Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Crater Lake

Happy to escape the blast furnace environment of Shasta Lake, we steered north for Oregon. For the first two hours up the I-5 our view included the snowy heights of Mount Shasta. Only when we had crossed into Oregon and into the hilly country east of Medford did it disappear from view. We followed the Rogue River east and camped at Prospect RV Park in Prospect, Oregon.

This is a great park. It had the spacious sites and lush growth of some of the better state parks we've seen, designed with large RVs in mind, and full hookups. The hosts that were on duty when we arrived, Zach and Bekah, were so nice and friendly. Zach gave us a full tour, allowing us to pick our favorite site, and telling us about campground features, plus lots of local attractions, trails, waterfalls, etc.. Often times checking in is just a business transaction, but here we were made to feel welcome.

So, we set about exploring the area. On Zach's advice I took to the trail that followed the Rogue River, enjoying the dips and turns through the trees with the sound of the white water rapids in the air:

Nancy and I checked out some of the local gorges and waterfalls:

We drove up miles of washboard dirt roads to a lofty overlook where we could once again see Mount Shasta, as well as an endless sea of wooded rolling hills, dotted with lakes and ponds. The wildflowers were in bloom, plus a shrub hanging with these prickly pods:

Also up at the overlook was a pet cemetery, clearly the final resting place for many a beloved pet who enjoyed walkies in this beautiful place. "Some Angels Wear Fur" Well put.:

I rode again, this time with Zach. It was fun to ride with someone again - most of my rides are solo, and it's fun to share the joy of the ride with another enthusiast. Zach and Bekah also generously gave us a big bag full of fresh trout fillets - so delicious! Thanks, you guys, for being such great hosts and making our stay much more meaningful!

Then...Nancy's mom Lillian and her husband Mike joined us! Arriving a few days early for a family vacation in Brookings OR, they flew into Portland and drove down to meet us at our camp. While they were with us we checked out the spot where the Rogue River disappears underground for several hundred feet before erupting back out into the open, and we went to Crater Lake National Park.

I wasn't prepared for the amount of snow still on the ground up there. Only a couple thousand feet higher than where we were camped, enjoying temperatures in the 70's and 80's, we found 8 foot snowbanks on the rim of the crater:

The lake itself is amazingly beautiful: 4.5 to 6 miles across, over 1000 feet from lake to rim, sapphire blue waters up to 1943 feet deep (average depth over 1100'), exceptionally clear water with visibility up to 144 feet. Pretty stunning:

Thursday, June 23, 2011


So, it seems it never gets above 60 degrees on the coast of northern California. This might not be generally true, but it was the case for us, so we headed inland for a spell - to warm up (Also because it's on the way to Crater Lake). Crossing those pesky mountains once again, this time on a road that luxuriouly sported shoulders, we arrived at our campground in Shasta Lake, just north of Redding, and 104 degrees HOT. Damn, that's a little more warmth than I was looking for. We saw a temperature rise of 50 degrees over the course of the drive!

The next day promised to be another scorcher. It was pleasant in the early morning hours, in the low 70s, but at 10:00, when the sun cleared the trees and poured forth its energy onto the earth, it rapidly became unbearable outside. "It's a dry heat" they say, as if that makes it right. We hid indoors until mid-afternoon, when it was pushing 100 outside and the air conditioner didn't have the cahones to keep it pleasant inside. So, we went over to Shasta Lake, found a beach where we could swim and launch the kayaks, and got our relief that way.

The dogs got all soaking wet, then rolled in dirt and sand, and hunted for goose turds to eat. Aren't they charming? By the time we got back to camp we were refreshed, and the hottest part of the day was past. We got cleaned up and went into town to have a nice dinner in celebration of 15 years of marriage. After dinner we went to Redding's Sundial Bridge, a striking asymmetrical structure spanning the Sacramento River, with a plexiglass tile walking surface which gets illuminated at night. Very nice.

