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Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Posted by on Jun 16, 2017 in Birding, Family, Food, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Oregon | 29 comments

Ican’t tell you how many times we’ve been cruising along in our travels and I’ve exclaimed, “Oh! Look at that beautiful view/interesting wayside trail/cool one-street town/yummy café” and we’ve just zoomed on by, because there isn’t a place to pull over with our trailer and we still have a long drive ahead of us. (Left to my own devices, I would pull over at every whim. But I do realize that we would never get anywhere at that rate.)

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks on the north Oregon Coast, moving short distances and spending four or five days in each place. It’s been great. And there’s been almost enough time to explore all of the places that capture our interest.

Following our stay in Tillamook, we moved 25 miles up the coast to Nehalem Bay State Park, another lovely Oregon State Park. Not only is the natural setting gorgeous, the picturesque little towns of Nehalem, Manzanita, and Cannon Beach are nearby. Being so close to Portland, there’s a hip vibe that’s drifted over to the coast, which means that along with beach strolls and hiking nearby trails, we could get good coffee, browse bookstores and intriguing shops, and enjoy creative offerings from local cafés.

The proximity of Portland also means that we were close enough for Eric’s sister Peggy to drive over for a visit. We spent a couple of days together exploring the adorable town of Manzanita and relaxing and catching up. It’s always fun when we’re together. We also were able to catch up with our friends Rick and Kim, whom we last saw in Taos. They’ve recently bought a sweet home in Seaside, which they’ve beautifully renovated. We spent a delightful afternoon and evening with them, including a long walk along the beach and dinner at a tasty Mediterranean café.

We rose early one morning to head to Cannon Beach, only 25 miles away. Our goal was to see Tufted Puffins at Haystack Rock, an iconic landmark on Cannon Beach and home to a nesting colony of puffins (as well as Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, Pelagic Cormorants, Western Gulls, and Black Oystercatchers). We had great views of the birds, but came away with no photos of Tufted Puffins. When they leave their nest burrows in search of fish, the puffins fly speedily and awkwardly overhead, like little bowling pins with wings. They are impossible to photograph in flight—and when they head back to their nests, they disappear immediately into their burrows. The lack of photo opportunities notwithstanding, we had a blast watching them.

Five miles south of Cannon Beach is Hug Point State Recreation Site. We were lured by the promise of unique scenic beauty, where at low tide, a half-mile hike leads to a beach with beautiful sandstone caves, a seasonal waterfall, and tidepools. Little did we know that the history here is as interesting as the landscape.

Before the coastal highway was built, people traveled the coast via the beach. Getting around this particular headland required hugging the point at low tide (hence the name). Stagecoaches plunged into the sea to careen around the point, until someone decided to blast a trail through the rock. Even then, it was a risky ride. At low tide, you can walk along the original stagecoach road, just steps from the pounding surf and tidepools below. At high tide, the old road floods quickly—you had better move fast when the tide starts to roll back in (I speak from experience).

The Hug Point road played an important role in the fight to preserve public access to Oregon beaches. In 1913, Governor Oswald West used the road as an example of why Oregon beaches needed to remain public—he basically saved the beaches by declaring them state highways. In many cases, such as Hug Point, there were no alternative routes. Although the beaches are no longer highways (thank goodness!) all of us Oregonians are really happy that Governor West had the foresight to preserve our beautiful beaches and keep them out of the clutches of private ownership.

At Oswald West State Park (named in honor of Governor West), just 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, we hiked the beautiful Cape Falcon Trail, a five-mile round trip journey that winds through a forest of ferns, cedars, and spruces and ends up in a maze of tall salal and wild beach roses. We bushwhacked our way through to openings that revealed spectacular views of the coastline below. We highly recommend this gorgeous hike.

As far as culinary adventures, we loved Buttercup in Nehalem, a fabulous little take-away eatery that serves up excellent chowders and ice creams. That’s it for the menu. But oh wow, the chef/owner is a genius. She sources everything locally, including fresh seafood, dairy products, organic vegetables, and even local salt from Jacobsen Salt (the little salt producer we visited near Tillamook). The offerings change frequently; we came away with spring clam chowder and Malaysian fish chowder (both excellent) and a basil strawberry sorbet that was ridiculously good.

About the campground:

Nehalem Bay State Park is another beautiful coastal Oregon State Park. The sites are spacious, level, and surrounded by shore pines, each with a grassy sitting area, picnic table, and fire pit. We especially liked the sites in A-loop, and even better, those backing up to the dunes (we were in one of those sites). Electric and water hookups, good Verizon coverage, quiet, and dark night skies—all things that make us happy. Walking trails lead from the campground through the dunes to four miles of beautiful beaches that we always seemed to have to ourselves.

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground

Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is....

Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes

Happy Hour With Peggy

In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita

Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita

Independent Bookstores Are The Best

Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway

The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay

The Pretty Nehalem River

Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem

Don't Miss Buttercup!

