out a few shops and then drove down to the Rose Garden.  This part of Duluth is wonderful, with so many walkways, trails, bike paths, and gardens.  I would have loved to spend some time here when it wasn’t raining, but even in the rain it was a special place.  Only one ship passed through the Aerial Lift Bridge while we were there, but I was glad to see it in operation. 

We skipped the traffic and ambled home to Jay Cooke in the rain and settled in for a peaceful evening.

Silver Falls State Park Day 1 and Day 2

Photos for the entire trip are here.
Oregon is all about water.  Currently on the east side, where we live, there is a drought.  The Klamath Basin has been at the center of the water conflict in the west for several years now.  Even with all the extra April snows, we are still facing a serious drought this summer.  The west side of the state is also about water.  Lots of it.  Oregon is famous for it’s rain and verdant green mountains and valleys.  Oregon is also famous for its waterfalls, and we spent a long weekend enjoying one of the prime spots in the state for enjoying some of those waterfalls. 
Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon, with almost 9,000 acres of magnificent temperate rain forest. Towering Douglas-fir and western hemlocks dominate the park, with a vast array of moist woodland plants, meadows, creeks and wildlife.  In addition, there are more than 25 miles of lovely trails. The highlight of these trails is the “Trail of Ten Falls” that meanders around the North and South Forks of Silver Creek and connects to the park’s ten main waterfalls.  For us, another highlight of this park is the fact that a large portion of these trails are multi-use trails that are dog friendly.  Another delight and destination for us was the town of Silverton, home to the Oregon Garden and the Oregon Garden Brewfest, just 15 short miles north of the park.  I had heard about this park, even knew some friends who were married there, and yet this was my first time to visit.

Retired to Easy StreetWhen we left Rocky Point on Friday morning, the skies were clear and the air was warm.  It’s been awhile since I have been in such brilliant sunshine and blue skies and it felt wonderful to be finally on the road again in the MoHo.  Even though February was sunny and lovely, April brought a lot of snow and cold, cloudy days to us, so this was a delight.  Traveling the route that we often take to the north, we drove north on the West Side Road along the base of the Cascades, crossed the gorgeous Wood River Valley to Highway 97, and crossed the mountains over Willamette Pass.  Thinking a side route would be interesting, we left Interstate 5 just north of Albany to wander across the broad eastern portion of the Willamette Valley before beginning the surprising climb to the park. 

04272010_travelcat (3)Western Oregon is magnificent at this time of year, with dogwoods, azaleas, and rhododendrons coming into full bloom at the lower elevations.  Once at the park, however, spring was just beginning, and the maples had only the tiniest of leaves on the tips of their branches.  Our crystal clear skies also gave way to the predicted clouds as we set up our camp in space 58 in the A loop.  We managed to plan our trip for the weekend when a convention of “fiberglass trailers” had taken over most of the park.  We made reservations a couple of months ago and were still unable to snag a site with hookups.  We knew it would be so, and were prepared with plenty of gas in the MoHo, and a full tank of propane and fresh water. 

Once settled in, we took a walk around the campground, admiring all the cute little Casita’s, Burro’s, and other unnamed tiny little homes, all hooked up to power.  Some of them looked barely long enough to stretch out full length in bed, but they were really delightful for folks with small cars who just wanted to get up off the ground, and camp in comfort.  A nice step up from a tent, especially in rainy Oregon!  As with almost everything else nowadays, there seems to be a culture and club for these trailers, and people were standing around in groups visiting and sharing and showing off their homes.
The printed maps for the park are a bit vague and it took awhile to get good bearings.  Abby enjoyed her walk along the trail to the dog area, a huge grassy unfenced open meadow where dogs are allowed to run free off leash.  On this cloudy Friday evening there were very few people around and we had the trail almost completely to ourselves.  We were rewarded at the northern part of the paved trail with a magnificent view of South Falls, something that surprised me since I thought miles of hiking was required for actual falls views. It was a great walk, and then back to camp for a delicious favorite soup brought from home and a great campfire. The rain held off until bedtime, with the patter on the roof gentle and soft.  I so appreciate the MoHo in weather like this.  I love being cozy and warm and DRY!

Silver_Falls (8)Silver_Falls (4)On Saturday morning we woke to a gray and misty sky and after a light breakfast took Abby for another long walk.  This time we parked at the Winter Falls Trailhead, where dogs aren’t allowed on the trail, but the adjacent Rim Trail parallels the canyon and is dog friendly.  The trail is well maintained, winding through the mossy forest. 

Our focus on this day was the Oregon Garden Brewfest, held at the 80 acre site of the Oregon Gardens, just four miles west of Silverton. The skies again were a mix of brilliant sunshine and very dark clouds, with rain coming and going throughout the day. Once at the gardens, we found the pavilion for the brewfest, and walked in to a very surprising display of brewers and people already enjoying finely crafted beers.  With our 2010 Tasters Guide in hand, we wandered around a bit before settling in to find just the taste we wanted among the many descriptions of available brews.  My favorite was the Calapoolia Brewing Co. from Albany where my daughter often played with her band  when she lived in Albany.  A good friend of mine, Chris Savastio from Sonora, told me once about a fabulous chili beer he tasted in New Mexico.  So of course, I had to try the chili beer.  It ruined me for the rest of the show because the Calapoolia version of chili beer was so good I didn’t want to waste my tickets on anything else!  However, I did break away once and tried the Block 15 Nebula, Naked Oat Stout.  The description from the guide hooked me: “A contemplative brew with notes of fresh coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel with a velvety brown head.  Golden naked oats provide a sweet-nut flavor and a smooth satiny finish” .  Beer?  really??  It was fabulous actually.  Mo stuck to pale ales and wrinkled her nose at my chili and chocolate beers.  Mo likes good simple food and wants things to taste like what they actually are, aka, beer should taste like beer not chocolate!