I got up early the next morning to go for a mountain bike ride while the air was still cool. I went to Whiskeytown N.R.A. where I found a series of single track trails that linked together to make a fine loop. Very enjoyable. Back at camp by 9:30, ready to get some chores done before heading out in the afternoon, back to Whiskeytown, but this time for some more kayaking. We had another very nice paddle in the cooler, clearer waters of Whiskeytown Lake.

Every now and then we'd get a glimpse of Mount Shasta peeking over some hilltop, bright white against the azure sky, shimmering from the waves of heat radiating off of the landscape. Finally we got a really good look at this lone white mountain; this 14179 feet tall stratovolcano, rising nearly 10000 feet from the surrounding terrain:

Next we leave the state of California and cross into Oregon, hoping to find more reasonable temperatures, and gaze into the depths of Crater Lake.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trinidad, California

Our next stop was the little seaside town of Trinidad, California. To get there we once again opted to drive inland, thereby avoiding the tortuous turns of coast highway 1. Once again, we suffered through the mountains, taking our turns in the hills instead of along the shore. Making it to the 101 the driving got easier for a while, and when it narrowed again it was through towering stands of redwoods where many of the trees' trunks are like slalom poles that the road weaves between, and the sun filtered through the canopy splashed patterns of light on the roadway.

Emerald Acres campground in Trinidad is in a stand of redwood trees - younger ones, maybe only 100 feet tall or so. At their roots the stumps of their parents slowly decay; massive 8 to 10 foot across reminders of what was here before man felt they would be better served cut up into boards. Is there nothing the white man hasn't tried to destroy? Anyway, we squeezed into our site which, although narrow, got some late afternoon sun, and enjoyed a nice view of a grassy meadow from our rear window.

We took the dogs down to the state beach right at the base of the cute little town. Toby loved running on the hard sand below the high water mark, scurrying up the beach when a rogue wave caught him off guard.

We walked among giant boulders common to this north Pacific coast and admired the sea life living there; barnacles the size of your thumb, mussels as big as your fist, starfish in purple and orange.

We braved the ferocious winds and launched the kayaks in Trinidad harbor, taking care not to disturb this sandy, grumpy old guy:

We kept close to the lee shore and had a nice paddle, looking at all of the sea life. A seal or sea-lion, not sure which, surfaced near us with a large fish in its mouth, munching and crunching its wiggly lunch. Several pelicans loitered on the town dock, eyeballing us condescendingly, dis-inclined to move no matter how close we paddled:

The next morning, at low tide, we went over to Patrick's Point State Park, which was highly recommended by our friends Tommy and Danielle. It did not disappoint - a beautiful place. We spent most of our time down on Agate Beach, ambling along at the surf line, scanning the beach for colorful stones and agates:

Then we went back to town where throngs of people had gathered for the annual Fish Festival. Rather than search for a space to park Gigantor we took her back to camp and hopped on our bikes to check out the festival. We shared a dinner of fried whitefish, beans and slaw, enjoyed the sounds of a local band, browsed several vendors' booths, and stopped for a tasting at the local winery, Moonstone Crossing.

I got in a mountain bike ride down in Arcata which was nice in the sense that the trails were through lush forests of redwoods and ferns, but not my favorite because the map that I was steering by was really misleading, and I ended up feeling like my ride was all climbing and very little singletrack. It redeemed itself at the end, however, when I found a section of trail built up with lots of jumps and berms, so I got to rip on those for a little while.

Lastly, another visit down at the town beach was rewarded by meeting a great couple, Mike and Lois, from Weaverville, CA. They were camping in their 31' class C on the weekend of their 42nd anniversary. Mike is 5 years cancer free and he and bubbly Lois are trying out RVing as they live their lives with renewed energy. We enjoyed the great conversation and wish them both continued health and happiness.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg: lots of seaside parks, the right number of hours drive from Bodega Bay, a decent selection of campgrounds...we're there.

I headed inland from Bodega Bay to avoid the serpentine Coast Highway 1 and traded instead for serpentine and mountainous highway 128. Not a good trade, it turns out - very tiring driving. We pulled off the road at a lovely lookout for a break and lunch, enjoying the nearly 90 degree temperature - too far inland to be cooled by the unrelenting air conditioning power of the Pacific Ocan. As we ate we gazed out over hills of trees, meadows and grape vines.

