Monday, August 29, 2016

Catching Up

Now that we find ourselves in the San Diego area it's pretty obvious I haven't done much posting as we've worked our way down the West Coast. Time to catch up - some stops along the way included...

The Oregon Coast

We had a difficult time finding RV parks with space available this year, particularly along the Oregon Coast. One of the things we've always enjoyed about the RV lifestyle is the ability to make our own schedule. If we happen to really like a place we often stay longer than planned, if not we leave earlier than expected. When we were in Oregon most of the parks I called were booked up and could only fit us in for a night or two. That really limited our time in Oregon. In fact, we weren't able to do any wine tasting in the Willamette Valley because the parks were all full which was a disappointment for me. So we just moved along.

Too bad because it's a really beautiful coastline with some great beaches for walking.

Lots of little harbors and lighthouses.

Yosemite National Park

When asked what our favorite National Park is, we usually say 'Yosemite'. We made the decision to detour a bit to the Sacramento area where we spent some time with friends Ken and Kris, and from there up to Yosemite. Of course all the campgrounds near the park were fully booked, but we were able to find a spot on the south end near the town of Coarsegold. It took over an hour to drive up to the Park, but we spent a few days there and were able to do some hiking.

Unfortunately there were forest fires in the area so the skies were a bit smoky. As we've found in many places during our travels the last few years, the crowds and traffic have greatly increased. Nice that so many people are enjoying our parks, but it can make things difficult.
This view is from Glacier Point, looking down at Yosemite Valley. When we got down to the valley the traffic was bumper to bumper and finding a place to park was challenging to say the least.

As we drove down from Glacier Point we were able to pull over and park at one of the viewpoints overlooking the valley.

At this time of year, maybe because of the drought, Yosemite and Bridal Veil Falls, two of the most photographed falls, were only a trickle. However there was some water flowing over Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls which can be seen if you look closely at the photo below.

We probably visited Yosemite at the wrong time of year, something to keep in mind for next time. But, we still love it there!

California Wine Country

No way we could work our way through California without stopping in two of our favorite wine tasting areas, Lodi and Paso Robles. One of our favorites is Jessie's Grove in Lodi, where the zins are fantastic and made from some very very old vines. The vine above is 118 years old. The zinfandel vines are head-trained which means no trellises are used. The vines are dry farmed and prized for their production of small, concentrated clusters of grapes that produce incredibly rich and intense wines. I can verify that.


We were near areas where some of the big fires in California were occurring. We encountered smoke from the fire near Yosemite, and almost didn't stay in Paso Robles because of the smoke from the Chimney Fire which burned 46,000 acres to date, destroyed 49 homes, and is only 60% contained. On one of our Paso Robles days we drove to Morro Bay and Cambria which are on the coast. On the way back we saw smoke billowing from the Chimney Fire. It came within 2 miles of Hearst Castle, near Cambria, which is a National Historical Landmark that we have toured twice. Absolutely priceless art and antiques that may still suffer some smoke damage.

The Rey Fire was taking hold as we got to Santa Barbara to visit with friends Kathy and Dan. Some days were a bit smoky, but more imposing were the views of the fire on the other side of the mountain. It has burned 33,000 acres and is 68% contained as of today. No homes lost in this one.

The effects of the drought were apparent as we drove south. It's not surprising that California, along with other states, is facing so many wildfires.
Firefighters face incredibly hot temperatures, smoke, and many other hazards. I read that 500 firefighters on the lines of the Sobranes Fire near Monterey have been treated for the effects of the poison oak.  Lots of admiration and thanks to those men and women who put their lives at risk to put out these fires!

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Walk in the Woods

Redwoods are known as the tallest trees on earth and being able to hike through them is an amazing, awe-inspiring, humbling, magical experience. The Redwoods in California are managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and California State Parks. We had been to several of the parks to the south, but this was our first trip to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It contains seven percent of all the old-growth redwoods left in the world within its 10,000 acres.

Jedediah Smith has some trees of truly stupendous size - perhaps not quite as tall as the redwoods to the south, but bigger in diameter. Somewhere in the park is the largest coastal redwood by volume, a tree that's exceeded in size, and not by much, by only seven giant sequoias. The tree's location is secret so that it can be protected from damage. In fact, a large part of the park is undeveloped with few trails and it will probably stay that way. With the increasing emphasis on conservation, parks have generally been moving trails and other facilities away from the old-growth redwoods. We understand and agree with that philosophy and were delighted to be able to hike the existing trails.

