Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon, Summer 2017

Ft Stevens State Park is at the far NW corner of Oregon right where the Columbia River goes into the Pacific Ocean. Not too far to the east is Astoria. Ft Stevens is a very large park. The campground has 174 full hookup sites, 302 water and electric sites, 6 tent sites, 15 yurts and 11 cabins and a hiker/biker camp. There are lots of good bike trails, a fishing lake, good beach access and lots of things to see and do.

There really is a Ft Stevens which started out as a Civil War Fort to protect the Columbia River from ourselves. It was modified in WWI to protect against the Germans I suppose and much more during WWII to protect us from the Japanese. It is all there to visit on walking tours. There is a twice a week tour in a WWII monster truck. Visitors ride in the back on benches. They have a small visitors center and of course a gift shop.

Near the site of the Civil War site – an enormous excavation (for a moat) and earth moving (for a huge raised area for cannon) activity for most stationed there – there was the remnants of a long house made by Native Americans long before any of this fort stuff was here. It was more than 100 ft long and maybe 30 ft wide and was used as a fishing camp when the salmon were coming up stream.

We went to visit the Fort. Lots of walking.

This is the Battery Russell, the best preserved of the WWII batteries. There were several of these batteries in various configurations over a couple miles along the coast. All of them were back from coast 1/4 to 1/2 mile. There were towers where spotters watched for targets and sent targeting information to the batteries.

These were mostly 10” pop up cannons. They were loaded and aiming instructions set and then the gun rotated and rose up and fired. The recoil pushed the cannon back into a crouched position. This is the only cannon that looks like this. Most of the rest have been removed or are in much worse shape.

One battery was built with three of these guns each in a recess that completely surrounded the gun. The one above is not even surrounded half way around. The battery with the completely surrounded guns was completed, guns installed, crews trained and in the first live fire training exercise six crew were killed from the concussion contained in the closed surround. The guns were removed and shipped to France after DDay and the battery was never used again.

Battery Russell was shelled by a Japanese submarine one night in 1942. 17 shells landed, none doing any real damage. It was cloudy and foggy so no one could see the submarine. The sub commander had no idea of the guns emplacements that could easily have sunk his boat if he had been seen. This is the only military installation in the continental US to come under fire during WWII. An oil field near Santa Barbara had been shelled earlier from a Japanese submarine. Did you read about that in grade school?

We also saw evidence and a display about Japanese Balloon Bombs. These were gas filled paper balloons launched from Japan into prevailing winds that brought them over the US from Alaska to southern California and as far east as Michigan. These had altitude controls and timing devices. They had incendiary bombs and anti-personnel bombs designed to start fires and injure civilians. More than 9,000 were built, perhaps 1,000 made it to the US. The actual number is hard to say. Some started fires. Six people were killed in rural eastern Oregon when they came upon a balloon bomb that had landed and disturbed it. It exploded and caused the only WWII US combat casualties in the lower 48 states.

We had a really nice campsite. But cell phone service was terrible. It was hard to figure since this park is very near an urban area. Our great great nephew (yikes! That means we are a great great aunt and uncle) (he is only 2 months old) lives with his mom and our great nephew and his Grandma in St Helens, OR about 2 hrs upriver. They came down for a visit one day.

A picnic with our cool picnic plates. Susan, Cyndi, Victoria (mom) , Ryan (the featured person) , Hunter (sitting) and Charles (dad).

Some great great auntie time.

And a bit of great great uncle time too. What a wee one.

We had a nice visit, lunch and a walk and then they were off. Fun!

Lots of beach to walk on here. All the way to the south jetty at the entrance to the Columbia River about five miles away.

You can drive over the dune and down onto the beach. Pretty neat. We did this on a couple days.

This park has it all. Even a shipwreck. The Peter Iredale from about 1906. This is all that is left, a bit of the bow.

Starting in 1885 the Army Corp of Engineers began building a railroad trestle across a bay and across the end of the peninsula and out eventually 4-1/2 miles into the ocean. And then trains began hauling huge rocks out along the tracks dumping their loads further and further out, millions and millions of tons of rock. The jetties – there is one on the north side as well – took 27 years to build and was finished for just 55% of the original budget.

