Saturday, March 30, 2019

Lighthouses and Tidepooling

Driving up the Coast 

Port Orford

Last spring we visited the small port town of Port Orford  to ride our bikes on the Wild River Scenic Bikeway. Our first two days of our return visit were sunny, but the third was cold and raining. We pulled out our books and settled in. We usually like to get outside and walk to get in our 10,000 steps a day despite the weather. Not this day. I bet even the whales that are heading north to Alaska took a detour.

This dog's owner joined us on our morning walk on the beach. We would have missed the ship wreck that had been mostly covered in sand if he hadn't pointed it out.
Funny little rock on the beach

We are always learning something new in our travels. While driving along the ocean, we would stop to walk along the beach.  We noticed a couple digging along the surf in the sand and (Deb AKA "The Stalker") had to find out what they were doing. He would dig in the sand and toss it across the beach looking for sand crabs to be used as bait for catching ocean perch. The sand crabs are very fast at disappearing back into the sand. No razor clamming in the area right now as they are toxic.
 No bigger than a thumb, a sand crab spends most of its time buried in shifting sand. Sand crabs feed in the swash zone—an area of breaking waves. As the swash zone moves up and down the beach with the tide, so do sand crabs. surfperch's diet is 90% sand crabs. Surf fishermen use sand crabs as bait.

More fishermen digging for sand crabs

 At Cape Blanco Lighthouse, hiking along the bluff as the sun glistened waves crashed, we watched for whales in the distance. Mostly we would just see their blow holes spouting in the distance.

Bandon, Oregon

While staying in Port Orford, we were  only 26 miles from the cute touristy town of Bandon. This summer we will be spending a month at Bullards Beach State Park volunteering and decided to check out the town which is across the Coquille River from the state park.

Coquille Lighthouse at the mouth of the Coquille River.

The fisherman on the Coquille River were giving us tips on catching Dungeness Crabs at high tide. (Yep, the stalker was at it again) They filled the trap's bait box with old fish parts and chicken, put it in the river for 30 minutes and out came crab. They kept the males 6 inches and larger and returned the rest. 

Face Rock Beach was another Whales Spoken Here site.

Face Rock had hundreds of birds nesting and a few whales spouting in the distance. I guess you can probably tell that our whale watching was less than we expected. But we did see one breach.

Bandon has sand art on Sunday mornings when the tide is low. Then it is washed away with the high tide. 
Bandon-by-the-Sea is the self-proclaimed Cranberry Capital of Oregon. The restaurants and shops have cranberries prepared in many inventive ways. At harvest time, the farmer floods the bogs and uses a reel to loosen the berries from the vines. The floating berries are then skimmed off and loaded onto trucks. The Oceanspray plant is easily accessible on the highway. We may have to check out the cranberry bog tour when we return to Bandon in June.

 Checking the tide tables is a good idea before hiking down into the Punchbowl. Sneaker tides have been known to get a few people when they turn their backs. A lady was recently rescued after not paying attention to the tide. The waves threw up a large log trapping her and breaking 14 ribs landing her in ICU for a week. 

We  had arrived about an hour before low tide and had plenty of time for a little hike.

Oregonians are hardy people that get outdoors no matter that the weather is. We saw surfers in their wetsuits and kids in their shorts and t-shirts playing in the ocean waves when the air temperature was 45 degrees. Made me feel like a wimp in my down coat and gloves walking on the beach. I am ok with that.

One more lighthouse. Heceta Head lighthouse in Newport.
We managed to drive the 101 the entire length of Oregon and northern California and don't see that again in our future. The road was winding and hilly through small towns with speeds usually around 35 mph. The 150 mile drive with plenty of construction stops took quite a few hours. It felt like we were back in the 1920s.  

I think we are good with staying put for the next month in Fort Stevens State Park and exploring this area.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Heading up the Highway 101 coast

Sonoma County Bike Rides

We managed to avoid avalanches and rockslides leaving Colorado along with the Snow cyclone. And then, made some changes in our plans to avoid the 50 mile per hour wind gusts across the Mojave Desert. I am not sure why we drove through Oakland but managed unscathed once we paid our $21 toll to cross a bridge. It has been a long trip but finally got a chance to get our bikes out and enjoy Sonoma County.

