"Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt" US Forest Sevice

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Shore Acres on Cape Arago

The End of the Road

Oregon  has 25 amazing state parks to visit. Taking the day off from bike riding and volunteering, we headed north towards Coos Bay then on to the Cape Arago Highway to Shore Acres State Park and Cape Arago which are at the end of the road. 
Perched on rugged sandstone cliffs high above the ocean is Shore Acres State Park. Once a grand estate of timber baron Louis Simpson, it has lush gardens with plants and flowers from all over the world. Something is in bloom almost every day of the year.

Views from the overlook

 We have seen pictures of the park lit up with holiday lights from Thanksgiving until New Year's Eve that are placed by volunteers each year.

It was a pleasant morning as we walked through the gardens and along the cliffs overlooking the ocean.

A Japanese style garden with a lily pond.

 The roses were just starting to bloom for Father's Day as the rhododendrons were fading.

 Winter storms crash against the walls of the cliffs. But it was a sunny calm day for us as we hiked down to Simpson Beach to checkout the tidepools.
This is the first time we have seen these in tide pools.
The holes in these rocks are made by piddocks, a mollusk similar to a clam that grind into the rocks for protection.

A volunteer couple for the US Dept of Fish and Wildlife were stationed at a stop along the Arago Highway. We had seen their van on the shores near Bandon the previous day. They invited us and other people to view the noisy seals, sea lions and not so noisy eagles through their scopes. They spend 5 months along the Oregon Coast and 5 on Florida's Panhandle each year.
Shell Island below is a National Wildlife Refuge for seals and sea lions. The North Cove Trail leads to the area for beachcombing and fishing. The volunteers rotate through a few protected areas to educate people and protect the wildlife by reminding people not to touch the baby seals that can be left for several days on the beach while they hunt. One lady was found lying on the beach next to a small seal, petting it while her dog sniffed it. With the human and dog scent on it, I am not sure how that baby seal fared.

We couldn't miss Cape Arago Lighthouse in Charleston, Oregon, a quaint fishing village west of Coos Bay. Other than the large mosquitos, June has been a great time to visit the coast.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Back at the Coast

Bandon, Oregon

Driving the winding roads of the Coast Mountains can be wearing. The sky was cloudy and wind blowing as we arrived on the coast which left us wondering why we had left the sunshine in the mountains. A good night of sleep and little sunshine can change a person's perspective. 

Bullard's Beach has a robust volunteer program with  several interpretive hosts for the Snowy Plover, tufted puffins and lighthouse along with Jr Ranger Program. Many hosts love their jobs and return year after year. We attended our orientation meeting and got settled in things were looking better. 

An early negative low tide makes for good tide pooling. I checked the schedule for the "Circles in the Sand" at Face Rock State Wayside and set the alarm for the 7-9 am schedule. There were a few people already there when we arrived.

What a way to start the morning. After an hour of walking on the beach, we stopped at the local bakery before heading back to clean four yurts.

Dennie Dyke, the local sand artist started making labyrinths in the sand back in 2011. He’s built a loyal local following buoyed by tourists who travel to this stretch of the Oregon coast just to walk one of his creations.

While Dyke is the leader, he works with a team of volunteers, with whom he makes each design on the fly. It always starts out with a blank canvas of beach which varies based on the tide, the weather and the constantly shifting sands.
His creations are technically not labyrinths, since they have separate entrances and exits – a necessary design element when hundreds of people walk through at a time. Each dreamfield is made in the hard, wet sand of low tide, and within hours the surf naturally comes back in, washing away the beautiful work of art. In that way they’re a statement on the temporary and ever-shifting nature of life, where moments of joy can be fleeting, always leaving us in need of fresh experiences.

 He encourages people to take their worries into his dreamfields, leaving them in the center of a spiral and exiting the labyrinth with a smile.

“The ocean will take it and deal with it,” he said.

Mr. Dykes, sand artist, stopped and visited with us and many of the visitors.