After lunch we fired up the truck, but after just a few seconds it stalled. It's never stalled before, never so much as sputtered. I cranked it a few times...nothing. I popped the hood but saw nothing obviously wrong. I opened the fuel filter bleeder and pumped the primer, finding fuel present and at the ready. So I cranked it some more...nothing. Then I tried what I would do with a gasoline engine: I mashed the accelerator while cranking. The sound changed, and the engine caught. Puzzled but relieved I put 'er in gear and headed down the road. So, we made it to Fort Bragg and settled into our space at Pomo Campground. I don't know why it stalled, but it hasn't happened since. Gonna have to do some research.

Anyway, like always, one of the first things I do in a new place is to spend some time sniffing around the web looking for local biking opportunities. I found some here and struck out early the next morning to rip up some trail. I cruised through redwoods...

...and rolled all of the way down to the sea:

In the afternoons, after Nancy had gotten some work done, we'd go out, walking along the wind-swept beach, surf pounding, feet in hot sand but chilled by blasting water-cooled air. We came to a roped-off area which was a resting place for dozens of sea lions. It was great to be so close to them, watching them stretch, roll over, inch-worm to and from the water...but it wasn't so great to be downwind from them. I don't know if it was sea-lion B.O. or their breath, but wow! It's amazing that they can stand to be near one-another, let alone breed!

Found a sheltered inlet where the dogs could run and play in the water:

Got the boats out for a paddle in Big River:

And enjoyed some of the scenery like the quaint town of Mendocino and the beautiful park that it overlooks:

And the historic Point Cabrillo Light Station:

Definitely could have spent more time in this area. There was plenty more to see and do. But there's more coastal adventures in our future as we move north to Patrick's Point. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bodega Bay

Ah, back to the ocean! There's something about the sea that just makes us feel good. Although it was colder and very windy, it was sunny, and the salt air infused the soul with health and well being. We camped at Porto Bodega Marina in Bodega Bay California. This little tourist and fishing town is where Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" was filmed. (No, we didn't have our eyes pecked out by an angry cloud of blackbirds, get wing-beaten by a vindictive flock of caspian terns, or have holes bored into our skulls by psychotic sapsuckers.) From our back window we looked right out over the harbor, and we could launch our kayaks directly from our site. Although we were squeezed between other RVs in this tightly spaced campground, it sure is nice to have waterfront. And, as seems to be the case at sea-side campgrounds, the people (and the birds) were all happy to be there, and a friendly atmosphere prevailed.

While there we drove up the coast highway, stopping at various beaches to walk the dogs (some of them allow it), paddled our kayaks amongst sea lions, loons and grebes, watched gray whales spout off Bodega Head, and enjoyed fresh local seafood. It was a great few days, and even as we keep moving, we're going to stick to the coast for a little while.

One of the beaches of Sonoma Coast Beach Park:

Kayaking on a foggy morning:

A curious sea lion surfaced very close to us, getting Toby all excited, then made a big splash right alongside Nancy's boat, and disappeared!

Some of Bodega Bay's fishing fleet:

Pelicans off Bodega Head:

We sat and watched gray whales from the Head for about an hour, but my attempts at capturing them with the camera were not worthy of publishing. But here's someone else's pic that I scammed off the 'net:

A few miles up Highway 1, in Jenner, there is a sea lion nursery that can be observed from a pull-off on an overlooking bluff:

Loons in Bodega Harbor:

Western Gull:

Dinner of dungeness crab which I picked, tossed with butter, mayo and black pepper and served over toasted homemade bread. Mmmmmm...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Napa Time

Ah, Napa Valley…the pastoral beauty of rolling hills patterned with a patchwork of vineyards and dotted with lovely country homes. The orderly rows of grapevines marching along the undulating terrain instill a sense of calm and well being. The splashes of color from roses and perennial flowers elevate the already pleasing scene to one of extraordinary beauty. It’s a very, very nice place to be.