Spring has sprung in Sonoma County.
 We visited Cloverdale three years ago and enjoyed riding between the vineyards and olive farms but vowed that we would not stay at the Thousand Trails RV Park in Cloverdale ever again after our first visit. The RV Park in Healdsburg was closed after the Russian River flooded last month. This left the KOA way upon the hill. The bridge was out in Asti which meant we had to drive through Cloverdale 4 miles down steep, winding country roads.
We were tired on our arrival and wondered if it was worth it to drive back and forth from this campground to ride our bikes. When we are tired and want to throw in the towel, we give it a day and good night's sleep before making a decision. The next day, we were happy with our place in the hills and didn't mind the drive to town. In fact, we were enjoying ourselves so much, we added another day even if it was $71/ night, bought some firewood and settled in.
It is the off season so we didn't realize how large the place was until we walked around and watched the kids fishing in the little pond in the mornings and evenings.
After not riding our bikes in a month, it felt strange to be back in the saddle again, so the song goes. Our first day was through the flat country roads near Geyserville. The next day had lots of hills to remind us of the month that we had been off the bikes.
Alaska Airline has a deal for wine drinkers that every bag that is checked with a bottle of wine on a returning flight is free. One winery we stopped in had a bottle of chardonnay for $145. I would think twice about putting it in a bag to be checked. I have seen how they throw bags on the luggage carts.

At the end of the ride, we stopped in the Dry Creek General Store for lunch. At the counter we gave them our order, the girl at the cash register told us to go get our drinks and then rang us up. She called our number when it was ready so we could get it and take it to our table. When I paid with a charge card, there was a place for a tip. I wasn't sure what I was tipping for since I basically served myself and thought that I should get the tip myself since I bused by own table when we were done. Am I missing something?  It is just too confusing sometimes.  She did have a nice smile. 

Avenue of the Giants

The small logging town of Scotia on Highway 101 in California was a 250 mile drive, putting us at the northern entry to Avenue of the Giants.   A 31-mile portion of old Highway 101 parallels Freeway 101 with its 51,222 acres of redwood groves is surrounded by the Humboldt Redwoods State Park which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world.

You have got to love a tree house in the redwoods with room for four.

Dryerville Giant
 The giant Dryerville Giant redwood once stood 362 ft. tall and was considered the tallest tree in the park before its fall in 1991. The redwood’s crash to the ground moved the earth so much that it registered on a seismograph 10 miles away. One local, who heard the impact from half a mile away, thought a train had crashed.   362 ft. in height 17 ft. diameter 52 ft. circumference Possibly 2,000 years old

Harris Beach State Park, Oregon

 As we headed up the 101 in California, parts of the highway had been washed out by mudslides, making a one lane road in several places.


We made it to Oregon! Last spring we had stayed in Southern Oregon at Harris Beach State Park and enjoyed it very much. We stopped again for a few days to stock up on groceries at the great Fred Myers and just walk the beach. The grocery stores in small towns along the ocean can get pretty expensive.
What a difference a day makes. We were glad to enjoy the sunshine before the rain.

You can't keep us inside...

It was so funny to watch the black oystercatchers marching on the beach.

Whale Watching

Whale-watching enthusiasts from all over the world head to the Oregon coast for Spring Whale Watch Week as 20,000 grey whales migrate from Mexico to Alaska.

Each year, the Whale Watching Spoken Here program places volunteers at 24 locations spread out on the coast during spring break week, beginning March 23.We had hoped to volunteer for the week but weren't able to attend the training in December.
Volunteers document gray whale habits and traits as the mammals make their migration north past Oregon to Alaska during warmer months with whale watching sites from Astoria to Brookings. Volunteers are on-site from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day during the week.

