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If you watch the video, at first it seems like it’s a shot of a peaceful and beautiful tidepool. But as you watch, a variety of different life forms become evident. Two crabs, urchins, anemones, a fish. Can you spot more? You can also hear us talking. I’m the one who can’t pronounce anemone, ha ha. This is some of what Jim and I did at the beach at Yaquina Head: we would find an interesting pool, and then hold still and quiet and watch. It is better than TV!

Parking is at the top of the bluff holding the Yaquina Head Lighthouse that I talked about in my last post, and we followed those stairs down to the beach.

Jim stands at the top of the stairs surveying the tide pool scene below.

From the stairs we could see how the shape of the rocks in the water created tide pools. We also saw that lots of other people thought it was a good day to be at the beach.

LOTS of other people.

When Jim came out to the coast to visit from his home in Minnesota (halfway between the two US coasts), he had his hopes pinned on tide pooling. For those who haven’t done it, tide pooling means finding a beach that has pools left on shore when the tide drops. After the tide is out, you can explore the pools and see ocean wildlife up close and personal. I told Tara our plans, and Tara enthusiastically suggested Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. The U.S. Burea of Land Management oversees this natural area, and interpretive guides were on site to keep people out of restricted areas, but also to answer questions and help us get the most awe and wonder out of our day.

On our way down the steps we could hear a raucous cacophony of bird colonies. Then we spotted them atop the rocks.

A gulp of cormorants clustered atop a rock. Can you even guess how fun it was for me today when I researched what to call a group of cormorants and learned that the proper term is “gulp?”

The beach had no sand but instead these small round rocks that were hard to walk in, but beautiful.

We hit the beach at about 20 minutes before lowest tide, which is perfect. The weather had improved all day and became warm down on the rocks where we were protected from wind. The bright sky did provide a serious photography challenge. I was pleased when I could find rock shadows to counteract the shine on the surface of the water.

This anemone is exposed to the air, now that the tide is out.

The two anemones on the left have closed up to wait for incoming tide. I’m guessing this must be for protection.

Ocean grass beneath bubbles on the surface.

A brave girl showed me how to touch them.

Jim at the beach.

It was hard to find good shots that weren’t washed out due to glare on the water. But look through the glare to see the pink and peach colours of some beautiful coraline algae.

Fascinating sea communities were dulled in the brightly reflected sky.

I know I already showed you the Giant Green Anemone, but they are SO COOL!!

We had a blast and played with little sea critters for a long time. We had a hard time finding starfish, but finally Jim found one and then climbed precariously to a spot to get a photo. When he was done I made the same poor choice, because climbing around sketchy rocks to get a photo is pretty much my MO.

Jim catches a photo of a starfish while trying not to fall into the sea.

This is the sad result of when I climbed out there and did the same thing. At least the starfish is visible, its legs all curled up.

One of the larger pools filled with entertainment.

“Dragon Claws!” I exclaimed when I saw these. But upon investigation, found that they are called Gooseneck, or Leaf Barnacle. I like my idea better.

A gumboot chiton. Yes, that’s an animal.

A relative chiton. Sadly, we were told by an interpretive guide that this one is dying, or dead, and that’s why it’s riblike structure is exposed.

The mood on the beach was effervescent. I think that was because so many kids were there, genuinely enjoying the outing, and so many adults were allowing themselves to get into the spirit of discovery and delight. Even teenagers in packs were climbing around the rocks, discovering things and calling their friends over to see. It made people talkative with each other, while we shared the common experience. I asked a mom if I could photograph her daughter’s little hand with white fingernail polish while she showed me how to touch an anemone. The mom gave permission, and then remarked at how it had not even occurred to her to be protective of her child in that environment. “I think people are safe here,” she decided. I agreed.

A family looks out across the water.

The ocean swells eventually began carrying the tide back to us.

I finally found a section of the beach where there were copious shadows and I could finally take clear photos of the tide pools.

I don’t think I know of a more gorgeous shade of purple than the colours the Purple Sea Urchin wears.

It looks like a mermaid’s toybox.

