Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hoquiam, Washington

Our next stop was in the town of Hoquiam, Washington. It's not much of a town, mostly modest homes in need of repairs, lots of high mileage cars, not much commerce. The forestry industry seems to be the only thriving economy. Trucks loaded with fresh cut logs rumble through town constantly. The campground, however, was great, thanks largely to our lucking out and getting the best site in the place. Our big side window faced the river, and my dog fencing was able to be propped up to give our beasts the biggest yard of the trip.

Speaking of varmints, we were thrilled to see otters swimming in the river right at our doorstep. They came by quite a few times, diving, playing, crunching up their catch, peering at us inquisitively. They never seem to rest, never stop moving. Very cute!

I love otters...they're delicious! With a nice oyster sauce, some field greens, a smooth cabernet... The only thing I like better than otter is baby seal, although spotted owl is a delectable treat!

Seriously, was great to see the otters' intelligent faces peering up at us, watch them dive and come up with fish, listening to the crunch as they hastily consume their catch...

We launched our kayaks right from our site and enjoyed paddling the tidal river:

The otters (there were three) were wary of us when we were floating in their element, but when I went out alone and drifted quietly I was able to get much closer and observe them in their daily routine. Remember, these pics can be viewed full screen by clicking on them.

"You keep watch while I eat my fish."

We took a drive over to the coast, to the beach town of Ocean Shores, where we had a nice, but windy, walk along a sandy spit...

...smiled at the entryway at Sharky's...

...and drove out onto the sand where folks were horseback riding through the misty shore wash.

Each day started cool and misty, clearing up late morning and warming to about 70 degrees. Pretty darn perfect.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Road Trip: Estacada, Sisters & Bend

With Nancy away back home for a week, I had some time to kill. I moved a short distance south to Milo McIver State Park in the small town of Estacada. This kept me within range of my new favorite mountain bike trail, plus the Clackamas River, and bought me some nice new digs at a cheap price. Unfortunately, like all state parks, this one was booked solid for the weekend, so I'd have to move again.

I did return to the Sandy Ridge trail system, and this time I got all armored up including my full-face helmet. This gave me more confidence to really try to get some hang time on the jumps. It was my first real ride with that helmet and with moto-cross goggles, and I was please with the comfort and visibility. I enjoyed the downhill run even more than before, spent even less time in contact with the ground, and managed to stick all of my landings and not crash. X-Games: Here I come!

My next activity of note was kayaking the Clackamus River. Milo McIver SP is big enough that I could launch at one end of the park, float for about an hour, and take out at the other end. I dropped off the boat upstream, drove to the bottom, biked back to the top, paddled, then loaded the boat on the truck and retrieved the bike. Self service shuttle. The float started out with a rapid that was a bit intimidating for my first white water in the Ocean Kayak Frenzy. I scouted it on foot, picked my route, then hopped back aboard and ran it. It was great, but I got very wet, so I pulled off again and changed out of my soaked clothes and into my wetsuit. The river split in several places, so I did quite a bit of scouting to make sure I stayed in the main channel and wouldn't miss my take out point. Once I portaged around a short but rambunctious rapid which looked to have a particularly high penalty for failure, but in retrospect, I think I'd have cleaned it just fine. The boat's high, wide bow was great for pushing over steep standing waves. It was great fun and I won't hesitate to run class II, even mild class III rapids with this boat in the future.

When I left Milo McIver it was weekend and I had a hard time finding a campground with availability. I finally did when I looked in the Bend area. A few hours southeast, on the other side of Mount Hood, I secured a spot at Crooked River Ranch in Terrebonne, OR. The drive up the shoulder of Mt. Hood and down the other side was pretty amazing - the landscape changes so much in so few miles. It transistions from temperate rain forest to high desert so very quickly. My campsite at CRR was less than ideal. I was backed up to a grassy area surrounded by large groups of campers. This lawn was the playground of what seemed like four separate family outings - tents, lawn games and little kids everywhere. Being there by myself I felt like some lonely nomad, sitting by myself watching all of the family fun. Toby found them riveting, though. He'd sit out there in the grass for hours watching the activity. I did have fun, though. I drove to the town of Sisters where I found some easy, but fun, trails to ride. On the way I got a good view of The Sisters, three volcanic mountains that dominate the view around here, and of the famous Deschutes River:

I passed by a-pack-a alpacas:

There must have been hundreds of them, all sporting their poofy post-hair-harvest do's, looking like the poodles of the hoofed animal domain.

But the best thing about visiting the Bend area was connecting with my cousin Bruce and his wife Cathy. We'd sort of known each other growing up, both of our families living in Maine. But Bruce and his brothers Steve and Jonathan were considerably older than Laurel and I, so we didn't really spend much time together. His little sister Sarah was the one who played games with us and kept us amused while our parents drank gin & tonics and talked. Anyway, it was great to get to know Bruce and Cathy this time. We had a great day hiking around Todd Lake with Mount Bachelor in the background, beautiful wildflowers everywhere, and lots of snow lingering in the shady areas:

We had lunch on the shore of Sparks Lake with an even better view of Mt. Bachelor:

We checked out the Descutes in an area featuring barren lava fields and where white-water rafters float by:

The day ended back at their house, where Bruce and I talked over gin & tonic while Cathy prepared an excellent salmon dinner. It was a really enjoyable day full of great conversation, including discussions of geneology, land use, hiking, biking, fishing, and memories of Friendship Sloops and sailing the coast of Maine. I wish Nancy could have been there, and I truly hope to see Bruce and Cathy again some day.

