Another gorgeous sunny day on the Oregon Coast May 4

Still have no good internet access, so am sitting in the Mojo Café in Brookings.  Managed to upload three days of blog fun but the photo upload is crawling along and I am going to give it up and head back to camp.  The rest of the photo links will be posted sometime when access is a bit better. (Photos are all posted now both on Picasa and Smugmug with a link at the bottom of the post for this day!) Good a time as any to catch up on a very few of the 200 plus blog posts in my reader list accumulated since we left Monday morning.  Gee, you are all so prolific!!

lots more photos of the beach and ocean follow this onemorning hike on the South Harris Beach trailI woke up as the sky was barely lightening to see a shroud of fog hovering over the ocean, but by the time we got up at 6:30 it was completely gone.  There was barely a breeze and the skies were completely clear.  We planned to kayak again today, this time on the Pistol River and estuary about 17 miles north, but first we decided to begin our day with a hike down to the beach. 

This time we took the South Beach Trail, another well maintained route down the cliffs to the ocean.  South Beach Trail takes off just a couple of sites east of ours and meanders through deep green forest before approaching the view parking lot and cliffs to the beach. The path down the cliffs is steep, but not too much so to manage easily back up without stopping.  It is even paved with asphalt, so no slipping and sliding on loose rock and gravel makes it really enjoyable.

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Once on the beach, the sun was so warm Mo had to take off her jacket and we walked as far south as the incoming tide allowed, throwing the ball for Abby and enjoying the warm, windless morning.  I haven’t experienced the beaches of Oregon without wind very many times, so I thought it was wonderful.  Abby even wore out after much fetching, and once even stopped to rinse her sandy ball in a tidepool before picking it up again and bringing it to Mo.  Did she do that on purpose??  It seems so, but who knows.  Abby IS incredibly smart.

morning hike to south beach (31)We are unhooked from internet and telephones, but still have the morning news with the cable here at the park.  It’s amazing how one thing after the other gets all the focus.  The killing of Bin Laden and the decision about whether or not to release his death photos have completely superseded the tragedies in the south.  I don’t understand why news can’t actually be news of what is going on everywhere, instead of what happens to be the “big story” of the moment.  The flooding and tornado damage in our country is more important to me that all the political posturing about the Osama thing.

sunny skies, incoming tide, wind 40 mph  Pistol River launch siteWe spent a bit of time relaxing in the morning sunlight before taking the baby car north on 101 about 17 miles to our planned launch site on the Pistol River.  Once we passed through the beautiful forest and started the descent to the ocean, the difference in wind speed was intense.  Parking first at the maybe too windy for kayaking the Pistol Rivernorth side launch, then at the southern approach, we walked out to the river to asses the situation.  I think the winds were close to 40 mph and the tide incoming.  We thought it would have been ok going upstream, but were a bit worried about getting back downriver.  Driving upriver to some other listed launch sites didn’t yield anything more promising, so we once more traveled back to the Pistol River State Park day use area and saw that even with the incoming tide, the connection between the river and the south arm estuary was completely dry.  It was cold and the wind was intense, so we looked at each other and said, “Maybe not”.  Time for Plan B.

the float plan catapulted off the submarine.  Truly amazing stuffIn some of the literature we gathered for the area while driving about town, Mo found information about a little known historical site.  In the Brookings area, you can hike to the only spot in the continental US where enemy bombs were dropped during WWII. Nobuo Fujita, a young Japanese warrant officer, flew his small pontoon plan off a Japanese sub on the Oregon coast near Cape Blanco on September 9 1942. His assignment was to drop incendiary bombs into the forest, start a huge fire and panic the nation.  Only one bomb out of five detonated, and it ignited the woods up in the hills near Mount Emily. Due to wet conditions and the fact that the bomb only partially detonated, the fire only spread 75 feet.  It was quickly put out by four forest service workers. 

Twenty years after he dropped his bombs the  Brookings Jaycees invited Fujita to visit during the Azalea Festival.  He came to ask forgiveness, and presented his sword to Brookings.  You can read more detail about this amazing little piece of history here.

WWII Bomb Site Hike (15)We drove several miles east along the Chetco River before turning off on the dirt and gravel road to Mount Emily and the bomb site.  The trip reminded me of the many years I spent driving remote forest roads like this one exploring wild areas.  The nice part about this trip is that I was only going to hike on trails and I didn’t have to climb these steep slopes with a shovel and a pack through thick brush.  In this area, the conifer forests have been burned, and the canopy is often dominated by second growth alder.  While a coniferous forest is often lovely, they are also very thick and dark, and a bit forbidding.  I really enjoyed the fluorescent lime green light filtering through all the leaves of the springtime alders.

excellent sign stories of the history of the bombingAfter almost 14 miles of winding road, without seeing another single car coming or going, we found the trail head.  The hike was perfect, some ups, some downs, about a mile each way through beautiful forest to the bomb site.  The signs were wonderful, telling the story with photographs of the Japanese sub, the pontoon airplane, Fujitsu and his son, and the people responsible for putting out the fire. As usual, the hike back to the trailhead seemed to go much more quickly than the hike out, and the ride back to town also seemed to pass much more quickly.  We again passed our special stops found on the way in, the lovely little campsite along the creek, and the amazing very tall waterfall hidden among the alders.