Amazing Homemade Chowders

The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem

The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling

A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives

Breezy Day At Hug Point

A Really Little But Cute Waterfall

Heading For The Old Coastal Road

Great Views From The Old Road

Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s

The Old Road As It Looks Now

Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail

A Bit Wet In A Few Places

Lovely Wild Douglas Iris

Views Along Cape Falcon Trail

Serenaded By A Pacific Wren

The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal

Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon

The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside

Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim

Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach

I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here

Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach

Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock

A Picturesque Cormorant Colony

Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery

Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast
Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground
Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is....
Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes
Happy Hour With Peggy
In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita
Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita
Independent Bookstores Are The Best
Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway
The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay
The Pretty Nehalem River
Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem
Don't Miss Buttercup!
Amazing Homemade Chowders
The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem
The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling
A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives
Breezy Day At Hug Point
A Really Little But Cute Waterfall
Heading For The Old Coastal Road
Great Views From The Old Road
Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s
The Old Road As It Looks Now
Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail
A Bit Wet In A Few Places
Lovely Wild Douglas Iris
Views Along Cape Falcon Trail
Serenaded By A Pacific Wren
The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal
Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon
The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside
Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim
Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach
I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here
Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach
Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock
A Picturesque Cormorant Colony
Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery
Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park
Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast thumbnail
Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground thumbnail
Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is.... thumbnail
Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes thumbnail
Happy Hour With Peggy thumbnail
In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita thumbnail
Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita thumbnail
Independent Bookstores Are The Best thumbnail
Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway thumbnail
The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay thumbnail
The Pretty Nehalem River thumbnail
Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem thumbnail
Don't Miss Buttercup! thumbnail
Amazing Homemade Chowders thumbnail
The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem thumbnail
The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling thumbnail
A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives thumbnail
Breezy Day At Hug Point thumbnail
A Really Little But Cute Waterfall thumbnail
Heading For The Old Coastal Road thumbnail
Great Views From The Old Road thumbnail
Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s thumbnail
The Old Road As It Looks Now thumbnail
Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail thumbnail
A Bit Wet In A Few Places thumbnail
Lovely Wild Douglas Iris thumbnail
Views Along Cape Falcon Trail thumbnail
Serenaded By A Pacific Wren thumbnail
The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal thumbnail
Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon thumbnail
The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside thumbnail
Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim thumbnail
Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach thumbnail
I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here thumbnail
Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach thumbnail
Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock thumbnail
A Picturesque Cormorant Colony thumbnail
Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery thumbnail
Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park thumbnail

 

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Lighthouses And Tidepools: Newport, OR

Lighthouses And Tidepools: Newport, OR

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Birding, Gallery, Oregon | 24 comments

We couldn’t have asked for a better reentry into our fulltime travels. Any doubts I had about taking to the road again were swept aside by the perfect weather and the charms of Newport, our first destination on our tour of the central and north Oregon Coast.

We stayed in Newport a couple of years ago in December and despite the cold, gray, soggy weather, thoroughly enjoyed our visit. But it was even better this time, with plenty of sunshine and delightful temperatures in late May. Weatherwise, the Oregon Coast is always a crapshoot. But lucky us, the rhododendrons were in full glory, the birds at the aquarium in fancy breeding plumage, and we even scored a tour at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, although it isn’t supposed to be open until July. I think we’re back in the groove. It’s a good thing, because seriously, we don’t need any more bumps in the road right now.

We stayed five nights at South Beach State Park, the perfect location for setting up camp to explore Newport. The sites are spacious and wooded, with paths leading over the dunes to the beach. More trails wind above the campground through a forest of wild rhododendrons, and yet more lead to the jetty, with a wonderful view of the historic Yaquina Bay Bridge, an Art Deco/Gothic beauty.

Highlights of our visit to Newport:

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area: With a treacherous but beautiful beach, mesmerizing tidepools, nesting seabirds, a wonderful interpretive center (with a resident nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons), hiking trails, spectacular views, and the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, Yaquina Head Outstanding Area truly is outstanding.

Formed from an ancient lava flow, the headland extends one mile out into the open ocean. Below, Cobble Beach—composed entirely of smooth rounded kiwi-sized black rocks—wins the prize as the most slippery, ankle-twisting beach I’ve ever seen. But it’s worth traversing to get to the prize of some of the best tidepools on the Oregon Coast.

At low tide, the pools are filled with thousands of brilliant purple sea urchins, delicate jade green anemones, and at least a few ochre sea stars. We’re happy to see the sea stars making a comeback (albeit slowly) after almost being extirpated along the entire West Coast by a virus several years ago.

The Lighthouses: Newport boasts not one but two lighthouses, and both are well worth visiting. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, the only remaining wooden lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, was constructed in 1871 but decommissioned after only three years. Someone apparently made a big boo-boo, built the lighthouse too far inland, and ships couldn’t see the light. It’s a cute little lighthouse, and fully furnished in period décor. (We toured it on our last visit to Newport; you can see photos of it here.)

Yaquina Head Lighthouse was built to replace little Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. This time, the builders got it right. Stuck way out on the tip of Yaquina Head, the lighthouse is an imposing 93 feet tall, the tallest in Oregon. We enjoyed a delightful tour with a ranger in costume, who regaled us with tales of a lighthouse keeper’s life and duties. (Hauling heavy buckets of lard up the 114 winding stairs to keep the light burning was one of the many chores.) Although the lighthouse was automated in 1966, the original beautiful Paris-made Fresnel lens is still in use, casting a beam of light 20 miles out to sea.

Oregon Coast Aquarium: We love this little aquarium. Many of the exhibits at the Oregon Coast Aquarium are outdoors, and we had a blast watching the antics of the sea otters being fed and the sea birds going about their daily lives in the wonderful sea bird aviary. Here’s my take-away fact from our visit: Puffins, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets and Pigeon Guillemots are all members of the same family. They share in common the ability to “fly” underwater—we watched their undersea acrobatics through submerged viewing windows, and they do look like they’re flying.

The walk-through fish tanks are fascinating, and it appeared as though some of the fish were having just as much fun watching us as we were watching them. The sharks and the rays, they didn’t pay us any mind. But the Pacific Rockfish—there were a few of those guys doing their best to telepathically communicate with us. (Eric always tells me not to anthropomorphize, but I continue to ignore him.)

Bonus tip: The Hatfield Marine Science Center is just across the street from the aquarium, and is well worth a visit. We stopped in last year, but lingered so long at the aquarium this time that we missed our opportunity for a return visit. Part of Oregon State University, their focus is on sustainability, and as they say, “hot topics in contemporary marine science research.” It’s a cool place.

