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Flags fly in the center of town at Old Orchard Beach.

Will and I stayed only one night in Maine, in a great little place on Old Orchard Beach, just south of Portland. We found a cute diner and had a yummy breakfast, then explored the beach. It was empty due to the season. The sun beat down, but it was a chilly May morning.

Old Orchard Beach in Maine.

Photogenic pier into the Atlantic Ocean.

Along our westward route leaving the beach, we sought out a short trail that promised a waterfall. The trailhead to Cascade Falls was easy to find and we began walking the short loop, admiring the new plant growth along the trail. I particularly liked the fiddleheads – new fern fronds. Apparently you can eat them, but I never have. The weather was lovely with a few bursts of sunshine, and we soon left the loop and went down a hill to the base of the falls. A family was already there, with two little boys who played with trucks and shovels in the mud at the base of the falls.

Fiddleheads along the trail.

It looked like winter storms had brought some trees down recently, and the view of the falls was somewhat blocked, but it was still pretty. There was a dark copper colour to the water, and we talked a little about what might cause it. I recall streams and lakes this colour when I lived in Vermont and Massachusetts, so it must be something about the soil in New England that causes it.

The water was a rich coppery red.

I liked the reflections on the water.

Cascade Falls beyond downed trees.

The red water makes it look dirty, but I doubt this is pollution, and suspect it’s minerals in the water.

It was a lovely trail, but short, and we soon left to go find a more substantial trail. I had spotted one in a list of trails called Bauneg Beg Mountain, that promised views. I thought it would be fun to hike to a mountaintop in Maine, because the rest of the two-week vacation would be in low elevation places. Soon we found that trailhead too. There was only one other vehicle at the trailhead, and two people stood at its raised hatched showing the inside filled with gear, and reviewed some documents. From their discussion, they seemed to be preparing for some kind of trail maintenance.

This “mountain” peaks at 866 feet, so it’s not representative of the kind of mountain that Maine really has to offer. There are 13 peaks in Maine above 4000 feet and one above 5000 feet. But the trail was beautiful and the land was heaped with rocks that add interest to a trail. There were a couple of marshy areas, but for the most part it was drying up from winter. Much of the incline is gradual, but after a short section of steep incline over boulders, we were treated with a wonderful view. It was better because at that point in the season, trees were not fully in leaf, and the views were more clear.

Near the beginning of the trail, we passed stone walls that reveal old property boundaries.

I love catching blossoms along trails. Spring is always the best season to find flowers.

Looking up at boulders beside our trail.

This is the “mountain peak.” In the west, we would call this a hill.

Panoramic view from Bauneg Beg Mountain. As you can see, our view is better while there are no leaves on the trees.

We had completed the loop in only 1.6 miles, and gained nearly 300 feet. While a somewhat short and easy hike, it was enough to feel good about getting into the car and heading south again. We crossed the New Hampshire border, blinked, and then crossed the Massachusetts border. States are small over here.

We prepared to drive across the state of New Hampshire….for a few minutes.

We headed out toward Gloucester, found our room for the night and got the proprietor to prounouce it for us: Wingaersheek Inn.

Sunshine streamed in through the windows to remind us that we were in a magical place by the sea.

When we arrived at our Airbnb the night before, we knew immediately that it was perfect for us. That night we reviewed our itinerary and cut out today’s tour of the Jameson distillery in Midleton, the Kindred Spirits Sculpture honoring the Choctaw Nation, that I really wanted to see, and we would also skip Lismore Castle. This was all so that we could spend our day right there instead, exploring the beaches and the rocky outcroppings, and then taking our time to look at the rest of the peninsula. We never wanted to leave, and would have simply booked a second night, but I had already paid for the next night in Cashel, a good 3 1/2 hours away.

Fishing boats visible from our sunroom.

Grizzly, the cat, came in and slept on our bed during the night. Tara and I miss our own kitties so much that it was a very welcome third party on our shared bed.

This is the sign we passed in Ballyferriter while lost the evening before.