Here’s a close up.

We sated our bouldering and sea creature desires after a few hours, and headed back up the stairs. The lowering angle of the sun gilded the hillside.

Goodbye cormorant gulps.

Goodbye sea stacks.

Goodbye glowing hillside of purple fireweed.

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.

The view out the apartment window of Cerro San Cristobal.

The view out the apartment window of Cerro San Cristobal.

I woke at 6:18 am refreshed after a great sleep. Soon Margaret was up too and we were out the door around 8:30 and headed for Cerro San Cristóbal, or hill of St. Christopher. It would be quite a hike and we wanted to hike in the early morning coolness. And…can I say…after the heat of the day yesterday, it cooled down overnight and was deliciously pleasant sleeping weather. The morning was cool and breezy and perfect.

Street art on the way to the hill of St. Christopher.

Street art on the way to the hill of St. Christopher.

Empty streets in the morning.

Empty streets in the morning.

More art. I can't help myself.

More art. I can’t help myself.

We walked a few blocks north, a few blocks west, and there we were at the bottom of the hill. Rather than go up, we backtracked a little through the tree-lined empty streets in search of coffee and sustenance. I am impressed by so much street art here, and stopped so often to remark and take photos that Margaret began to point murals out to me!

We found the perfect cafe, some sandwiches to go, and off we went on our trek uphill. It was a slog, but with plenty of shade, continuing morning breezes, and fabulous views of a hazy city, it was really no chore. At the top we found the beautiful white statue of the Virgin Mary. Surrounding it at the top of the hill were a lovely garden area with many benches in the shade, and a small and lovely stone church called the Motherhood of Mary Chapel. To save our feet, we rode the funicular (a….train?) back down.

The Virgin Mary, surrounded by admirers.

The Virgin Mary, surrounded by admirers.

Holy water in Mary's Church.

Holy water in Mary’s Church.

I am standing just below Mary, getting a sunbun as we speak.

I am standing just below Mary, getting a sunbun as we speak.

Our car is passing another as we ride the funicular down the hillside.

Our car is passing another as we ride the funicular down the hillside.

View of Santiago from the funicular.

View of Santiago from the funicular.

Bridge at the bottom of the hill covered in locks of love.

Bridge at the bottom of the hill covered in locks of love.

Lovers names inked onto them.

Lovers names inked onto them.

Our host Angelo had raved about Valparaiso and Viña del Mar (vineyard of the sea) the previous day, enough that we were convinced, and made on-the-spot plans to catch a bus there after our hike up the cerro. And that’s exactly what we did: back to the room, freshened up a bit, and headed for the metro. We took the metro to the bus station, and then we asked enough people in broken Spanish to express our need. (bless the patient Chileans) Tickets in hand, we jumped on a bus for the nearly 2 hour ride to Viña del Mar.

Views of the Andes from the bus.

Views of the Andes from the bus.

We saw multiple wineries from the tour bus.

We saw multiple wineries from the bus.

Our plan had been to explore both cities, but we stumbled serendipitously upon a Chilean-born Canadian, who was working for the Viña del Mar tourist office. She easily explained why we couldn’t do both cities – not enough time. And since we were walking, she quickly mapped out the best walking route through her fair city, so that we would return before the last bus of the evening.

We were so impressed we followed her suggestion exactly. First through the Parque Quinta Vergara, a lovely park but not especially remarkable. Margaret pointed out that the tourist lady was very proud of the place and eager to send us there, and for that reason, we were happy to go see it for her. There was renovation underway at the park, of the old Governor’s mansion. Restoration is something we have seen regularly here, and I think that’s a good sign of how well a city is doing.

A tree at the park. The fruit is bright orange/red as you can see, and are dropping to the ground.

A tree at the park. The fruit is bright orange/red as you can see, and dropping to the ground as it ripens.

Fabulous houses in Viña del Mar

There are fabulous houses in Viña del Mar.

I get happy in water.

I get happy in water.