The Waterfront: Newport has managed to remain a working waterfront, while adding some amenities for visitors (not just junky t-shirt shops). We wandered the docks, checking out the various trawlers, crabbers, and shrimpers. There’s great seafood to be found here—last time, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Saffron Salmon. This time, we chose to dine at Local Ocean Dockside Grill and had perfectly prepared fresh caught salmon while perusing the activity of the busy little harbor from our window table. The seafood market downstairs is excellent, too, with every catch labeled with the boat that brought in the haul.

About the campground: South Beach Campground is just a few miles from Newport. Even if you didn’t leave the campground, you would have plenty to do exploring the beach and hiking trails within the park. (Really, though, you don’t want to miss Yaquina Head and the aquarium.) Water and electric hookups, good Verizon, and it’s remarkably peaceful, given that this is such a popular campground. Make your reservations early if you plan to be here between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse From The Tidepools

Yaquina Bay Bridge

Walkway To Cobblestone Beach

Happy Tidepooler

Ochre Sea Star

Purple Sea Urchins

Giant Green Anemone

Harbor Seals

Yaquina Head Lighthouse From Salal Hill

Yaquina Head Interpretive Center

Inside The Interpretive Center

The Lighthouse, Circa Late 1800's

Peregrine Falcon Near The Visitor Center

Yaquina Head Lighthouse In Spring

Wonderful Interpretive Tour Of The Lighthouse

Library In A Box Delivered By Tenders

114 Steep Winding Stairs

Memorial To Pacific Northwest Fishermen

Beautiful Original Fresnel Lens, In Service 1873

At The Oregon Coast Aquarium

Many Exhibits Are Outdoors

Rhinocerous Auklets In Full Regalia

A Pair Of Tufted Puffins

Nesting Tufted Puffin

"Fish Again?" Asks The Horned Puffin

Under The Sea

Pacific Rockfish Trying To Tell Us Something

I See You Talking To That Fish

Pacific Sea Nettles

Irresistible Touch Tank

He Likes His Crab Dinner

Newport Bay Waterfront

Historic Boat And Historic Bridge

The Lady Washington Historic Tall Ship

Old Wooden Fishing Boats In The Harbor

Sea Lions On The Jetty

Fresh Salmon At Local Ocean Seafoods

Beautiful South Beach Campground

Hiking In A Forest Of Rhododendrons

Windblown On The Beach

Yaquina Head Lighthouse From The Tidepools
Yaquina Bay Bridge
Walkway To Cobblestone Beach
Happy Tidepooler
Ochre Sea Star
Purple Sea Urchins
Giant Green Anemone
Harbor Seals
Yaquina Head Lighthouse From Salal Hill
Yaquina Head Interpretive Center
Inside The Interpretive Center
The Lighthouse, Circa Late 1800's
Peregrine Falcon Near The Visitor Center
Yaquina Head Lighthouse In Spring
Wonderful Interpretive Tour Of The Lighthouse
Library In A Box Delivered By Tenders
114 Steep Winding Stairs
Memorial To Pacific Northwest Fishermen
Beautiful Original Fresnel Lens, In Service 1873
At The Oregon Coast Aquarium
Many Exhibits Are Outdoors
Rhinocerous Auklets In Full Regalia
A Pair Of Tufted Puffins
Nesting Tufted Puffin
Under The Sea
Pacific Rockfish Trying To Tell Us Something
I See You Talking To That Fish
Pacific Sea Nettles
Irresistible Touch Tank
He Likes His Crab Dinner
Newport Bay Waterfront
Historic Boat And Historic Bridge
The Lady Washington Historic Tall Ship
Old Wooden Fishing Boats In The Harbor
Sea Lions On The Jetty
Fresh Salmon At Local Ocean Seafoods
Beautiful South Beach Campground
Hiking In A Forest Of Rhododendrons
Windblown On The Beach
Yaquina Head Lighthouse From The Tidepools thumbnail
Yaquina Bay Bridge thumbnail
Walkway To Cobblestone Beach thumbnail
Happy Tidepooler thumbnail
Ochre Sea Star thumbnail
Purple Sea Urchins thumbnail
Giant Green Anemone thumbnail
Harbor Seals thumbnail
Yaquina Head Lighthouse From Salal Hill thumbnail
Yaquina Head Interpretive Center thumbnail
Inside The Interpretive Center thumbnail
The Lighthouse, Circa Late 1800's thumbnail
Peregrine Falcon Near The Visitor Center thumbnail
Yaquina Head Lighthouse In Spring thumbnail
Wonderful Interpretive Tour Of The Lighthouse thumbnail
Library In A Box Delivered By Tenders thumbnail
114 Steep Winding Stairs thumbnail
Memorial To Pacific Northwest Fishermen thumbnail
Beautiful Original Fresnel Lens, In Service 1873 thumbnail
At The Oregon Coast Aquarium thumbnail
Many Exhibits Are Outdoors thumbnail
Rhinocerous Auklets In Full Regalia thumbnail
A Pair Of Tufted Puffins thumbnail
Nesting Tufted Puffin thumbnail
Under The Sea thumbnail
Pacific Rockfish Trying To Tell Us Something thumbnail
I See You Talking To That Fish thumbnail
Pacific Sea Nettles thumbnail
Irresistible Touch Tank thumbnail
He Likes His Crab Dinner thumbnail
Newport Bay Waterfront thumbnail
Historic Boat And Historic Bridge thumbnail
The Lady Washington Historic Tall Ship thumbnail
Old Wooden Fishing Boats In The Harbor thumbnail
Sea Lions On The Jetty thumbnail
Fresh Salmon At Local Ocean Seafoods thumbnail
Beautiful South Beach Campground thumbnail
Hiking In A Forest Of Rhododendrons thumbnail
Windblown On The Beach thumbnail

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Birds In The ‘Hood…And A Rock Wren Rescue

Birds In The ‘Hood…And A Rock Wren Rescue

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Birding, Gallery, Oregon | 42 comments

It’s always exciting in our cross-country travels to encounter birds that we don’t usually see. But it’s also rewarding to make friends with the birds in our own backyard, and to have the opportunity to observe them as they go about their daily lives.