On our way in the night before, we had passed a sign saying something about Star Wars, but we were lost so we didn’t slow down to read it. I spent the evening researching what it could be about, and found out that scenes in The Last Jedi were filmed in County Kerry! Since the area is so undeveloped, it was very hard to find a place name, or directions, or much information at all. I finally figured out that one film location was Ceann Sibéal, but my map only pulled up a golf course and a hotel with that name. They were in Ballyferriter, so I knew it was oh, so close. On the outer wall of a small museum in Ballyferriter was a map of our little spot, and finally I found Ceann Sibéal. It was the hill I spotted with what looked like ruins on top of it, but there are no roads to the hill, and it would have been a long walk, after permission from the property owner.

I could swear those are the ruins of some wall on top of Ceann Sibéal there, but my lens was just not powerful enough to pull it close to me. But that place, my friends, is one shooting location for The Last Jedi.

The above photos were taken as we left our Airbnb. We said hi to some sheep with Ceann Sibéal in the background.

We enjoyed a luxuriously lazy morning, watching the sun rise, drinking coffee in the tiny sunroom splashed with light, and watching boats fishing out in the bay. Eventually we emerged and and explored the place.

Have I mentioned that the spot is magical? Like a dream for an 11 year old. Or, for Tara and me, because we haven’t quite grown up yet. The shape of the rocks on the coastline is a series of parallel wedges that poke into the sea. The property owner has built structures in a row, following each of the wedges out to their seamost point. Some structures are guesthouses. We talked with one other guest who showed us his place, which was only big enough to hold a bed. He had to come outside onto his patio to boil water for tea and run a toaster for breakfast. And he had no shower, like ours did. Past his place was a tiny rock-walled garden with a bench, and beyond that a scary bridge from one outcropping of rock to another – just for fun. They both coaxed me onto the bridge with some effort. Beyond the bridge was a little fishing hut.

If you look closely, you can see a series of buildings that go ever farther out along the rock outcropping into the sea.

Super scary bridge that I actually walked across!

Me taking photos from the walled garden on top of one of the rocks.

This is what the water looked like from up there. Ceann Sibéal in the distance.

View from the common room for guests, which has a TV with couches, a small bar, and strong wifi signal.

Fishing hut at the very outermost point.

Next we played down on the beach with the two dogs, Bruno and Dora, who ran around barking loudly for a long time.

Tara with Bruno and Dora on the beach.

Natural arches formed by wave action.

Tara (geology major) was getting some up close images of the rocks.

We revisted the beach multiple times during the morning, and the tide went farther and farther out.

The retreating tides allowed us more beach access, and soon the dogs were bounding up a trail on the opposite side of the beach. So we followed them up another crag of rocks. At the top we found a dilapidated stone and wood hut that delighted us. But then, we found a door ajar at the back of the hut, and pressed through it. Obviously. Before long we were at another fabulous vista point.

Bruno led us along the path to more wonderful sights.

Hut at the top of the hill across the beach.

Great view of Binn Diarmada from that vista point. Every time we see a green field scattered with sheep, we are delighted.

It was finally time to leave and get some food. We tried Ballyferriter first, but nothing was open. The tiny town was darling though, and we stopped and walked around. Sadly the museum was closed, as was the church across the street from it. In Ballyferriter, 75% of the population speaks Irish daily, rather than English. People come here to learn the language, too.

St. Vincent’s Church in Ballyferriter.

We scrapped our plans to drive from Ballyferriter counterclockwise around the peninsula, since we needed to eat first. We went to Dingle and found a bustling town filled with tourists. In our trip so far, two places stood out as the locals’ favourite spots to visit, and those were Galway and Dingle. It seemed to be the case, as most of the obvious tourists looked Irish. Though it was noon, we were specifically craving breakfast, and sat down in the first cafe we found that was still serving breakfast. The food was great, and the place filled with characters.

Luckily, we found this cafe open, and not Feckin’ Banjaxed.