We continued walking toward the beach, and enjoyed the small landscaped flower garden pointed out to us by the tourist guide. Almost as soon as we reached the sand, one of the many women selling things offered us something we actually wanted: a flaky sugary pastry and we scarfed it down, only after a very long discussion about how much it should cost. We began the conversation at something that sounded a lot like $5,000 pesos for a single pastry (close to $8). When it was clear that we were shocked and walking away, the women quickly explained that we didn’t understand. After much talking and confusion, many prices being discussed, always with the woman saying we weren’t understanding her. Finally we paid $1,000 pesos for two pastries, which is more like 75 cents each. Now THAT I can understand just fine. 😉

We ate our pastries on the beach and I was not able to resist the water. I stripped off my shoes and socks and splashed in the sea. Imagine! Swimming in the ocean in December.

Lovely views of the seashore are found in Vina del Mar.

Lovely views of the seashore are found in Viña del Mar. Wulff Castle is in the center, on a rock outcrop in the sea.

Pelicans groomed themselves into awkwar poses, though I begged them to raise their heads for a more flattering photo.

Pelicans groomed themselves into awkward poses, though I begged them to raise their heads for a more flattering photo.

We find the cities in Chile to be tastefully lovely and very clean.

We find the cities in Chile to be tastefully lovely and very clean.

This tree has seen better days.

This tree has seen better days.

Castle Wulff

Castle Wulff

Pisco Sours

Pisco Sours

We were able to walk inside Castillo Wulff (you can barely make it out in the shore photo above). It was purchased in 1906 and transformed into a castle in 1916 by Gustavo Adolfo Wulff. Inside was empty but for an art show of local bird photography. We crossed the mouth of a river and continued on along the playa, past a splendid casino in a huge building with classic architecture. There were horses with carriages out front, but that was too touristy for our mood just then.

Finally, tummies rumbling, we went in search of a place to eat. Margaret has been pining for local seafood, possibly a Chilean seafood soup, so we walked past the Peruvian Thai restaurant (Er?), the many pizza places, the Italian restaurant. We skipped a few that looked promising because they were closed. Finally we stepped a place advertised as a pasta restaurant, because we spotted fish on the menu. The beach here is touristy, and thus the waiters brought us menus in English. Sure enough, seafood was on the menu, so I ordered Chilean Pot (mussels, squid, and shrimp sauteed in garlic butter) and Margaret ordered white fish ceviche. We sipped Chilean Pisco Sours, an alcoholic drink made of egg white, Pisco (a brandy made of grape wine), syrup, lemon juice and bitters, and found that our luck remained with us because the generously-sized dishes came out made to order and scrumptious.

We have been admiring so much of Chile’s architecture. The lovely folks at Castle Wulff had provided us a walking map of some of the more remarkable homes in the city, so after we ate we headed for the bus station via these homes. We spotted a couple, but even more fun was that in front of one such gorgeous mansions was an event of some kind. At Palacio Carrasco we stood with the crowd and watched schoolkids take the stage and sing songs – one song for each school – and watched the parents and grandparents cheering and smiling and holding up their phones to get videos.

Schoolkids singing

Schoolkids singing

At the bus station.

At the bus station.

Subway entertainment.

Subway entertainment.

We left for the bus station and settled in for our 2-hour ride back. After that long long day, and after two days together, Margaret and I had finally exhausted our supply of things that needed to be talked about in order to catch each other up on our lives, and our trip home was somewhat more subdued than the one earlier. We caught the metro back to downtown Santiago and were surprised (shocked actually because of the deafening volume) when a man came up and played his boom box, then accompanied the song with his saxophone and pipe. He had a woman in tow, who was asking for money. Eventually they moved off. Soon they were replaced with two teenage boys who looked like they were having a blast earning their coins. They also played boom boxes, but brought mics and began rapping about the passengers on the subway. Smiles all around showed that their show was much more appreciated than the first one. But it was our stop and we hopped off and easily made our way in the dark to our apartment. It was about 11 pm as we sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of wine to get ready for bed (me to begin my blog post), and M figured we had spent $40 each today for all those adventures. Wonderful!

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.


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