The birdlife is abundant and diverse in our little corner of the world. Although we haven’t moved our trailer for almost seven months, we haven’t lacked for bird sightings. Every morning, a White-breasted Nuthatch forages in the cedar outside our dining room window. Black-capped Chickadees, Scrub Jays, Stellar’s Jays, and Oak Titmice are regular visitors to nearby feeders, and families of California Quail patrol the grounds, zooming by like wind-up toys.

A serene pond just steps from our trailer shelters geese, ducks, blackbirds, and the occasional heron, even throughout the snowy winter. Come spring, the geese and blackbirds build nests. This year, we’ve been watching the Wood Duck nest box, hoping there will soon be babies.

At Emigrant Lake, just down the road, a large and varied population of woodpeckers fly among the gnarled oaks, entertaining us with their raucous calls on our daily long walks. Bluebirds flash by in a streak of sapphire, and brilliant yellow goldfinches appear in vast flocks, singing their little hearts out. Bald Eagles and Osprey dive for fish, while Red-tailed Hawks soar overhead. Recently, we came upon a fierce, fluffy owlet—and spotted the Great Horned Owl parent in a nearby tree.

It all delights us. But by far, our most extraordinary bird experience this year involved a family of Rock Wrens. Colored pale gray and brown, the diminutive songbirds blend perfectly with their favorite environment of arid, rocky canyons. We’ve spotted a few on our walks around Emigrant Lake, where they hang out on the rocky, boulder-strewn shores, making themselves known by their buzzy trills and comical bouncing movements.

Usually, Rock Wrens nest in rock crevices, hidden from sight. But just a few weeks ago, we discovered a pair of wrens nesting in a most unusual place. Several mornings in a row, we noticed wrens flying in and out of a steel pipe that serves as a gated entry to the lake. When we peered into the pipe, a pile of tiny stones marked the entrance. Rock Wrens have the unique habit of building “walkways” for their nests, and this was a telltale sign that the wrens had chosen the pipe for nesting.

Each morning, we looked forward to visiting the wrens. A couple of weeks passed, and we observed the pair busily foraging and carrying a variety of insects and spiders into the pipe. One day, Eric photographed a wren bringing a small lizard to the nest—our ornithologist friends told us this is highly unusual behavior, and something that had never before been recorded.

We surmised that the eggs had hatched, and were looking forward to seeing the fledglings when they emerged. But late one afternoon last week, Eric rode his bike to the lake to check on the wrens, and sent me a heartbreaking text—“The wren parents were killed today.” Both had been hit by cars while foraging for food along the roadside.

Neither of us could bear the thought of the nestlings starving to death while waiting in vain for their parents to deliver food. Even though we knew there was a slim chance for success, we decided to try to save them.

Equipped with a small cardboard box lined with paper towels and a jar of live bugs, we set out on our rescue mission. As we approached the pipe, we could hear the nestlings calling for their parents. The babies were more than a foot deep into the pipe, and although I was voting for Eric to stick his hand in the pipe, mine was the one that fit. I wedged my hand into the pipe halfway to my elbow, groped around, and one by one, gently dragged the nestlings out. Once secure in their temporary cardboard box nest, Eric fed the hungry babies the bugs he had captured.

We’re not experts in wild bird care, so we turned the wren babies over to Badger Run, a wonderful wildlife rehab center in Klamath Falls. The people there are extraordinarily dedicated, skilled, and compassionate. (And they can use all the help they can get—with no funding from state or federal agencies, they rely on donations and volunteer efforts.) Liz, one of the founding members of Badger Run, has been taking the wren babies along to her “day job” as an insurance agent, because they must be fed every 15 minutes.

As of today, one week after their rescue, the nestlings are thriving. In just a few weeks, they’ll be returned to Emigrant Lake, where they’ll be released back into their home territory. We’re sad that we won’t be here to see them take flight, but we’re preparing to take flight ourselves as we resume our fulltime travels. We’re hoping next fall, if we’re lucky, we’ll see the wrens in our walks around the lake.

Next Up: A Hike In The Enchanted Forest

An Acorn Woodpecker, Always Fun To See

Acorn Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker

Red-Breasted Sapsucker

Red-Naped Sapsucker

Northern Flicker

Wood Ducks At The Pond

Canada Geese And Ring-Necked Ducks

Mama Goose And Gosling

Patrolling Our Site

The Views Are Grand

California Quail

Red Winged Blackbird

Stellar's Jay

Black-Capped Chickadee

Rufous Hummingbird

American Goldfinch

Cedar Waxwing

Bald Eagle

Killdeer

Killdeer Nest

Common Merganser Family

American Dipper And Chick

Western Bluebird

Great Horned Owl

Cute And Fierce Owlet

Rock Wren

An Unusual Place For A Nest

Carrying A Lizard Back To The Nest

Hungry Baby Rock Wrens

Planning The Rescue Mission

Getting The Baby Rock Wrens Out

Successful Rescue!