Next Tara wanted to do more gift shopping, and since we were finally in a tourist town again, we had access to shops with the right kind of things for sale. I killed time waiting for Tara by browsing the items as well. I can’t stand shopping in any context, unless it’s for outdoor gear or at a hardware store. But while I waited for T I found a gorgeous cable knit wool sweater for €45 and couldn’t walk away from that price. So I had my souvenier! Finally T was satisfied and we hopped into the car to make the Dingle loop clockwise. But we had used up so much time eating and shopping that now I was beginning to worry about the long drive to Cashel, where we would be staying the night.

Past Ventry, along Slea Head Drive, we came across a small museum that was freshly painted in bright colours and looked very appealing. I was beginning to get into “Go Mode,” worried about time, and drove on past. But Tara helped me remember that we were on vacation and should enjoy the journey. So I turned the car around and went back and we explored this curious museum. It was a very reasonable €5 to get in.The Celtic and Prehistoric Museum is the result of owner Harris Moore’s hobby of collecting prehistoric treasures from all over the world. On TripAdvisor, the owner said, “A considerable fortune and 30 years of blood , sweat, and tears (and joy) have gone into this. Yes, the collection is totally unique, rare, and in my opinion, beautiful.”

Tara and I agreed with him. The museum itself is small but beautiful, with a classy and thoughtful arrangement and lighting. There are objects from the Jurassic, Stone and Bronze Ages, as well as the Celtic and Viking eras.

One of the main showpieces of the museum, for obvious reasons.

I particularly love the carved stone female figures.

The variety of artifacts was impressive.

A collection of Celtic brooches and clasps and belt buckles.

A baby dinosaur skeleton.

More female figures.

The three-headed god is on the right. See how it is left profile, center, and right profile?

We talked to Mr. Moore and he was very personable and welcoming. I could have happily spent another hour there, but I really wanted to get back on the road.

My plans were interrupted once again. This time by beehive huts. There had been several signs advertising beehive huts to tourists, and I don’t know one from another, so I can’t say if any are legit any more than another. From Wikipedia: “A clochán, or beehive hut, is a dry-stone hut with a corbelled roof, commonly associated with the south-western Irish seaboard. The precise construction date of most of these structures is unknown with any degree of certainty.” The beehive huts have been constructed since neolithic times, but as recently as the 1950s. That’s why it’s hard to pinpoint an age for a specific site. We had seen evidence of corbelling in Newgrange on our third day in Ireland. That’s when stones are overlapped closer and closer to the center, until a capstone can be placed on top for a ceiling.

We were curious about these ancient structures, and pulled into one of the places, paid €2 to a man who clearly lived there and owned the property, and climbed a very steep hill to see what it was all about. It was the Fahan Beehive Huts, Caher Conor (Cathair na gConchuireach). This particular spot had stone huts that had been rebuilt. I would have been disappointed at how fresh these structures were, when I was expecting something old, but gazing around the site it actually looks like the real thing was once here. It seems as though the current huts have been rebuilt by using the materials of the old huts. The bonus was that we got a good quick workout climbing that steep hill to get to them, and we also had a wonderful view of the sea.

Reconstructed “beehive” huts, so-named for their shape, though these had flat tops that don’t bring to mind the beehive shape.

A single hut that we walked inside. It was not sealed, and a bitter cold wind still blew inside, albeit not as stiff as outside. Tara and I guessed that if these were used as homes, they certainly would have been sealed somehow, perhaps with turf in between rocks.

The site looked authentic, which made me happier about spending my money there.

I poked around the old stuff, since that’s what I like best. I have an active imagination and don’t need them to be rebuilt for me in order to be impressed.

From the side of the mountain we had a great view.

Back on the road we finally rounded Slea Head, which I thought would have an access point down to the sea, but it did not. It had a statue of Jesus, rather, which was a traffic hazard, as tourists stopped in the road on the blind corner to take photos of it. We continued in order to find a good place to turn around, and then headed back to Dingle so we could start heading for Cashel in hopes of arriving in daylight. Sadly, we found out later that the place we turned around was Coumeenoole Beach: a fabulous beach with spectacular views. We had no idea at the time, and therefore did not even look around other than for oncoming traffic, much less get out of the car. *sigh*

I haven’t mentioned the road, but on my second day driving in Ireland, today’s driving was a serious challenge and I passed the test! Much of Slea Head Drive is a single lane despite being a two way road. The speed limit was frequently higher than I was comfortable driving. It’s curvy, with a drop off into the sea, or possibly bound between a rock cliff and a rock wall with just enough space to get our little car through. If any traffic is oncoming, I had to quickly dart into someone’s driveway. Very stressful, but WHAT an adventure!