During the Whale Watch Week, it’s estimated that about 10 whales per hour are passing any given location on the Oregon Coast. On a perfect day — very beautiful, calm ocean and nice blue skies — you could see a half a dozen or more whales in a very short period of time.  We managed to see whales even though the surf was rough our first evening after a rainy day.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Skiing in the Big mountains of Colorado

Back in Colorado!

Returning to Colorado after being at elevations under 2000 feet for most of the past year takes some adjustments and time to reacclimate.  We always enjoy the crisp mountain air and views that words cannot describe. This year there was lots of snow falling and avalanches in many mountain passes but made for great skiing conditions and tired legs. As difficult as it is to admit, I found myself moving slower in the ski boots and breathing harder along with a few more rest days. I like to think it is an altitude thing but it probably has as much to do with all of the birthdays I have been fortunate enough to have or maybe, the boots just got heavier...
 Burton was sponsoring its US Open Snowboarding Championship.
We were fortunate to spend a day skiing with family. Tyler and Kyle are growing too fast and have become quite the skiers. Mike gave Tyler a few pointers and then they were joined at the hip as he  followed Mike ahead of us.

Kyle heading into Game Creek Bowl.
After riding the lift into the clouds.
 Tourism in the US accounts for 10% of our GDP. In the past couple of years, the number of people visiting from other countries has dropped by 1% even though tourism in the world has grown by 7% according to the US board of tourism. We are seeing the downward trend in Vail like we did after 9/11 and we could walk into a restaurant without a reservation and get a table, unlike recent past years. People are choosing to go to other countries rather than a place they feel to be hostile and unwelcoming to people from other countries.

Such determination.

 We hear a lot less foreign languages in town, around the condo or on the lifts than in the past. When people visit our country and feel welcome, they find out what a great place it is as they spend their money. The loss of visitors is considered to be costing the US 1 million jobs in the tourism industry.

Ice skating rink in Lionshead and Arrabelle.
We usually hike in the backcountry on our days off from skiing. This year we stayed on the intown trails due to the huge snowpack. I was afraid of sinking up to my waist in a drift and trying to crawl out with snow over my head.
Our walks along Gore Creek on our rest days were crisp and peaceful.
 Vail Resorts is committed to becoming sustainable and protecting the environment. It made me happy to see no plastic bags in the grocery stores and reusable glasses at water stations. We carry our own recycled cloth bags when we shop and are glad to see Colorado passing laws limiting plastic straws unless they are requested. We find ourselves requesting no straw in our drinks. Besides, those straws cause wrinkles around the mouth, wink.

We stayed in six hotels and two condos on our three week journey. We found 40% of those places are doing away with the small shampoo and lotion bottles and opting for large refillable to keep so many little bottles out of the landfills. I walk into my own bathroom and see a mountain of plastic and am not sure what I can do to cut down other than the plastic bags and straws. It's a start.

 It is good to see the business world doing good rather than just making money while taking care of our earth. I don't mean to sound preachy about taking care of our earth but hate to think about how it would be without these fabulous places to enjoy. I figure erring on the side of protecting the earth and being wrong isn't a bad thing. Our grandkids  would likely think we were pretty smart and kind.

Looking thirsty while waiting for a beer at the end of the day. No waiting for a table here or anywhere else.

A walk through Vail Village.

The views never disappoint, no matter which direction we look.
This has been a strange ski season for us. On one of our first days, it was so warm as we got off the shuttle at Lionshead that we had to take off our fleece top layer and put them in a locker for the day, wearing only our long john top under our coats. By the end of the second week, it was raining on top of the recent feet of snow on the mountain.

I'm not sure who put a step there. I was only drinking water.
Happy Anniversary!

Back in Blue Sky Basin

Two Elks Lodge

Now that's how to end a day in the snow.
It was a great two weeks in the mountains. We had planned to drop off our ski equipment off in Denver at Krista and Luke's before heading back to Arizona to pick up our trailer. But after four avalanches closing Interstate 70 for up to 9 hours, a change in plans were in order.

Cuenca, Ecuador

An Expat Destination The morning after returning to Quito we boarded an hour-long flight to Cuenca. Driving up the winding roads would have ...