At the south jetty which extends 4-1/2 miles out into the ocean, the sand has filled in along the shore and added almost 1/2 mile of new beach over the last 150 years since the jetty was built.

Astoria

We went into Astoria a couple times. We visited the Astoria Column, it is on a 600 ft high hill and is 125 ft tall. 164 steps to the top. I climbed, Susan’s knee was sore so she cheered me on.

Tall! And a view.

And there is a big bridge too. About 4 miles long and almost 200 ft above the river.

We went to a canning museum. Tuna and salmon were the main thing that was canned here. Bumble Bee Tuna was a big one. The cannery is now part museum, part housing, part offices and food places.

We also went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum. This is another one of those museums that is much bigger inside than it appears from the outside. If focuses on the river, fishing industry, the Pilot boats which take Bar Pilots out to ships entering and exiting the river and River Pilots who guide the ships up the river as far as Portland.

This is an actual Coast Guard rescue boat now retired. Waves over the sand bar at the opening of the Columbia make this one of the most treacherous passages in the world.

This is the Pilot Station where pilot boats and Pilots are dispatched. There was a very nice restaurant nearby, Clemente’s, where we had a great lunch.

There was a Coast Guard ship at dock there too.

And a National Geographic cruise ship (small).

And a paddlewheel boat.

Down at the other end of the waterfront there was a cruise ship (big).

I like where they make mis-behavers walk the plank.

And the big stack of logs heading overseas to become something we buy here. This was just the first row of logs. There were a dozen more like this one.

We also went to see Fort Clatsop National Historic Site where the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter. Pretty small quarters for almost 40 people. This is a reproduction of the buildings on the actual site.

This was the last stop on our best-of Oregon Beach Parks coastal adventure. While we were here Rich and Peggy Bowman from Ohio joined us for a few days in their Foretravel. It is always fun to see coach friends.

We are heading east towards home soon. The weather watch is on and it looks like a front is heading that way across Montana and if we get going we will be behind it.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon, Summer 2017

We were at Nehalem Bay State Park two years ago. It is a pretty large park, about 300 camp sites in six loops, a horse camp, and air field with air camp sites, about 30 yurts for camping and several miles of trails for hiking or biking. And just over the typical beach dune there is a five mile long flat beach perfect for walking, sitting in the sun, flying kites, horseback riding or maybe swimming (more likely wading).

I usually had shorts and a t-shirt on. Susan had more sense.

You can rent horses here. Many people bring their own. The horse camp was full most of the time.

Even though it was after Labor Day the campground was full almost every day. A Park person told us that the campground is open all year round and even in the middle of the winter when it is colder and very wet it is about 1/4 full. All of the campsites have electric hookups and water. When your waste tanks are full you have to make a trip to the dump station. We are good for two weeks if we are careful, 10 days if we are in a normal use mode.

Just two miles away (a walk or bike ride is easy) is the small town of Manzanita. Lots of touristy shops. A great toy store. A couple of good places to eat and every Friday a nice Farmer’s Market. Manzanita is one of the best parts of staying here. Big enough but not a tourist trap.

Well here is a boring coach picture but this is how we start out at each campsite. We chose this site because we were going to get some solar here and a good DirecTV satellite link. Cell service was also pretty good here unlike most of the beach parks we have been in so far.

Every trip to the beach starts with a short hike over the dunes. Some access points are more of a climb than others.

There was always a breeze on the beach. Good for kites. This is a 60” Delta kite on 900 feet of 50 lb test line. I had about 400 ft of line out and it was quite a pull. Good shoulder exercise. Winding it up was a real chore.

I had two kites up at once. The one on the left is a smaller Delta kite with a Pirate theme and long streamers. I bought this one in Texas last winter for my great nephew Hunter. I had to make sure it worked well. It did.

Waves everyday. Not a great surfing beach but there were kite boarders out there almost every afternoon.

I think this takes some serious practice.

Back in the campground there were always visitors. Lots of deer and even elk.

Unfortunately one afternoon a small plane was landing at the airfield and a bull elk ran out in front of it. The plane hit the elk and spun around right into the cow elk who was following the bull. Both elk died and were taken to the local food shelf, the plane was totaled, the pilot and passenger were OK.

Pretty sad to see this much damage. We went back to look again the next day and the plane was gone.