Tara took this photo of Slea Head Drive while I chewed on my lip and kept the car on the road.

We determinedly headed east from Dingle and came across no problems at all. We got lost again, trying to find our Airbnb place once more. (All the hosts say, “just pop our eircode into your GPS!” or “Call if you have a problem!” which is all well and good for people who have cell phone service, but for us, totally worthless advice.) But of course, we found our next beautiful home to stay in, and while it was still light out. Yet another warm and welcoming host in a beautiful and comfortable home at a great price.

View of Netarts Bay from the patio of our room at Terimore Motel. The Pacific Ocean is on the horizon.

The morning dawned splendidly in Netarts, Oregon, just west of Tillamook and right on the shores of Netarts Bay.

There was a notice posted in the room I had not seen the night before, asking people – admonishing people – not to touch baby seals. The flyer says that mother Harbor Seals stash their pups on the beach while they are out hunting, and if a person or a dog messes with the pup, the mother will not take care of it after that. The sign begs in all caps PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH OR MOVE A SEAL PUP. DO NOT LET YOUR DOG TOUCH A SEAL PUP! Sounds like this is a problem. So sad if it is.

We took the scenic route coming home and kept right on the coastline for a while, rather than return to Highway 101. At multiple beaches we saw signs posted that explain the catch limits for shellfish and marine invertebrates. It would be fun to live close enough to the beach to simply pop out there at low tide and fill a bucket with mussels or clams. By lunchtime we reached Pacific City, with its fabulous beach and eye-catching Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda. Interestingly, Oregon has a collection of rocks named Haystack Rock, including multiple sea rocks. This one is 327 feet high and is the fourth highest sea stack in the world.

A helicopter flies over Haystack Rock. Well, one of the Haystack Rocks.

Pacific City beach, looking toward Cape Kiwanda.

We stood awhile on the beach and gazed at the scene. Surfers were paddling out to try and catch a perfect wave. People built sand castles and threw frisbees for dogs and children launched kites. A stream of people climbed Cape Kiwanda’s sandy slopes to get to the top.

One great choice for a meal and a drink is the Pelican Brewery, because the deck with outside seating rests directly on the sand and the views are extraordinary. But it was crawling with people. We ate instead at Headlands Lodge. The Meridian restaurant has large open windows overlooking the beach. While we waited for our food, the air & sunshine coming in the window was warm and we contentedly watched surfers and parkers viciously vying for a parking space on the sandy lot. The parkers turned out to be the more interesting group.

Our corner table at Meridian, with open-air windows and the busy beach below.

Heading south we reached Lincoln City, and Will humored me while I ran into the local McMenamins to get a passport stamp. I’ve only just learned about this program, and found it too much fun to resist. McMenamins is a restaurant chain that began here in Portland. Frequently they are found in rennovated historic buildings, and the atmosphere inside a McMenamins is always creative and humorous. They have great food with a limited menu, because they are all about their craft beers, wines, and ciders. I am a fan of McMenamins and have been to many of them (I think there are currently 52 and have spread all across Oregon and into Washington), so the passport program sounded fun. Each time I visit a new place, I get a stamp. When a page is filled with stamps, I get a free thing, like a basket of fries, a pint, or a T-shirt. The free stuff is not as appealing to me as the game of getting all the stamps.

McMenamins passport, featuring the logo for Hammerhead Pale Ale.

Stamps for Kalama Harbor Lodge. Only one more stamp to go!

My stop at the Lincoln City McMenamins took a few minutes because some places make you earn the stamp and this was one of them. There is a riddle at the bar counter, that you must solve by finding the matching artwork inside the restaurant. Take a photo or a selfie with the art, then go back to the bar counter. If you got it right, you get your stamp!