An Acorn Woodpecker, Always Fun To See
Acorn Woodpecker
Lewis's Woodpecker
Red-Breasted Sapsucker
Red-Naped Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Wood Ducks At The Pond
Canada Geese And Ring-Necked Ducks
Mama Goose And Gosling
Patrolling Our Site
The Views Are Grand
California Quail
Red Winged Blackbird
Stellar's Jay
Black-Capped Chickadee
Rufous Hummingbird
American Goldfinch
Cedar Waxwing
Bald Eagle
Killdeer
Killdeer Nest
Common Merganser Family
American Dipper And Chick
Western Bluebird
Great Horned Owl
Cute And Fierce Owlet
Rock Wren
An Unusual Place For A Nest
Carrying A Lizard Back To The Nest
Hungry Baby Rock Wrens
Planning The Rescue Mission
Getting The Baby Rock Wrens Out
Successful Rescue!
An Acorn Woodpecker, Always Fun To See thumbnail
Acorn Woodpecker thumbnail
Lewis's Woodpecker thumbnail
Red-Breasted Sapsucker thumbnail
Red-Naped Sapsucker thumbnail
Northern Flicker thumbnail
Wood Ducks At The Pond thumbnail
Canada Geese And Ring-Necked Ducks thumbnail
Mama Goose And Gosling thumbnail
Patrolling Our Site thumbnail
The Views Are Grand thumbnail
California Quail thumbnail
Red Winged Blackbird thumbnail
Stellar's Jay thumbnail
Black-Capped Chickadee thumbnail
Rufous Hummingbird thumbnail
American Goldfinch thumbnail
Cedar Waxwing thumbnail
Bald Eagle thumbnail
Killdeer thumbnail
Killdeer Nest thumbnail
Common Merganser Family thumbnail
American Dipper And Chick thumbnail
Western Bluebird thumbnail
Great Horned Owl thumbnail
Cute And Fierce Owlet thumbnail
Rock Wren thumbnail
An Unusual Place For A Nest thumbnail
Carrying A Lizard Back To The Nest thumbnail
Hungry Baby Rock Wrens thumbnail
Planning The Rescue Mission thumbnail
Getting The Baby Rock Wrens Out thumbnail
Successful Rescue! thumbnail

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Another Summer On Lopez Island

Another Summer On Lopez Island

Posted by on Nov 2, 2016 in Biking, Birding, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, San Juan Islands, Travel, Washington | 37 comments

As of mid-October, we’re back in Ashland, Oregon, taking care of a myriad of things that need to be completed before we can again resume our travels. This is a challenging part of fulltime RV life—there’s always a mountain of stuff to deal with when we return to our hometown each year. It’s no different than what any other grown-up person has to deal with in life—traveling or not. But it feels a bit daunting when we’re compressing a year’s worth of necessary evils into a few weeks. (The wonderful part is that we’ve also rejoined the tribe of our dear Ashland friends.)

We’re in the midst of trailer repairs, medical and dental appointments, taxes, maintenance tasks on our Ashland home, rooting out our storage unit, trailer home-improvement projects, and more. Last but not least, I have a blog to catch up on. So without further ado, I’m going to whisk you back to mid-June and our summer on Lopez Island.

As the ferry churned through the cold waters of the Pacific and chugged past the maze of islands that make up the San Juan archipelago, we leaned over the railing, anticipating our first glimpse of the small island that would once again be our summer home.

This year, we spent two-and-a-half months on Lopez Island—our longest stretch yet. From mid-June until early September, we were once again temporary Lopezians, immersing ourselves fully in the unique culture of Pacific Northwest island life.

We fell in love with Lopez the first time we visited, almost a dozen years ago.

Six of the past seven years, we’ve spent part of every summer hosting at beautiful Spencer Spit State Park. We contemplate spending time other places, but each summer finds us once again on the ferry to the islands.

I don’t think life gets any better than summer in the San Juan’s. The weather is near perfect, with plenty of sunshine, low humidity, and temperatures in the 70’s. (This makes up for long, long winters of gray and chill and rain—one of the primary reasons we don’t seriously consider living in the islands year-round.)

The scenery is idyllic—pastoral farmland, deep green mossy forests, secluded coves, and rocky cliffs plunging to sapphire seas. Small wonder that the first European settlers to the island described Lopez as a paradise.

Perfect weather and idyllic scenery aside, the strongest draw for us now is our community of friends on Lopez. In our six summers on the island, we’ve developed enduring friendships that transcend time and distance. We gather often with friends for delicious meals, evenings of music, and a variety of island adventures, from biking and hiking to art openings, concerts, and wine tastings. Each summer, we also delight in sharing Lopez with friends visiting from Ashland and fellow full-time RVing friends we’ve met in our travels. To add to this year’s fun, our grandson Findlay sailed to “Camp Lopez” to stay with us for a week.

We’re fortunate to have a hosting position that fits perfectly with our interests. This was our fourth year teaching Interpretive Programs for kids and adults, including the Junior Ranger programs. We teach about native plants, birds found on Lopez, and the traditions of the Salish tribes who first inhabited the islands. Making hundreds of copies of the Jr. Ranger’s booklets gets tedious, but teaching never does. We often come away from a morning of teaching feeling uplifted and inspired by the brilliance, inquisitiveness, and hilarity of the kids we teach (a lot of the adults are just as much fun).

We’re lucky, too, in that the staff at Spencer Spit is terrific. Each summer when we return to the park, we feel like we’re returning home. Our relationship with Lopez and the community of wonderful people on the island continues to deepen—for this, we are deeply grateful. Thanks, Lopez and friends, for another delightful summer. We’ll be back!