My sister Judy and her husband Bruce have a beach house about 2 miles from the campground. One afternoon we drove to the other end of Nehalem Bay to Kelly’s Marina where they have fresh live crab. You pick out the one you want and they boil them on the spot. After dunking them in cold water to stop the cooking process they were cleaned. The cleaner picked out the crab’s heart. It was white and shaped like a star. Not surprising it tasted like crab, a bit salty. So crab was on the menu for dinner that night with a baguette and salad. Yum!

We sat around a large fire pit while waiting. The chairs were made single slabs cut from logs.

And we couldn’t resist posing for a pirate picture.

We also visited Garibaldi for lunch at Fisherman’s Corner. And breakfast at Wanda’s in Nehalem. Nehalem also has the Dollar-ish store. It is sort of an upscale dollar store if that is possible. I found a new screw driver for the coach and a great ice cream scoop. The small grocery store across the street has some interesting deli items.

So far Nehalem Bar State Park is the best of the best beach state parks for us.

Next we head north to Ft Stevens State Park where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon, Summer 2017

Number three on our “Best of” State Park tour was Cape Lookout State Park near Oregon’s cheese heaven, Tillamook.

The campground is along the beach behind the dunes that run all along the beach. From the Cape looking north you can see the long beach and the lower end of Netart’s bay. As it seems in many Oregon parks the camp sites are snug getting into.

We fit in any case, sometimes it takes some wiggling but we get in. Many of these parks have very little room for your car or extra parking for your car if it doesn’t fit. When they say the site is 45’ long that is it. Usually no room at the other end to hang over the pavement, there are bushes or trees there. So many times the car gets squeezed in sideways.

Check out the tree next to the coach. It wasn’t a cut off stump, the tree broke off at some point. We enjoyed a great welcome relief from smoke. I84 from Portland east was closed going both ways for a couple weeks due to smoke and fires burning right up to the interstate. The fires near Sisters and Harris Beach were still burning as well. Lots of folks were hoping for some rain.

It didn’t rain rain here but pine needles. Lots of them. I got up and swept the roof of the coach before we left and we had to sweep the awnings too. Back home we might buy bales of pine needles. Here they are everywhere.

This park was land originally donated by the US Lighthouse Service. Additional land was donated by Louis W Hill of St Paul MN. He was the president of the Great Northern Railway at the time. This area was logged for big cedar timbers. Additional land was purchased over time. In the 1930’s the CCC developed the picnic and day use area. The campground opened in 1954 and quickly grew to its current size.

During WWII a B-17 Bomber on coastal patrol crashed into the Cape. It took a full day for rescue crews to reach the sole survivor. Today there is a road out to trailheads at the Cape and a trail to the crash site.

This gives you an idea of how big the trees were. Stumps like this are all over the park almost 100 years after the trees were cut down. Even in this wet, salty environment they last a long time.

Not quite the Hawai’i beach experience – cool, windy, often cloudy – but it’s a beach and the ocean and not very many people. Great for walks, looking at everything and kite flying. And every night we could hear the ocean surf, very nice.

Next up two weeks at Nehalem Bay State Park.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Sunset Bay State Park, Oregon, Summer 2017

On the top ten list of beach front State Parks Sunset Bay was near the top. It is near Coos Bay. There are three connected State Parks – Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago.

We thought Harris Beach was a tight fit for getting into the camp site but Sunset Bay was even closer. The issue was backing into the site with hedge rows along either side of the road and a narrow opening into what was actually a pretty large site. It was complicated by all of the other campers whose cars and pickup trucks were sticking halfway out into the narrow lane. It took three or four back and forths but we got in.

The campground was packed, two of the loops including the one we were in were filled with a church family camp thing. They all had their signs out in front of the campsite with mom and dads names and those of the kids, in some cases lots of kids. There was one site with 12 bicycles, half of them in the lane. The group had two adjacent sites that they used for gathering together for what ever it was they were doing. Lots of people moving back and forth, lots of joyful noise. They all seemed to be having a great time. The night before they all left they had a big barbecue. Someone from their group stopped by later in the evening with a big bag of sliced up tri-tip steak that was left over. We took that. They had potatoes too but we declined. We repackaged the steak into four bags, probably 3/4 pound each and froze them. They make great fajitas.