The next day I took a quick drive over to Smith Rock state park to see the spectacular rock formations along another beautiful stretch of the Descutes. Rock cliimbers dotted the sheer cliffs, the major routes white with chalk. Another example of the recreational opportunities that abound in this area:

I can see why Bend is such an attractive place to live - so much to see and do within an hour of town, and over 300 days of sunshine per year to recreate in! This is a place to revisit for sure.

Back to Troutdale for one more ride at Sandy Ridge (gotta ride the Little Monkey trail!) and to pick Nancy up from the airport. Our journey continues next in Washington State. Check back soon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


It looked like an easy drive from Astoria to Troutdale, our destination-du-jour, just east of the city of Portland. Alas, it turned out to be one of the most frustrating drives of the journey. Partly my fault - I chose the "quicker" route cutting straight through the hills instead of the meandering road following the Columbia River. This decision got us off on the wrong foot by routing us south through Seaside, and imparting upon us our first delay from stop'n'go traffic through this busy little town. Once on highway 26 we were out of traffic but into the hills. I've certainly driven through worse, but what made this frustrating was that it was unnecessary. In retrospect I would rather have wound along a twisting riverside road than subject the truck and transmission to the hills. Oh well. But the real treat was the re-freaking-diculous traffic jam in Portland. We timed the trip to arrive well before standard city afternoon rush hour, getting there at around 3:00. Nope. In Portland route 26 eastbound is apparently always a transit nightmare. We proceeded at a walking pace, while I provided commentary in the form of an increasingly colorful stream of obscenities, taking about an hour to cover nine miles. ANYWAY...we finally escaped the grip of the traffic and made it to Troutdale only to find our GPS conflicting with signage. We opted to follow the signage, but missed a turn and ended up taking an unscheduled tour of the suburbs under tow before finally pulling into the campground. A couple of stiff cocktails were required to unwind from the day.

Nice enough place, the Sandy Riverfront RV Park: well manicured, quiet and reasonably priced. The level pull-through site was a blessing at the end of a miserable drive. The Sandy river flows along the campground, and the cute little Main Street section of Troutdale was just a short stroll away.

We had a real mixed bag of weather while in Troutdale. The forecast was of no use as the bands of rain were rolling through interspersed with sunny interludes. We took a ride out along the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River, where people come from all over the world for windsurfing and kiteboarding. The spectacle of kites and sails was a sight to behold:

We spent quite a while watching the kite boarders getting set up, launching, skidding over the water, jumping, and landing. It was nice to see such a diverse group of people partaking in the sport: although all were fit folks, and many were ripped twenty-somethings, there were also many middle aged people of both genders, not all of whom were sporting sculpted abs, if you know what I mean. So, it was fun seeing all of these Charlie Browners freeriding, stomping their pops, enjoying a stiff enough breeze to keep them from tea-bagging...

Speaking of tea...and of tea roses, we went into Portland to Washington park, where we enjoyed the International Rose Test Garden:

And also the excellent Japanese Garden:

I had also read about a mountain bike trail system that was in range: the Sandy Ridge Trail system. I drove over one morning and subjected myself to the 3.5 mile climb up a paved road in order to enjoy my new favorite trail, the Hide and Seek trail:

What made this trail so good was its flow, designed specifically for mountain biking, taking full advantage of terrain to create a 3.5 mile route that can be ridden without pedaling or braking (once you get to know it). Even on my first time out it was a blast, packed with rollers, tabletop jumps and banked turns. The magazine article I'd found this in described it well as "pumpy and jumpy". I'll go back to this one before I leave this area.

Mount Hood was visible from the trail, through a break in trees:

I'll remain in the Portland area for the next week while Nancy is back home tending to her business. Hopefully I can finally get through the week without having to deal with dog issue and veterinarians! If so, it will be the first time that she has been away without some kind of dogastrophy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Our drive up to Astoria was another beautiful one, as Highway 101 continued to be in mostly excellent repair, and reward us with beautiful views of the Oregon coast:

We drove through Tillamook and stopped to check out the cheese factory. So, apparently, did hundreds of others. It was unacceptably crowded, so we elbowed our way to the factory viewing windows, skipped the stoopid long lines for ice cream, snagged a bag of curds and block of cheddar for the road, and got the havarti out of there...

...arriving at Fort Stevens state park, a massive campground of nearly 500 sites. Somehow, though, most of the sites, including ours, were private and quiet, just the way we like it.