We began our day with a drive up Howland Hill Road, which passes through the center of the park. It's known as one of the best redwood drives anywhere. The road is narrow enough that we had to pull over if a car was coming the other way, but that just made the experience better.

Cut into a hillside, the road provides some nice views of lush vegetation and towering trees.

We hiked the Boy Scout Tree Trail and the Stout Grove Trail which have trailheads along Howland Hill Road. I can't even put into words what it's like to be in this giant redwood forest.

We tried to include one of us in each of our photos so that there would be some sense of perspective as to how huge these trees are. Looking at the photos, I realize that it was a good idea but there's really no way to show what being in the Redwoods feels like.  

The other Redwood National and State Parks include Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National Park. Together they are a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve,  protecting 45 percent of California’s remaining old-growth redwoods—an area almost four times the size of Manhattan.

An organization called 'Save the Redwoods League', established in 1918, the has protected nearly 200,000 acres of forest and helped create 66 redwood parks and preserves. Their informative website can be found at

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olympic Pensinsual - Hoh Rain Forest

The Hoh Rainforest is a part of Olympic National Park and is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States. It gets an average of 140 inches of rainfall per year, so not surprisingly the trees are huge and moss covers pretty much everything.

We took a day trip from our park near Forks and did a little hiking. Brian is dwarfed by the tree in the photo below.

A typical moss laden tree.

Fallen trees are often called nursery trees because other trees will grow from them, as in the photo below. The nursery tree is visible between the roots of the other trees growing in the row.

Like other giant trees we've seen, these also have fairly shallow root systems that spread out, rather than down into the ground. The people in the photo below give some perspective regarding the size of this tree's root ball.

Great place for a hike, feeling like little ants next to these trees. My only regret is that we forgot the bug spray! With the amount of humidity we certainly should have known better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Olympic Peninsula - La Push and Rialto Beach

After our ferry ride to Port Townsend we spent a few weeks near our friends Judy and Jim, who live on their boat during the summer. They were doing a dock-hosting stint at Mystery Bay State Park and we were able to stay once again at Smitty's RV Park about a mile up the road on Marrowstone Island.

Thanks to Jim and his foraging efforts, we had more crab than we could eat. He kept us well supplied, going out to haul pots in some pretty rough conditions. Judy, Brian, and I tried to do our part by cracking and cleaning the crab. Judy was the chef extraordinaire, making us delicious crab cocktails, crab soup, and crab sandwiches - I even made a few crab omelets. Pretty much a two week crabfest.

After leaving the Mystery Bay area we worked our way around the Olympic Peninsula. As on previous visits, we were once again astounded by the majesty of the forests and beaches. We stayed near Forks, site of the 'Twilight' movies. The area continues to try to capitalize on this with Twilight tours, and lots of memorabilia.
We went to a festival at La Push, which is on the Quileute Reservation. Salmon was being cooked in the old way, on sticks around a fire.

There was a little street fair, a watermelon eating contest and several other events. We walked to the beach but were somewhat restricted on where we could go because they were setting up the fireworks display that would follow the street dance that evening. We passed on those events but walked to the beach which is fairly close to some sea stacks.

The roots of the trees in this area don't grow very deep into the ground, but spread out instead. Because of that they are more prone to being blown down. The size of the tree stumps and root systems were pretty incredible everywhere we happened to see them in the Northwest area.

The Quileute Reservation and Olympic National Park are separated by the Quileute River. While we could see Rialto Beach across the river we had to drive back upriver to the bridge that crosses over the river.
Rialto Beach is one of the Twilight movie places which isn't surprising considering how other-worldly it is.

The only bits of color are provided by the trees and people wearing colorful clothing.

The size of the logs that have washed up on the beaches would indicate that they are somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand years old. Brian is sitting in some type of twisted tree root in the photo below - if not for his shirt it would be hard to see him.

As we were walking down the beach I spotted a couple of men wearing suits - ??? As we got closer we realized it was a wedding party having their photos taken.

Brian found a nice little beach hut to hang out in but I don't think he was ready to move in.

Maps of our route --

Mystery Bay to the Forks area - Mora,where stayed, and to La Push

Mora to La Push and Rialto Beach