Sunset Bay is a small bay with a very small opening to the ocean. This makes it very calm and very shallow, a great beach for kids.

It has a nice wide sandy beach that was almost always filled with people. In spite of its name we never saw a sunset at this park. Clouds and smoke got in the way. There was an odd noise though that we could hear everywhere. Sort of a two tone wee-woo. My guess was that it was something left over from the hippies of the 60’s – most of them were still here. The park ranger told us that it was a wave actuated fog horn sort-of-thing. Wee going up the wave and woo on the way down. There were actually two of them like sentinels at the gates to Coos Bay.

Something else was making noise too. We followed the road further on out to Cape Arago. High on a bluff overlooking a reef the sound of hundreds and hundreds of sea lions and seals barking … ark ark ark … it never ended. I made a short video and sound recording of the racket but I can’t post them here.

There were signs at one overlook with pictures of all the different seals and sea lions so you could figure out who was who. They all just seemed to make continuous noise.

And just down the road back towards Sunset Bay was Shore Acres State Park. This was the estate of a Coos Bay business man who was successful in the lumber business and in promoting Coos Bay. He built a substantial mansion on a bluff overlooking the Pacific and had a formal English garden built as well. His family called it Shore Acres. The original house burned down and he set out to build a bigger, grander home. Before it was finished he died. The depression set in, business wasn’t so good. And the property slipped into disrepair. The family donated it to the state of Oregon in the 1940’s. The house was demolished but the gardens and gardener’s cottage remained. The Shore Acres Garden volunteer organization is quite large and has restored the gardens, the cottage and built (you guessed right) a gift shop.

There were lots of roses and structured beds and a very nice pond. There were trails from the gardens down to the beach and along towards Cape Arago and back to Sunset Bay.

We both like gardens and appreciate the hard work that goes into them. We bought a couple wooden Christmas decorations for my sister and a Raku sea turtle to join the other turtle on the dash of the coach. They represent our “herd of turtles” pace as we travel.

One more day after the church families left at Sunset Bay. Quiet. Nice. But we could still hear the sea lions almost three miles away!

Next we head to Cape Lookout State Park.

More later, trying to catch up…

Roger and Susan

Harris Beach State Park, Oregon, Summer 2017.

Our goal was to visit five of the ten best Oregon Beach State Parks starting at the south end and working north. Harris Beach State Park near Brookings was our first stop. There was another major wild fire just a few miles inland. About 1/3 of the campground was filled with fire crews.

When we got to Harris Beach there wasn’t too much smoke. The beach was maybe 1/2 mile long with big off shore rocks. The campground was fine but our site was hard to get into but we managed.

We were up on a bluff overlooking the beach. There was one way down to the beach and another way down to tide pools.

I walked down there, a pretty steep path. The waves came through an opening in the rocks into the semi-circular pool.

There were lots of small crabs, star fish and other things in the water.

The rock layers were very interesting, greenish like they had copper in them and clearly layered.

We got to spend some time on the beach.

A nice beach park. We were there for three days. By the last day the wind had shifted and we were back in the smoke.

Next up, Sunset Bay. Sounds divine.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, Summer 2017.

We have had many close encounters with Crater Lake NP over the years but never quite close enough. It is out of the way no matter which way you go. So a destination it has to be as it was on this trip.

From Sisters we headed sort of SW over rivers and mountains and through woods and more and more smoke towards Crater Lake and Collier Memorial State Park. There is no camping at Crater Lake so we chose Collier for a couple nights. It is about 40 minutes from there to Crater Lake.

Collier Memorial State Park was another nice Oregon park. The sites were big and easy to get into. It was in a big tree forest with a nearby river and a logging museum.

You have to walk up along side this small river and under the bridge to get the the logging museum. This bridge was recently built to modern standards but closely resembles the original bridge with the walkways underneath. The path lead to another footbridge to the museum.

The museum is a collection of old buildings from the surrounding area moved here so that they could be saved and a large collection of old logging equipment loosely organized by time. Most of the logging equipment was derelict. There was a steam operated stationary machine that looked like it might have been for removing bark, something that handled logs sideways. No signs or anything to describe it.

Old steam tractors.

And bulldozers.