nice trail, some ups, some downsOn the way back down the road, we were discussing how little wildlife we had seen.  In the bomb site brochure, it was mentioned that the remoteness of the road often allowed for seeing a bear or two scampering across the road.  Literally minutes after we had this discussion, we suddenly saw two bear cubs scamper across the road.  It was much too fast for us to truly catch anything with the camera, but then one cub ran up a tree right next to the road, and obligingly waiting for us to take his photo.  Once again I am we saw two baby bears running across the road and then this one ran up a tree right by the roadreminded of how much I want a real SLR with a real telephoto lens when I go to Alaska!  The baby bear was sure cute, and Mom and sibling were no where to be seen down the incredibly steep slope.

Back in Brookings, we decided it was time for some coastal fish and chips.  Funny thing, being a harbor town, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish places around. We both remembered a place south of town where we once had a great dinner with friends, but couldn’t find it.  Finally found it with the help of the phone and the place was closed up tight.  We then drove back through the 101 strip, but nothing appeared, and we decided to go down to the Harbor to see what was there.  I had heard about the Oceanside, and after much dinking around, we finally found it.  It was also closed up tight!

seagulls like the white cars By this time we were both pretty tired and hungry and grumpy, but neither of us was quite ready to give up and go home and eat soup.  We passed a funky little restaurant called the Chetco Seafood Company, with a blinking beer sign in the window, and a couple of people leaving with go bags in their hands.  Tired won out, and we parked Abby where her barking wouldn’t get attention and went in.  First sign of a good choice was the decent glass of chardonnay for 3 bucks.  We ordered fish and chips, and kept asking each other, “Is this really this good or are we just hungry?”  I decided it really WAS that good. The fish was light and incredibly fresh, the breading thin and light and delicately spiced and not the least bit greasy.  The fries were perfect and the cole slaw perfect as well. We shared a cup of chowder filled with fresh pink? clams to start and it was perfect as well.  Maybe we were just hungry, but it may have been the best fish and chips I have ever eaten.

More photos of our day are located here.

September 20 Kansas winds and Dodge City

Missouri_to Kansas (14) Kansas is windy.  We knew that, right?! After all, Dorothy was from Kansas and she ended up in Oz, which I think is now called Australia.  🙂  This is the first time we have driven across Kansas in the MoHo.  In 2007, on another trip, we left John’s place and drove along the Kansas eastern border, which was green and lovely.  Our route today was route 400, suggested by John as a much easier way to travel than our original plan to take a more southern route. 

When we left Missouri this morning the skies were still a murky grayish brown from the horizon to about midway up.  The highest part of the sky was blue, or something that looked a bit like blue.  I have experienced Blue on this trip, capital letter kind of blue sky in Minnesota, so the murkiness of Missouri was a bit sad. I thought maybe as we traveled west it would lighten up.  Instead, it got murkier.

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No theme, no clue what this crazy collection of wind driven art along Highway 400 in Kansas was all about.  It stretched for a quarter mile along the highway, and provided a bit of entertainment on the Kansas landscape

The landscape of the part of Kansas that we crossed wasn’t the dead flat prairies that make Kansas so famous.  There were gentle rises and falls, locust trees and willows along the waterways, sections when the road would rise up enough to see a very long way.  But the skies were definitely tan and pale, and the closer we got to Wichita, the browner the “haze” turned.  Long straight roads near the city allowed a moment of internet access with the phone, and I researched Wichita air quality and found out that it has been on the list of the most badly polluted cities in the country.  I hoped that maybe as we drove west, the skies would clear.

Missouri_to Kansas (29) It was not to be, and whether from blowing dust, or the millions of cattle in feed lots all around Dodge City, the murkiness continued. The winds were high in eastern Kansas, and as the day progressed, the prognosis was dire for high profile vehicles.  Guess that’s us.  The average wind speed was 30 plus miles per hour, with gusts to 47 mph, and the direction was from the south, directly perpendicular to our western line of travel.  It made for a harrowing day, with Mo hanging on the wheel and me hanging on to the grip bar for dear life.  We didn’t see much, and with temperatures in the mid 90’s, I didn’t have a great desire to stop and explore the few little towns that we passed.

I saw a large area of trees all stripped of leaves and broken apart, and remembered vaguely the horrific tornado that blew through Kansas recently.  Sure enough, we were passing Greensburg, Kansas, site of the devastating tornado of 2007 that flattened the city.

Missouri_to Kansas (41) We continued west through the wind to arrive at Dodge City around 4pm and set up camp at the Gunsmoke RV Park, one of only a couple of RV Parks in the vicinity. Full hookups with a nice laundry that wasn’t ridiculously expensive was a nice perk.  As a kid, I was a huge Wyatt Earp fan, and in addition to watching the old TV series, I voraciously read all things Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holiday, the Santa Fe Trail, and later I loved the series Gunsmoke. I wanted to see Dodge.