I’ve written in detail about our Lopez adventures over the past several years. If you’re interested in reading more, type “Lopez” in the search box and you’ll find lots of posts and photos. Here’s a post with some basic information, should you be interested:

Living Local On Lopez Island

Next Up: Adventures On Orcas And San Juan Island

Another Summer On Lopez

Arriving On Lopez

Rustic Cabin On Spencer Spit

Peaceful View Across The Marsh

Fledgling Rough Winged Swallows On The Beach

Early Morning At Spencer Spit

Art On The Beach

Findlay And My Hat

A Map Of The Island

Peaceful Island Biking

Biking To Town

It's All Picturesque

The Beautiful Herb Labyrinth

Watching Peregrines At Watmough Bay

Magical Mossy Trails Above Watmough Bay

A View Of Mt. Baker

Shark Reef In Late Afternoon

San Juan Island From Shark Reef

Baby Harbor Seal

Barred Owl On The Trail

On The Trail To Iceberg Point

Endless Views From Iceberg Point

Biking To Fisherman's Bay

Overlooking Fisherman's Bay

A Beach Walk With Findlay

Kayaking One Of Many Bays On Lopez

We Have Company

Delightful Purple Sea Stars

In The Fields At Horse Drawn Farm

Our Favorite Farmstand

The Wonderful Lopez Library

It's Cozy Inside And Has Internet!

Peace Train At The Fourth Of July Parade

Saturday Farmer's Market

A Friendly Farmer At The Market

Our Home On Lopez

Our Outdoor Classroom

Teaching About Native Traditions

They Chose Wolf Totems

Birding For Kids

Findlay Earned His Jr. Ranger Badge

Coffee With The Birds Program

Visitor To Our Campsite (Pacific Wren)

Fledgling Pileated Woodpecker

Violet Green Swallows

Our Cohosts Stan And Georgia

Ranger Tina And Findlay

Meghan At The End Of A Long Summer

Dinner With Lopez Friends At Our Site

An Evening Of Music Around The Fire

Bruce And Sheila At Home

Music Evening With Nick And Susie

Michael And Ann In Her Studio

Del And Cindy At Vita's

Ashland Friends (Linda, Steve, & Family)

Traveling Friends Henry, Loretta & Jessica

Traveling Friends Perry And Beth

Ashland Friends Dick And Viki

Last Glimpse Of Spencer Spit

Until Next Time

Another Summer On Lopez
Arriving On Lopez
Rustic Cabin On Spencer Spit
Peaceful View Across The Marsh
Fledgling Rough Winged Swallows On The Beach
Early Morning At Spencer Spit
Art On The Beach
Findlay And My Hat
A Map Of The Island
Peaceful Island Biking
Biking To Town
It's All Picturesque
The Beautiful Herb Labyrinth
Watching Peregrines At Watmough Bay
Magical Mossy Trails Above Watmough Bay
A View Of Mt. Baker
Shark Reef In Late Afternoon
San Juan Island From Shark Reef
Baby Harbor Seal
Barred Owl On The Trail
On The Trail To Iceberg Point
Endless Views From Iceberg Point
Biking To Fisherman's Bay
Overlooking Fisherman's Bay
A Beach Walk With Findlay
Kayaking One Of Many Bays On Lopez
We Have Company
Delightful Purple Sea Stars
In The Fields At Horse Drawn Farm
Our Favorite Farmstand
The Wonderful Lopez Library
It's Cozy Inside And Has Internet!
Peace Train At The Fourth Of July Parade
Saturday Farmer's Market
A Friendly Farmer At The Market
Our Home On Lopez
Our Outdoor Classroom
Teaching About Native Traditions
They Chose Wolf Totems
Birding For Kids
Findlay Earned His Jr. Ranger Badge
Coffee With The Birds Program
Visitor To Our Campsite (Pacific Wren)
Fledgling Pileated Woodpecker
Violet Green Swallows
Our Cohosts Stan And Georgia
Ranger Tina And Findlay
Meghan At The End Of A Long Summer
Dinner With Lopez Friends At Our Site
An Evening Of Music Around The Fire
Bruce And Sheila At Home
Music Evening With Nick And Susie
Michael And Ann In Her Studio
Del And Cindy At Vita's
Ashland Friends (Linda, Steve, & Family)
Traveling Friends Henry, Loretta & Jessica
Traveling Friends Perry And Beth
Ashland Friends Dick And Viki
Last Glimpse Of Spencer Spit
Until Next Time
Another Summer On Lopez thumbnail
Arriving On Lopez thumbnail
Rustic Cabin On Spencer Spit thumbnail
Peaceful View Across The Marsh thumbnail
Fledgling Rough Winged Swallows On The Beach thumbnail
Early Morning At Spencer Spit thumbnail
Art On The Beach thumbnail
Findlay And My Hat thumbnail
A Map Of The Island thumbnail
Peaceful Island Biking thumbnail
Biking To Town thumbnail
It's All Picturesque thumbnail
The Beautiful Herb Labyrinth thumbnail
Watching Peregrines At Watmough Bay thumbnail
Magical Mossy Trails Above Watmough Bay thumbnail
A View Of Mt. Baker thumbnail
Shark Reef In Late Afternoon thumbnail
San Juan Island From Shark Reef thumbnail
Baby Harbor Seal thumbnail
Barred Owl On The Trail thumbnail
On The Trail To Iceberg Point thumbnail
Endless Views From Iceberg Point thumbnail
Biking To Fisherman's Bay thumbnail
Overlooking Fisherman's Bay thumbnail
A Beach Walk With Findlay thumbnail
Kayaking One Of Many Bays On Lopez thumbnail
We Have Company thumbnail
Delightful Purple Sea Stars thumbnail
In The Fields At Horse Drawn Farm thumbnail
Our Favorite Farmstand thumbnail
The Wonderful Lopez Library thumbnail
It's Cozy Inside And Has Internet! thumbnail
Peace Train At The Fourth Of July Parade thumbnail
Saturday Farmer's Market thumbnail
A Friendly Farmer At The Market thumbnail
Our Home On Lopez thumbnail
Our Outdoor Classroom thumbnail
Teaching About Native Traditions thumbnail
They Chose Wolf Totems thumbnail
Birding For Kids thumbnail
Findlay Earned His Jr. Ranger Badge thumbnail
Coffee With The Birds Program thumbnail
Visitor To Our Campsite (Pacific Wren) thumbnail
Fledgling Pileated Woodpecker thumbnail
Violet Green Swallows thumbnail
Our Cohosts Stan And Georgia thumbnail
Ranger Tina And Findlay thumbnail
Meghan At The End Of A Long Summer thumbnail
Dinner With Lopez Friends At Our Site thumbnail
An Evening Of Music Around The Fire thumbnail
Bruce And Sheila At Home thumbnail
Music Evening With Nick And Susie thumbnail
Michael And Ann In Her Studio thumbnail
Del And Cindy At Vita's thumbnail
Ashland Friends (Linda, Steve, & Family) thumbnail
Traveling Friends Henry, Loretta & Jessica thumbnail
Traveling Friends Perry And Beth thumbnail
Ashland Friends Dick And Viki thumbnail
Last Glimpse Of Spencer Spit thumbnail
Until Next Time thumbnail