And this scary thing, a whirling arm remover I think. Almost all stuff was transportable from one site to another. Some was stationary for cutting logs into timber. The logging industry in Oregon today is mostly aimed at processing smaller logs, 16” or less into lumber. Almost anything bigger has to go to lumber mills in California or gets trucked to ports and loaded on ships for overseas markets.

Crater Lake National Park

The drive to Crater Lake goes up. Only 7700 years ago this was a 12,000 ft high active volcano, Mount Mazama. For hundreds of thousands of years lava flows had built this mountain, glaciers had formed and scoured its sides and it was surrounded by vents in the sides of the mountain. Its magma chamber grew to a huge size and pressure. A massive eruption began mostly through the side vents. As the magma chamber emptied the mountain could not support its own weight and collapsed forming a deep caldera. Over time the caldera filled with water from rain and snow. Nothing flows into the caldera a only evaporation, seepage keeps the lake level where it is today, about 1000 ft below the rim of the caldera and almost 6,000 feet below the original summit of Mount Mazama. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US, 1943 ft deep. It averages about five miles across and holds almost five trillion gallons of water. (4.5 cubic miles of water). It is hard to imagine that much water but that is about how much water would fall if the entire state of Minnesota got a 3-4” rainfall.

Here is what Crater Lake looks like on the post card.

This is what we could see from the Crater’s edge.

The red areas show the High Cascades Complex fire. The Spruce Lake fire was only a couple miles west of the crater. That part of the road around the crater was closed. There were lots of fire crews all over.

If you look closely you can see a small island named Phantom Ship that looks like a sailing ship (that is what they said anyway). It looked like a phantom alright. The smoke was really thick up there.

There is an inviting looking lodge at the rim. There was a comfortable sitting area and a nice dining room.

And of course, a gift shop.

I commented to the young lady folding t-shirts with the “Sheldon Folder”. She was clueless as to what I meant. I tried to explain but she said she had never watched “Big Bang Theory”. Too much YouTube I guess. Or foreign students working for the summer, that seemed pretty common. But she was pretty good at folding shirts. We bought a Crater Lake NP patch to add to our collection.

Next, on to the southern most coast of Oregon and even more smoke. We have to loop down and back up a bit in California. So at least we can say we went to California in the coach.

More later,

Roger and Susan.

Sisters, Oregon, Summer 2017.

We left Colter Bay with some reluctance but were looking forward to Oregon. We drove south through Jackson and along the Palisades Reservoir toward Idaho. The interstate from Idaho Falls loops down and back up through Mountain Home where we stopped for the night at Camp WalMart. It was a long day on the road with another one ahead across Oregon to Sisters.

The next day it was US Highway 20 from Ontario on the eastern Oregon border to Brothers to Bend to Sisters and an hour gained to Pacific time. A winding hilly way to go, two lanes mostly, some with reasonable shoulder space most without. Reports of massive wild fires in Washington and central Oregon kept us thinking about what was ahead. There was a huge fire just west of Sisters with evacuation orders and smoke warnings. We called ahead, the city campground where we were going to stay said no problem. So off we went.

Eastern Oregon was very dusty and hazy and the further west we went the dust became smoke. By Bend it was really quite thick. By Sisters, well the campground spokesperson was a bit optimistic. While the evacuation orders had been lifted no one told the smoke.

I am reading a book that takes place in England during WWII. The refugees to the countryside called London “The Smoke”. Here we were.

In spite of the smoke the campground was pretty full. Just down the road there was an “Incident Center”. Dozens of tents set up for fire fighters, equipment tents, food prep and eating tents, showers, fire trucks, busses and more. Organized chaos.

In town a Forest Service person had a big bulletin board along a sidewalk with fire maps and information. At that time the fire was only about 10% contained in three major fire areas and less than 7 miles west of Sisters.

At a Sinclair gas station they were doing their best to keep a sense of humor.

A solar eclipse and now this.

We spent some time in town, it is about 8 blocks long down main street. We found a place claiming great fish and chips and they were. At the other end of town we got the Jeep washed.

That evening the sun was an odd color as it was setting.

A lot more orange than usual.

In the morning the Jeep was dusted in a white ash layer, the awnings too. We connected the Jeep and headed off to Crater Lake. And more smoke.

More later,

Roger and Susan