Pour yourself a beverage and get comfortable – this is a long one… We stayed for a full week, figuring correctly that any less wouldn’t seem like enough time to do the area justice. It rained for the first two days, limiting our outdoor time somewhat, but we still got in to downtown Napa to have a walk around and initiate ourselves into the wine tasting scene, and to take a drive part way up the valley to visit a vineyard (Black Stallion).

The third morning I was reading the blog of our new friends Danielle and Tommy and I learned that they were in Napa. I fired off an email to see if they were still in town and a few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Not only were they still in Napa, they were parked just a few spaces down from us in the same campground! How we missed each other is a mystery. We got caught up and made plans for a bike ride and dinner at the end of the day. Then I took Toby to the vet – he had several inflamed areas on his paws that needed professional attention. He would be there for most of the day, so we headed out to another vineyard (Michael Mondavi) for another tasting (loved the petite syrah). When we picked Toby up later that day he had all four feet shaved which looks ridiculous! The vet removed three grass seeds and a thorn which were embedded in four different spots. Poor guy! He’s much more comfortable now.

Tommy, Danielle and I went for our mountain bike ride on the very good trail system here at Skyline Park. We meant to ride up on the double track and descend on single track, but we missed a turn and ended up climbing most of the way up a challenging single track trail complete with switchbacks. The ride back down was fast, flowy and fun. Along the way we saw a herd of deer, a flock of turkeys and a gaggle of stoners! The deer peered at us silently. The turkeys gobbled comically. The stoners were like: “Dude. Have a good ride.”

After the ride we got cleaned up, then Tommy and Danielle came over and I made a couple of pizzas for dinner. We had a great visit and are so happy that we found each other here in Napa. Their RV trip is almost over, but their adventure together will have many excellent chapters.

The next morning we said our goodbyes to T&D, I took another bike ride, then we ran some errands. When we got back to camp we saw that we had a new neighbor. Right away they approached us with bad news: as they were parking their trailer they hit ours! Ironically their trailer is a Bullet. Thankfully we were just grazed: the damage is not severe and will not affect our travel plans. At first is appeared to be limited to the fiberglass “nose cone” of the Whale. A small area was cracked, exposing some of the fiberglass. Later I discovered that in addition one of the front landing gear jacks was damaged when the whole rig shifted from the impact. This was more un-nerving and required me to hitch up the truck to take the weight off of the jacks, bend part of the metal back into shape, add a safety wire, then set it back down. The nice youngish couple were very apologetic and clearly wanted to make amends. They ultimately decided to contact their insurance company since their trailer sustained damage as well. So, when our trip is over we’ll need to get these things fixed before resale. A bit of a bummer, but certainly could have been worse.

One of our days we drove first to Oakland, then to San Francisco. In Oakland there is a breakfast & lunch restaurant called Brown Sugar Kitchen. It is owned by celebrity chef Tanya Holland and her husband Phil Surkis, brother of my good friend Dan. Dan has always raved about how good the food is, so we definitely wanted to experience it for ourselves. Nancy got the house specialty of fried chicken with a cornmeal waffle and I got an oyster po-boy sandwich. The food was excellent! The staff somehow learned of our connection to the place and gave us each a t-shirt bearing an image of their famous waffle! So nice!

After lunch we popped over the Bay Bridge and drove through San Francisco, ultimately parking near the Fisherman’s Wharf.

We spent a few hours walking around taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the city by the bay. Heaping piles of boiled dungenous crab…

… seagulls crying on the bow of a WWII submarine…

… brightly painted horses on the Pier39 carousel…

…barking sea lions…

…and the fascinating array of old arcade games including this one, so very funny and puzzling:

Our last day I replaced the grease seals on the Whale’s wheels in the morning – a messy two hour job, but one that saves us considerable hassle over having it done at an RV shop. After a tasty lunch of grilled sourdough and havarti we drove further up Napa Valley, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, and stopping now and then to taste the products of several vineyards. We loved the moscoto from St. Supery, provence from Peju, and the sauvignon blanc from Markham. It was a beautiful afternoon, sipping wine and strolling the splendidly manicured estate grounds of these vineyards. Life is good, eh?