We pulled over at Siletz Bay to soak up another view of the sea on a gorgeous day. We read an information sign about the 50-foot tsunami that crashed over this shore in the year 1700 and decimated everything there, including the local indigenous tribal villages. The sign said “Native peoples probably had little idea about the relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis…” There can’t be significant evidence to support this claim, and I am aware of evidence that proves otherwise; that native people have been aware of that very relationship since before written history, and passed on the knowledge through storytelling. I am sure that many Native people died in the 1700 tsunami, just as I am aware tsunamis kill many people in the 21st century. So much for advanced technology. I am irritated at assumptions that place the speaker in a position of power and knowledge merely because they don’t understand the group being discussed.

We went as far south as Newport, then turned east toward Corvallis, where we stopped to visit Tara and Brynnen and the OSU campus, as I mentioned in an earlier post. After spending the remainder of the day with my kiddo, we went on home back to Rainier.

A section of our beautiful Oregon coastline.

One thing I love about the Oregon Coast scenery is the frequency of rock outcroppings, often with trees on top. At this spot was an information sign about the 50-foot tsunami of 1700.

We live close to the Pacific Ocean, so that destination had to be on our itinerary.

For our last day of mini road trips, my friend Vladimir and I headed to the coast. Isn’t it wonderful how many different kinds of experiences we were able to have in only five days of travel? Almost each day began at our own doorsteps. It is like living in Paradise.

Vlad is new in the area and doesn’t have a car, so we made a plan to do a week’s worth of mini-road trips so he could see where he lives. Since I have the car, I got to plan the trip. Monday we went to Mt. St. Helens to see what the volcano looks like 38 years after an eruption (hint: it’s beautiful). Tuesday we drove into east central Oregon to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument to explore desert geology and the history of that particular region which holds an exceptional collection of Cenozoic Era fossils. There were many places to explore in that region, and it is a four-hour drive away, so we stayed the night out there. That allowed us to hike and find fossils for two days. Thursday we drove out to the most commanding volcano in the region because of its proximity and its beauty: Mt. Hood.

Friday morning we drove out highway 30 in hopes of catching a ferry across the Columbia River. I have not taken the ferry before and thought it would be fun. Since I live on highway 30 and Vlad hadn’t been to my house in about a year (because he has no car), we stopped by “real quick like” and see the latest changes at my farm. It was a fun visit, Racecar said hi to Vlad, and off we went.

But it was 5 minutes too late, and we arrived at the dock in time to see the ferry tenders locking the gate and the ferry departing. Bummer.

I had the idea of making a loop, so I thought we could reverse direction and if things worked out ok, we could just catch a return ferry from the Washington side into Oregon on our way back.

It was a short drive to Astoria from there, but it was midday and we were already hungry. We decided to eat first before anything else. While at the Hotel Condon, we spoke with other guests who raved about the fish&chips place across from the Astoria Maritime Museum. That was as good a reason as any to go find it.

A line of people faithfully waits to buy food served from a Columbia Bowpicker.

The Bowpicker was easy to find as our friends had described it: in the shape of a boat, with a line stretching down the block. Turns out, the eatery occupies an actual converted gillnet boat, which makes it a great tourist draw. By the size of the line, I was anticipating the best fish&chips of my life. There are four menu items, but three are merely a variation on a single menu item. 1) whole order (5 pieces w/fries) 2) half order (3p w/fries) 3) fish only 4) fries only.

The line to buy fish for lunch did indeed stretch quite a distance. I appreciated the information sign to entertain me for a few minutes:

    You are standing next to what was known as the Columbia River Bowpicker. These boats were 28 feet in length. They were planked with Port Orford Cedar, oak frames, and Douglas fir cabin and deck. These boats evolved from double-ended boats from the 1870s that used sails as their power source.

By the 1920s, all boats were powered by 6 to 10 hp single piston engines. By the 1940s and 1950s these boats became the modern version you see here; square stern and powered by V8 marine engines. During this period, there were hundreds of these boats anywhere on the Columbia River.