By the time we drove back the 2 miles or so to town, the visitor center was ready to close. I learned that the majority of the attractions in Dodge City only run through the summer, and that most of them are Disneyesque gunfights, a fake Front Street, a piece of what was left of Boot Hill inside the closed museum gates, and other sorts of contrived western adventures.  Instead, I picked up the one small walking tour guide and we walked a few streets of Dodge City, including the infamous Front Street.

Missouri_to Kansas (43) Throughout this part of town, there were several very well done plaques describing the history of Dodge, a bronze statue of Wyatt Earp, and the Trail of Fame, which consisted of a few seals in the sidewalks naming some of the famous historic figures of the era.  The train depot was reconstructed, but a small part of the original building still stands.  The buildings of Front Street had burned a few times, and were no longer the same.  What I learned that was new, however, is that Dodge City is on the 100th parallel, a line that John Wesley Powell ( another of my heroes), set at the arbitrary break between the arable east and the arid west. 

Missouri_to Kansas (36) A few of the buildings remained from the late 1800’s but most of the historic buildings still in existence were from the early 20th century, during the heyday of railroading and the wealth that came along with it.  I knew that Dodge City was central to the history of the west, but I didn’t realize until today that it was also central to the devastation of the huge bison herds that roamed our country.  It was to Dodge that the hunters brought their hides, leaving behind literally millions of carcasses rotting on the plains.  It only took from 1872 to 1875 for the herds to be completely decimated., with an estimated 1.5 million hides shipped to the east. Later, poor homesteaders would gather the bones from the fields and sell them at 6 to 8 dollars a ton to be used in the manufacture of fertilizer and china. Half a century later, wheat crazed farmers would strip the thick deep sod from the plains as well, an ecosystem that cannot be replaced in a thousand years.  It’s a sad story of destruction that is only surpassed by the stories of what happened to the First Nations people in our country. As I walked along the old Front Street, I felt the weight of this history in my heart, as well as the romantic dreams of the west that I had as a ten year old.


September 5 Sault Ste Marie to Killarney and a bear!

The rest of the photos for this day of travels are linked here

Soo_to_Killarney (29) Our day turned out to be wonderfully exciting and beautiful as we crossed the border into Canada.  The weather was gloomy at first, but cleared as the day progressed.  Originally, our plan for this trip included several days in the provincial parks along the northern shore of Lake Superior where we planned to kayak the lakes and rivers of this part of Ontario.  We changed our plans a few days ago, and it turned out to be a good idea.  The storms and rain would have kept us from doing any kayaking and the drives were long and featureless with the lake hidden by miles and miles of trees.  In addition, the cost of gasoline in Canada ran as high as 4.00 per US gallon, so those many miles would have been expensive.

Soo_to_Killarney (33) Instead, our only day camping in Ontario parks was today, at Killarney Provincial Park.  Once over the border, which was completely uneventful, we stopped at the Ontario visitors center for information.  The guide there was knowledgeable and helpful, and told us in her opinion Killarney was the loveliest park to see. 

On the way through the park we stopped for a roadside rest along a lovely lake and hiked around a bit with the dog before continuing. Arriving at the campground around 2 in the afternoon, we set up our camp and thrilled at the brilliant sunshine.  The park brochure listed several excellent hikes that were accessible to us, in addition to visiting the small coastal town of Killarney and kayaking either a lake or a river.  After perusing the map and the weather we opted for a chance to actually take our boats down and get in the water for the first time on this trip!  The skies were gorgeous and the winds were high, but the launching point on Chickanishing Creek was protected enough and had a good ramp.  There were several people coming in to land, and the winds were a bit daunting, but we launched and headed for the “Big Water”. 

We paddled through meandering water with very little current, among huge pink boulders of granite, smoothed by glaciers and dotted with pine, spruce, and fir.  Once we emerged onto Lake Superior, there were granite islands all around us, but the wind was so high we were afraid to go very far into the waves.  We don’t have skirts for our kayaks, and big winds make big waves, and we didn’t want to swamp in the extremely cold water so we turned back. 


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Gichee-Goomi, the Shining Big Sea Water

Paddling upstream was almost effortless, and back in the protected shelter of the creekside banks and cliffs the wind wasn’t as difficult to manage.  While gliding along watching the bank, I suddenly realized that something was also watching me!  I was eye to eye with a small black bear on the bank, just a few feet from my kayak.  Wow!  I was glad to be in my boat, even knowing that bears are great swimmers, I felt OK.  I called out to Mo, backpaddled to get a better view and take some photos.  Abby was sniffing like crazy trying to figure out what that thing was, and the bear was doing the same. We didn’t stay around long enough for him to get more interested in us, but he didn’t seem the least bit afraid of us either.  It was the first bear I have seen up that close in ages, not since my mapping days in North Idaho in the 90’s. He was cute.  From the safety of my boat, at least.

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Our first bear of the trip, up close and personal!

The weather held up long enough for us to reload the boats and get settled into camp before starting to rain again.  It was a perfectly wild and gorgeous day with a bear to top it off.