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Heavenly Angel Creek: Wells, Nevada

Heavenly Angel Creek: Wells, Nevada

Posted by on Aug 19, 2016 in Birding, Gallery, Hiking, Nevada, Travel | 24 comments

Angel Creek is one of the places that made us realize that Nevada is much more than barren desert and glitzy casinos. We stumbled across this little jewel several years ago on a cross-country journey, and were more than surprised by the beauty we discovered.

Mountains? High alpine lakes? Aspen groves? This was not the Nevada we were accustomed to. We spent three peaceful nights at Angel Creek campground, hiked to high alpine lakes from Angel Lake, and put it on our “must return to” list. In late May, we finally made our way back.

Heading north from our last stop at Great Basin National Park, it’s an easy 200-mile drive through Nevada on some of the loneliest roads in America, through less than inspiring scenery. But pass through the dusty little town of Wells, take a left, and you’re suddenly on a scenic highway, traveling into a wilderness of snow-capped peaks, meadows of wildflowers, and alpine lakes.

We settled into our favorite site at Angel Creek campground, tucked into a grove of spring-green aspen and overlooking the valley below. In our travels—and life in general—we’ve learned that it’s the smallest things that make us happiest. Beautiful scenery, interesting hikes, abundant birdlife, wildflowers. Peace. Quiet. Dark night skies. (Good Verizon coverage is a bonus.) Angel Lake and Angel Creek has all of this, and more.

Our first visit several years ago was in the fall, and the hiking was superb. At least two trails lead to alpine lakes, one a 10-mile round trip hike; the other about 5 miles. We were looking forward to revisiting our hiking adventures—but failed to consider that in late May at this altitude, the trails would be covered in deep snow. Oops.

Had we known the trails were closed, we might have chosen a different travel route. But had we not been there in late spring, when the mountains and lake were still dressed in their winter finery, we would have missed the spectacular mirror image of the snow-capped mountains reflected in Angel Lake. Storm clouds billowed above us, and we hiked as far as we could before deep snow turned us around.

Just four miles below, snug in our campsite at Angel Creek, we were treated to abundant, colorful birdlife, including neon bright Western Tanagers, turquoise Lazuli Buntings, and Lewis’s Woodpeckers with their emerald green backs and rosy breasts. This is where we first saw Short-eared Owls several years ago, and we were delighted to again catch a glimpse of one as it flew across the road and landed in the sagebrush, staring at us with huge, unblinking eyes. The birding is fantastic in late spring—we saw 36 species in only a couple of days. To add to the delight of a spring visit, the meadows were thick with clutches of purple and yellow lupine.

Should you find yourself on this lonely road through Nevada, we highly recommend a couple of days at lovely Angel Creek and Angel Lake. It’s once again on our return-to list.

About the campground:

Angel Creek (a forest service campground) is a few miles off of Interstate 80 in the foothills of the East Humboldt Mountain Range, and eight miles southwest of Wells, Nevada. At 6200 feet, the campground is filled with mature aspens, and many of the sites are nicely shaded. Most of the sites are on the smaller side—our rig is 27-feet, and with our truck, we can only fit into a few sites. However, there’s one long, spacious site (number 16) that will accommodate any size rig.

No hookups, but there’s potable water and clean bathrooms. We also had blazing fast Verizon coverage in the campground. The sites are $15 per night (half-price with the Senior Pass).

Angel Lake—another four miles up a narrow, twisting road—also has campsites, but although there are a few 30-foot length sites, it seems better suited to small rigs and tents (I can’t imagine hauling a trailer longer than about 21-feet up that steep and winding road—especially with the sheer drop-offs). In late spring, the campground (at 8400 feet) was still buried under snow.

Next Up: Having A Blast In Boise, ID

Wildflowers And Snow

Tucked Into Our Favorite Site

It's A Little Tight

Mountain Views From The Campground

Lewis's Woodpecker

Western Tanager

Short-eared Owl

Blooming Lupine

Reflections In Angel Lake

Hiking In The Snow

Winter In Late May

On The Trail To Smith Lake

Chimney Rocks Near Angel Lake

This Site Is Big Enough For Any Rig

Wildflowers And Snow
Tucked Into Our Favorite Site
It's A Little Tight
Mountain Views From The Campground
Lewis's Woodpecker
Western Tanager
Short-eared Owl
Blooming Lupine
Reflections In Angel Lake
Hiking In The Snow
Winter In Late May
On The Trail To Smith Lake
Chimney Rocks Near Angel Lake
This Site Is Big Enough For Any Rig
Wildflowers And Snow thumbnail
Tucked Into Our Favorite Site thumbnail
It's A Little Tight thumbnail
Mountain Views From The Campground thumbnail
Lewis's Woodpecker thumbnail
Western Tanager thumbnail
Short-eared Owl thumbnail
Blooming Lupine thumbnail
Reflections In Angel Lake thumbnail
Hiking In The Snow thumbnail
Winter In Late May thumbnail
On The Trail To Smith Lake thumbnail
Chimney Rocks Near Angel Lake thumbnail
This Site Is Big Enough For Any Rig thumbnail

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Wonderfully Remote Great Basin Nat’l Park

Wonderfully Remote Great Basin Nat’l Park

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Birding, Gallery, Hiking, Nevada, Travel | 34 comments

Considering that it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, it’s kind of surprising that we’ve made our way to Great Basin National Park three times now. I resisted going there for years, thinking that a national park in Nevada couldn’t possibly amount to much. But this remote, little visited national park has become one of our favorites.