The Bowpickers fished for salmon and sturgeon on the Columbia and other waters of the Northwest. They employed long floating gillnets, hundreds of feet in length, that were retrieved from the bow of the boat. The fish were then picked out of the net. Thus the name Bowpicker.

Peep into the kitchen

Lunch! Note persistent seagull in background.

We finally got our meal of fresh Albacore tuna and thick slabs of potatoes. We tasted them while fighting off a pigeon and a seagull. I’d give the meal a B+. Definitely fresh. Clearly real fish steaks. Cooked at the proper temperature, so not greasy at all. The batter was too bready and seemed heavy, and not very flavorful.

Satiated, we took off for the Astoria Column. We traveled in to Astoria from the east, so were still miles from the beach itself. I know, it’s not original, but for anyone who has never been here, it’s a must-see to get your first views of the ocean from the column and its astounding vantage.

City of Astoria in the foreground, bridge across the mouth of the Columbia River, Cape Disappointment in the background.

We crossed the bridge of another tributary river (just out of sight to the left of the image above), and went to Fort Stevens. Fort Stevens was once part of a military defense installation at the mouth of the Columbia River. The fort saw service for 84 years, from the Civil War to World War II. Today it is a park with multiple camping options and fun stuff for day visitors.

The remains of the old fort are still here (in fact, we saw military remnants at many stops in the area today), and visitors are allowed to climb all over them at our own risk. “Caution: beware of unprotected drops and open pits.” haha. We poked around, trying to identify what each structure was for.

Standing atop what’s left of the main Fort Stevens structure. There are many small bunkers scattered in this area. The trees are newly grown and when the Fort was in use, it had a clear view of the Pacific Ocean.

The original earthen fort, completed in 1865 to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from Confederate gun boats and the British Navy during the Civil War, was named for Union Army Major General Isaac I. Stevens, first territorial governor of Washington, who died in 1862 at the Battle of Chantilly. The post later served as Oregon’s only coastal defense fort during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.  The fort has the distinction of being the only military fort in the United States to be fired upon by an enemy during time of war since the War of 1812, when it was attacked by a Japanese submarine on June 21, 1942. ~https://oregonstateparks.org/

Next stop was finally the beach itself. We parked and walked out onto the sand, being drawn to a shipwreck, as many people are. The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel barque sailing vessel that ran ashore October 25, 1906, on the Oregon coast en route to the Columbia River. It has been slowly decomposing and generations have returned to walk around it and climb upon it at low tide.

I love that I captured the boy in mid-leap. The kite also adds to the scene.

The Peter Iredale ran aground October 25, 1906. Now it’s a playground for boys in uniform.

Beach at Fort Stevens.

Looking north along the beach we could actually see the jetty at Cape Disappointment, in Washington.

Vlad and I walked up the beach a spell, spotting fishing vessels on the horizon, enjoying the smells and sounds of the sea, then turned back to the Jeep. It felt strange getting to the beach and then leaving. But this was not a beach trip and rather a Let’s-get-a-look-at-the-land trip.

We crossed the magnificent Astoria-Megler Bridge to Washington state (that’s the one you see in the photo above). The southern part of the bridge is extremely high to enable free passage of any kind of ship up the river. And we do get everything in Portland: enormous tourist cruise ships, tall-masted sailing ships, Navy ships, and every kind of ship and barge for commerce. The bridge has no means of opening or lifting, and rather is built very high, which is exciting for motorists! It is just over 4 miles (6.55 km) to cross the river.

On the Washington side we turned immediately for Cape Disappointment, named when an explorer had tried and tried to find the mouth of the Columbia River and was forced to admit defeat. Ironically, at the mouth of the very river.

My Discover Pass came in handy one more time this week. I purchased it in October to park at the trailhead when I hiked the Enchantments. Anyone who lives around here and does some exploring in Washington state should have one. They’re $10 for a day pass, but only $40 for a year. Many of the parking lots to recreational areas require one, so it pays for itself easily if you get out of the house. We had free admission to Mt. St. Helens observatory, and now free parking at Cape Disappointment.