Tide pooling

Anemones and Starfish

Caves at low tide

Face Rock

The electric golf carts threw us a little after the loud gators we had been using. Turn the key and press the pedal, pretty easy. Seems easy enough. The lack of any sound made us think that it wasn't running. Then we (Mike) figured it out. Turn the key and press go.

Our "job" at Bullards Beach is relief yurt host. Each morning we pick up our assignment at the little shed, get our golf carts from the assigned location, visit with other hosts while waiting for people to leave the lovely yurts. Once we finish sweeping, dusting, and disinfecting, we are free for the rest of the day. 

After finishing the yurts for the day, we headed across the bridge which has a flashing light when cyclists and walkers are on it, and headed south along the ocean. We were enjoying our ride
so much and thought how easy it was and realized that the wind was pushing us south. The return ride was more work but so much fun other than the occasional side gust that made us hang on tight. We slept well after walking the beach, cleaning yurts and bike riding.

Two thumbs up on  Bullards Beach, the fun volunteers and yurt cleaning. We will try to pace ourselves better the rest of the month.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tualatin Valley and Saddle Mountain

A quick month at LL Stubb Stewart

Our nomadic life is constantly changing along with our address. As a traveling nurse, we would choose three month travel contracts based on the areas we wanted to spend time. My first was contract in Connecticut. We would take the train to NYC or drive to Cape Cod on my 4 days
off, returning in time for my 3 days at the hospital which can get pretty tiring. But what an opportunity to see the country. As we reached San Francisco, we slowed down, learning to explore closer to home and enjoy the immediate area, finding ourselves dancing to the music in the park near our apartment or riding our bikes along the bay.

 The past 4 years, we would travel 6 months, returning to Arizona for 6 months to work and refuel after the excitement of new places and constant moving. After several years of returning to the same place, it was time to mix it up once again. This time the opportunity of staying a month in these wonderful state parks and feeling like we are contributing is a real treat. Also, not having to find a place to stay over holiday weekends is a bonus.

Relief Camp Host is something we would do again in the future.  

Tualatin Valley Trails

Along the Wine and Quilt Trail, 60 quilt panels have been installed at local area farms and agriculture related businesses. Each quilt tells the story of the property owners and their relation to quilting. 

One draw for us was the 51 mile Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway that includes the 21 mile Banks-Vernonia Bikeway, which passes through quiet rolling hills and 
 farm country roads with little traffic. Many people from Portland ride the 30 miles along the bikeway to camp at Stubb Stewart's hike/bike camp, one of our favorite places in the park.

Mt St Helen in the background

Mt Hood in the back

The county has put a lot of effort and money into its smooth roads for cyclists. 

Trail from Banks 

Saddle Mountain Recreation Area

Saddle Mountain Trail, halfway between Fort Stevens State Park and LL Stubb Stewart, had been on our radar for a while. Our window to hike it was closing as our time to leave and head back to the ocean was fast arriving. 

Even though it was raining on our last days off, we put on our rain gear and headed up the trail.

If the trail’s natural beauty and wildflowers weren’t enough to entice us to the top, the panoramic view from the summit did.  We hear on a clear day you can see the sweep of the Columbia River as it enters the sea, miles of Pacific shoreline and on the eastern horizon, the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington. We plan to return on a clear day to check it out.

I was thankful for the hiking poles on the slick wire holding the trail together.
The trail is steep and difficult in spots, with a 1,640 foot rise in elevation over 2.5 miles.
The first and last half miles were the steepest. We felt each step in our thighs on the way up. On the way down our knees were thankful for the poles to hold us from sliding.

We  hear there is a view.

We didn't get to see the views on our hike or enjoy the harvest from the farms we rode our bikes by this month. We plan to return in August to be interpretive hosts at Stubb Stewart so we can remedy that. But that is a whole other story.

 The berry Mike brought to me as a gift wasn't quite ripe. It wasn't so much a gift but more of a chance to find out how ripe it was without testing it himself.  Needless to say, this did not get him any cudos.
Salmon Berries
 I occasionally wonder why we can't be content living in the same place with occasional trips. But realize that we could and are appreciative of the opportunity we have to travel, meet new people and
see new place as we attempt to find balance in our lives while we still can.