Why, you ask? For starters, it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from the craziness that has overtaken other better-known national parks. You will find no crowded parking lots, no tour buses, and no crush of humanity on the trails. You’ll also find no charming gateway town, or any amenities to speak of. But if you’re after peace, quiet, and spectacular natural beauty, this is a place you’ll like.

The hiking is superb, with a variety of trails for everyone. Some paths meander along streams and wildflower covered hillsides. Other trails start at 9,000 feet, heading steeply up into the mountains through groves of aspen and along the shores of alpine lakes. The park even boasts an ancient bristlecone pine forest, a limestone cave with beautiful formations, and some of the darkest night skies in the country.

An easy 200-mile drive from Snow Canyon, the long highway eased us into the remoteness of the park. Located in the vast high desert of eastern Nevada, far from major population centers, there’s not much for miles around. The tiny town of Baker, population 68, sits at the crossroads outside of the park. The main street is wide and dusty; two cafes with peeling signs, a combination motel/campground/bar, and a self-serve gas station with a strange Twilight Zone vibe make up the “downtown” area.

Talking to the locals and the friendly park rangers leaves no doubt that this is definitely the road less taken for the 68 people who live here—there’s even a sign along the road to the park that expresses this sentiment. It’s a 70-mile drive for the most basic of groceries, further for more amenities. But that seems to be a small tradeoff for the peace and quiet and beauty of this place. (Would we live here? No. But we certainly enjoy visiting—we’ve even considered hosting at the park.)

We were here early this year, in late May, just before the roads opened to access Wheeler Peak and the high altitude trails. We contented ourselves with hiking the lower altitude trails along the creek surging with snowmelt, through meadows lush with bright yellow balsamroot and splashes of crimson Indian paintbrush. We even discovered a gorgeous, pristine natural spring where we harvested fresh watercress and mint.

Lucky for us, we happened to be in the park the weekend of a bioblitz. (A bioblitz is a biological census that focuses on an overall count of the plants, animals, and other organisms that inhabit a place.) The focus of this bioblitz was on birds. How perfect is that? We signed up for a couple of workshops and hikes (all free), and had a great time helping find and count birds. As a relatively new national park, the rangers use citizen science to help document species in the park.

If you visit the park, June is a lovely time, when all of the trails are open and there are still wildflowers in the meadows. Late September or early October, before the snows begin and the aspen are turning to gold, is also gorgeous. We’ve been in both seasons and found it spectacular. (You can read about those visits here and here.)

About the campground:

On our previous two visits, we stayed in the park in Upper Lehman Campground and loved it. However, the roads are tight, and the sites are small and ridiculously unlevel. The campground was closed for renovations while we were there—we’ll see on our next visit if improvements were made to make the sites more accessible and level.

This time, we stayed in town at Whispering Elms Campground, just six miles from the entrance to the national park. Although initially I wasn’t too enthusiastic (we always prefer national park campgrounds) it turned out to be a fine option. The sites are gravel and large, with many pull-throughs, and we appreciated having full hookups in the freezing temperatures of early spring. There’s a decrepit bathhouse and laundry, which we didn’t use. Surprisingly, we had unexpectedly good Internet, courtesy of the campground (that’s because our site was close to the front of the park). We spent three peaceful nights and would happily return. $30 per night.

Next Up: Heavenly Angel Creek: Wells, NV

Wonderfully Remote Great Basin NP

On The Road To Great Basin

Downtown Baker

Check In At The Bar

Whispering Elms Campground

Still Life With Oil Drum

One Of Our Magpie Neighbors

A Chilly Day On The Trail

Creek Crossing

Hillsides Covered In Balsamroot

Marmot Crossing

Mama And Baby Marmot

Three Babies In All

Spring Aspen Leaves

A Beautiful Natural Spring

Gathering Mint And Watercress

Bullocks Oriole

Wheeler Peak Sculpture

Gateway To...

Wonderfully Remote Great Basin NP
On The Road To Great Basin
Downtown Baker
Check In At The Bar
Whispering Elms Campground
Still Life With Oil Drum
One Of Our Magpie Neighbors
A Chilly Day On The Trail
Creek Crossing
Hillsides Covered In Balsamroot
Marmot Crossing
Mama And Baby Marmot
Three Babies In All
Spring Aspen Leaves
A Beautiful Natural Spring
Gathering Mint And Watercress
Bullocks Oriole
Wheeler Peak Sculpture
Gateway To...
Wonderfully Remote Great Basin NP thumbnail
On The Road To Great Basin thumbnail
Downtown Baker thumbnail
Check In At The Bar thumbnail
Whispering Elms Campground thumbnail
Still Life With Oil Drum thumbnail
One Of Our Magpie Neighbors thumbnail
A Chilly Day On The Trail thumbnail
Creek Crossing thumbnail
Hillsides Covered In Balsamroot thumbnail
Marmot Crossing thumbnail
Mama And Baby Marmot thumbnail
Three Babies In All thumbnail
Spring Aspen Leaves thumbnail
A Beautiful Natural Spring thumbnail
Gathering Mint And Watercress thumbnail
Bullocks Oriole thumbnail
Wheeler Peak Sculpture thumbnail
Gateway To... thumbnail

 

 

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