We hiked the first trail lined with informational signs about weather in the region. For two people with a weather background, the signs are interesting for different reasons than most people I imagine. Personally, I like to see how weather is explained for the layperson. But also, knowing weather, I skim through all the facts and see what is impressive based on my own knowledge. For example, coastal wind speeds can exceed the minimum requirement for hurricane wind speeds. That’s a fun perspective.

The end of the informational weather trail.

Trail to North Head lighthouse. Can you see it, smack in the center of the photo?

This is a view of the jetty looking south from Cape Disappointment. The mountains in the distance are Oregon.

North Head Lighthouse.

I then gave up my plans to head along the smaller road in Washington and catch the ferry back to Oregon. We had been out all day. We had been out all week, actually. My vote was to cross the bridge back to highway 30 and head home by the quickest route. Vlad agreed.

All in all it was a successful week of exploration. I hope my friend now feels more keenly his place on this particular spot of the Pacific Northwest.

Women head into the water to surf. Pacific City's Haystack Rock sits almost a mile offshore.

Women head into the water to surf. Pacific City’s Haystack Rock sits almost a mile offshore.

Confession: I live about 40 minutes’ drive from the Pacific Ocean and I hardly ever go there! That’s a crime, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is.

In 2016 I’ve been to the beach two times. I went to Astoria for my birthday in January, and later in the Spring, I went out with a group of friends. All the photos have been sitting here on my computer, patiently waiting to be posted, and now it’s time. This was a weekend in early May.

D is a serious cyclist and most of his friends are cyclists and their idea of fun is to rides their bikes a thousand miles to the beach and then party. Luckily, I was assigned car support duty. It’s a good thing because I have personally been upon a bicycle twice in the past twenty years.

Someone had rented a couple of houses across the street from each other in a cute beach community filled with houses that appear to only exist for that purpose. They were decorated as though a family lived there, with bathrooms stocked and children’s photos on the walls, and kitchen utensils available. But it was not quite lived in, and I guessed the places had been “staged” to feel like a family home. I find it interesting how I reacted to that idea, in this time of Air BnB popularity. While many people obviously love the idea of staying in someone’s home while they’re out, it’s actually an uncomfortable idea for me, and I feel the need not to touch anything, or disturb anything in their absence. I feel as though the owners have done a huge favor by letting me stay there (payment notwithstanding), and I can only repay them by not using any bathroom products and as few towels as possible. I remain uncomfortable the whole time. Whereas in a hotel! It’s purely built for transients. No one claims ownership. Every single thing in the room is MINE as long as I’m there, and I feel complete luxury. I use way too many towels, and all the shampoo, and I rearrange the furniture, click the remote control, fill up the closets and drawers with my clothes, and collect all the brochures and placards and pile them in a drawer somewhere to get them out of my way. If there’s a kitchen, I use anything I want and leave dirty dishes in the sink. Luxury.

Everyone chose a room in one of the houses and we dumped our gear and then went to play on the beach. Pacific City, Oregon is west and a little south of Portland, so still at the northern part of the state. It’s a small community that appears to survive on tourism, since that was the theme of nearly all the shops. I’m a fan of that sometimes, because it provides classy dinner options and great coffeehouses in rural communities that could never provide that without out-of-town tourists. In particular, this beach town hosts Pelican Bay Brewery, and a comfortable and friendly brew pub with burgers and fries and great craft beers on tap.

Our group climbed a sand dune at Cape Kiwanda and were treated with coastline views.

Our group climbed a sand dune at Cape Kiwanda and were treated with coastline views.

I found this sign somewhat disconcerting.

I found this sign somewhat disconcerting.

 

The weather was cool and and wet most of the time, but the second day the skies cleared up and we all decided to hike to a lookout point on Cape Kiwanda. The hike is literally straight up the side of a huge sand dune, so that was a bit tricky. But the views at the top were worth the long steep slog, and shoes filled with sand.

Whales are a big tourist draw, particularly during the height of migration season in December and January. In late May there were stragglers making their way from Mexico to Alaska for the warm weather. It didn’t take long before we began spotting their spouts just offshore. Gray Whales make this trip in about 3 weeks. The photos I took don’t do it justice, but it really is fun to stand on shore and see sea creatures as large as a bus exhaling a blast of water into the sky as they surface for air.