It was just a short drive over to Astoria, the oldest permanent American settlement west of the Rockies, situated on the south shore at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. The sand bar at the mouth of the river, combined with the wind-driven swells of the Pacific meeting the ceaseless flow of the river has been the ruin of thousands of ships, and is thus dubbed Graveyard of the Pacific. Ships navigating this bar, even in this day of GPS & Radar, must have a Pilot aboard while crossing the bar. These pilots climb aboard from specially made pilot boats, boats that can blast through the chop and surf of the bar to pull alongside moving freight ships. Here is one of the smaller, river pilot boats at dock in Astoria harbor:

It's a beautiful town with a real main street and downtown that caters to residents, not having given in to tourist gift shops and name brand boutiques. Up on the hillside gorgeous Victorian homes look out over the river:

A great view of the town, harbor, river and surrounding landscape can be had by ascending the Astoria Column:

Nancy didn't like the look of the metal spiral staircase in the column:

A really great Maritime Museum provided several hours of educational entertainment, and right across the street from there sat the Bowpicker, a takout fish and chips place that is awesome! They only use fresh albacore tuna, and fry it to order in a thin crispy batter. Served with steak fries and the best tartar sauce I've had, it's fish and chips at its very best!

Fishing boats are built tough here:

Back at Fort Stevens, we enjoyed their miles of paved bike trails...

...riding down to the beach where the wreck of the Peter Iredale protrudes from the sand:

Light reflects off of the flat wet sand:

Happy Toby:

The south jetty at the river mouth separates the angry Pacific from the river channel:

Foxgloves are a common sight along the Oregon coast:

So, it was a really nice stay in the Astoria area. This is one of several places that we'd like to return to get to know better, perhaps even live there for a while (if we can stand the copious rainfall). Our next stop will be very different - we'll be at a private park in a suburb of Portland, checking out that city and the Columbia River Gorge. Hopefully some good mountain biking too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oregon Coast: Reedsport & Depoe Bay

Onward and northward...a change of pace from last week for sure: this week we slipped effortlessly back into a leisurely schedule of slow mornings, Nancy working while I bike or do chores, then some exploration in the afternoons, dinner, a movie and early to bed. Our driving, too, has been moderate over the last week, as we moved up the Oregon coast just a hundred miles or so at a time.

Our first stop was at Tugman State Park, just south of Reedsport. This was a super nice park: large sites, electric and water, and dense foliage separating sites resulting in one of the most private places we've camped. Oregon state parks generally seem to be among the best we've seen. Many of our states could stand a lesson from Oregon in this regard. This particular park was situated a couple of miles inland, separated from the Pacific by the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Thankfully only a few of the campers at Tugman were among the thousands of ATV enthusiasts who flock to the dunes to tear around on quads. We saw other campgrounds in the area which were crowded with ATVs, and I can only imagine the resulting constancy of noise and stench from these machines. Anyway, we were camped near Eel Lake, popular for fishing, kayaking and swimming. There was a nice forest trail partway around the lake which I enjoyed biking on. We explored the local area and braved the high winds and blowing sand for some time on the beach:

Up the coast, driving on a beautiful stretch of highway 101, we passed by gorgeous coastline overlooks, including this one at Heceta Head Lighthouse:

Our next stop was in Depoe Bay, a little fishing port/tourist/beach town. The campground butts right up to the miles-long beach, great for dog walks and just sitting & enjoying the ceaseless roaring of the surf:

Depoe Bay harbor claims to be the world's smallest:

We watched several gray whales spouting just off shore from town. Then we stopped at a state park where we walked out onto a bluff to enjoy the best whale viewing experience of our lives: a young gray whale was feeding practically below our feet in the clear waters at the foot of the bluff. We could see it swimming, see it approach the surface to breath, watch it arch it's back and flex it's flukes to dive again. It was awesome! Unfortunately, my $%&@#ing Lumix camera's display chose this time to go out, so I couldn't tell where I was aiming or how much to zoom. So, I missed out on getting some great closeups. This is the best that I got, which at least gives a sense of the visibility and clarity that we had:

Another little adventure was my kayaking-in-the-surf episode. I'd been eyeing the surf right off of the beach here, and was hankering to repeat the fun I'd had back in the Carolina's. So, I got suited up in my wetsuit, the water being 55 or 60 degrees cool, and dragged the Frenzy down to the water. Just getting out there proved to be a challenge. My first attempt to escape the shore-break bowled me over and spit me back up onto the beach. Then I waited for what seemed like forever for a lull, and finally finding one, paddled out past the breakers. There I enjoyed riding the rollers, feeling like a duck as each wave lifted me high as it passed beneath. Then I began to look for some steeper waves to ride. I found one, but it wasn't really steep enough to surf. Moving closer, I found myself in front of the first of a set of extra large waves:

This one was bigger than I'd wanted, and I attempted to paddle out of its way, but I was too far in, and saw with horror that it was a split break, with me in the middle! I turned to shore and accelerated, hoping to ride it out, but it ate me whole. It rolled me over and buried me! The boat was pushed to shore and I was left to endure the remainder of the set of waves, each of which had their way with me as I struggled to the beach. I crawled out on shore while Nancy retrieved the boat from the wash and snapped a few photos to show me in case I ever suggested that I'd like to do that again... So, that ended that, and no harm done other than a bruised ego. You can be sure that when I venture into the surf again it'll be only into the tamest little "kiddie" waves that I can find!