Silver_Falls (27)We took a break in the outdoor garden, trying to avoid the rain, and then walked around the gardens.  We got rained on just a bit, and then the sun would burst forth in brilliant light, illuminating the blossoms and sparkling on the raindrops.  The gardens are amazing, with more than 20 different theme gardens overlooking the Willamette Valley.  The conifer garden is the jewel of the park, and is listed as the premier conifer garden for the Western United States for the American Conifer Society.  The garden is maintained by a volunteer who was very informative, making sure that I knew that it was a “conifer” garden and not an “evergreen” garden, stating emphatically that the garden contained 5 species of conifers that were deciduous. Dwarf conifers are an amazing group of plants, with many varieties that are not often included in everyday landscaping.  Another bonus to the Oregon Gardens is that they are also dog-friendly.  They encourage you to bring your leashed dog and to enjoy the paths and especially the special “pet garden” that displays how to create a pet friendly place and what plants are safe for your pet.  After our stroll, we returned to enjoy more tastings and good food.  Mo had a bratwurst with onions and sauerkraut on a nice roll and I had a truly excellent salmon burger, dressed with coleslaw on a sourdough bun.  Yum! 

Silver_Falls (51) Silver_Falls (48) Once back home at camp, we took another walk on a park trail through old growth firs, meadows, and a meandering creek. It was a delightful day, capped off again by a huge campfire and a great supper of spaghetti and garlic bread.  Yum.  Early evening at the campsite brought out the sun for a bit and the night was clear and cool without being too cold. 

Day 2 Shore Acres Gardens

We planned our first full day on the coast as an easy time of getting to know the area, driving to different access sites, finding a grocery store, and learning about accessing South Slough, our planned kayak adventure. It was amazing how the entire day passed so gently, so effortlessly, timeless, yet never really still. One great thing that we learned is that the kitties are quite satisfied to be caged at 3am or so when they think it is time to get up and start wandering and meowing. Into the cages they go, so there, and amazing to us, not a peep out of them till I let them out at 7am. Great thing to learn when traveling with cats, and not a bad thing to know at home either! A good nights sleep is a perfect way to start a perfect day!

Up then, slowly, easing into the day with morning coffee, hot and strong from the french press, a simple breakfast of egg and toast, a bit of warm heat to offset the night chill of the ocean. the sky was crystal clear as we headed south on the coast road to Shore Acres, the viewpoint overlooking Shell Island, and Cape Arago. This entire part of the coast is one form of state park or another, with trails down to the coves, trails through the incredibly thick forests, trails to the tide pools, over the mountains, and around the headlands. We aren’t likely to run out of hiking trails around here ever.

The beautiful roses are part of the display at Shore Acres State Park formal gardens, a legacy of the son of the man who established Coos Bay with his ship building and lumbering business. Louis J. Simpson loved to spend money, and his home at Shore Acres reflected that. The mansion is gone now, but the gardens have been handed down to the state of Oregon, and are now enjoyed by anyone who can drive here. Our twenty dollar fee for camping at Sunset Bay includes our night of camping with power and water, a free pass to all the parking areas at all the local beaches, entry to the rest of the day use areas , and to Shore Acres and the gardens.

There are flowers blooming at any season, but I can imagine the rhododendrons and azaleas in may would be breathtaking, and the dahlias in August and September are a focal point for the central gardens. Right now it is the roses, which surely seem to love this coastal weather, protected from the salt spray by huge firs. Not a sign of a bug anywhere. Wandering the gardens was like slipping back in time to a more refined era. After lunch we ambled into Coos Bay, maybe 12 miles or so to the north, and found a grocery store and a hardware store. Finally here there was just a bit of traffic, a bit of a hurried feeling right around “Freddies” (Fred Meyer stores for those not from the northwest), and the new Safeway. We saw the new boardwalk at Coos Bay, but it didn’t tempt us much, as it was basically a board walk along and some boats, no shops or much else to look at.

Driving back down the highway from Coos to Charleston, we laughed at all the “rv parks” which seemed to be nothing more than someone deciding to open their front yard to parking on the grass. Seems as though all old rv’s come here to retire and spend their last days.

Charleston is very tiny, with a few kitchy souvenir shops and a restaurant or two. We chose to have fish and chips at a restaurant with pale blue walls, white lace curtains, big pots of hanging purple petunias, and a very nice waitress. In spite of the pastel decor, the fish and chips were fabulous, today fresh caught halibut with perfect breading, not the least bit heavy or greasy, and a refreshing light glass of pinot gris. Ahh.