When we returned, we ate tons of food and played games together at the big family table and told stories. When the weekend was over nearly everyone rode home in a car, but one crazy person rode their bike back to the city again. That’s close to 100 miles each way. 200 miles in a weekend. Now there’s a person who is in good physical condition.

The white-and-gray speckled body of a Gray Whale is visible as she surfaces.

The white-and-gray speckled body of a Gray Whale is visible as she surfaces.

These whales are said to spout water and vapor up to 12 feet into the air.

These whales are said to spout water and vapor up to 12 feet into the air.

There's another one!

There’s another one!

Haystack Rock from Cape Kiwanda

Haystack Rock from Cape Kiwanda

Lovely Oregon coast

Lovely Oregon coast

Backpacker selfie

Backpacker selfie

I was nearly done with my hike when I realized I had no photos of myself in that beautiful wilderness. I had passed a couple of people, and any of them would have been happy to snap a photo, but by the time I remembered to document my presence there, it was only me. So I took a selfie.

At the place where the little road to the trailhead comes out at Highway 299 is a little ghost town of Helena, California. People still live there and are served by the U.S. Postal Service. The place was settled in 1851 to serve the miners in the mountains. Today there are several large, abandoned, and vandalized buildings left near the road.

Once a large and beautiful home

Once a large and beautiful home

My mother would have loved the pine cone wallpaper.

My mother would have loved the pine cone wallpaper.

The old post office building

The old post office building

Staircase inside the home

Staircase inside the home

On my way west along 299, the temperature dropped from 102 to 72 by the time I reached Highway 101 along the coast. I arrived at Tara’s dad’s house with some sunshine and afternoon left in the day. Feeling pleased to have found Humboldt County in sunshine (a truly rare event), I was happy that Tara felt like walking to the beach. We hit the Hammond Trail and passed the gorgeous country fields near McKinleyville in the flat lands around the mouth of the Mad River.

Once I heard it, I have enjoyed telling the story of the naming of the Mad River. In 1850 the Dr. Josiah Gregg Expedition was exploring, mapping, and documenting the area. Gregg, a naturalist, was also interested in cataloging flora and fauna. Their most important work was arguably the mapping of Humboldt Bay, large enough to accommodate ships that could serve miners and trappers of the region. Falling on hard times, the group had a dispute about the best way to return to San Francisco. Gregg could not bring himself to give up on the scientific work and insisted that they must follow the coast home, and continue to work. The larger group of dissenters argued that they would starve to death unless they made their way inland again. Dr. Gregg had a tremendous temper tantrum at the mouth of a river, as his companions left him and a few others on the shore. The Mad River was named in honor of that event. Dr. Gregg eventually realized he needed to move inland as well, and his group began heading toward what is now called Clear Lake. Sadly, he was starving to death at that point, and in his weakness fell off his horse and died.

After enjoying the beach in the waning sun, Tara and I headed back. The next morning we left early in order to make preparations for the following day’s celebrations: My kid turned 17 and was going to have a big birthday bash at the house. I can hardly believe my baby girl is 17 years old. Babyhood a distant memory, Tara is now strong and kind, thoughtful and helpful, smart and oh, so funny. I feel honored that I get to share in her life.

Fields and farmland near McKinleyville, California

Fields and farmland near McKinleyville, California

I'll bet one does not find many snails on the fence posts of Kansas.

I’ll bet one does not find many snails on the fence posts of Kansas.

Walking bridge over the Mad River, along the Hammond Trail

Walking bridge over the Mad River is part of the Hammond Trail

An abandoned barn along our route

An abandoned barn along our route

My Tara dancing on the beach

My Tara dancing on the beach

Purple flowers and grasses as lovely as any arranged basket.

Purple flowers and grasses as lovely as any arranged basket.

A hunter waits patiently in the field.

A hunter waits patiently in the field.

This heron is doing more aggressive hunting, as she stalks gracefully across the grass.

This Great Blue Heron is hunting more aggressively than the cat.

 

One of my many guises

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