Wordless Wednesday: Beach Combing and Watching the Sun Go Down

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Great Oregon Road Trip: Battery Point Lighthouse, Crescent City

Read all Great Oregon Road Trip posts here.

Crescent City is great as a home base to see the Northern California Redwoods, but the town itself doesn’t host many attractions.  In the three days we spent there, I feel as though we saw all that Crescent City had to offer. Sadly, this did not include fresh fish because we discovered that you can’t buy it anywhere in this seaside town. (We had to settle for Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner, although I didn’t have to cook so I won’t complain).

On day two we had two goals: 1. to get the kids out and running around, and 2. to tour the lighthouse. Goal number 1 was accomplished easily thanks to a fun park within walking distance of our accommodation. I decided to take a photo break while the children were entertaining themselves so, sadly, no photos. Then, later in the afternoon, we set out to accomplish goal number 3.

SO relieved to see that they don’t allow “restroom dogs”. 🙂

The lighthouse is staffed by volunteers who live onsite for a month and are responsible for the upkeep of the property and hosting guided tours of the house. Apparently there are a lot of people who want to volunteer to live in the lighthouse and the selection process is quite competitive.

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I have to admit that it would be nice to wake up to these views every day.

And can you imagine what it would be like to hunker down inside the strong walls of the lighthouse on a stormy winter night? I would love to do that just once.

I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside the living quarters of the lighthouse (it was small and very quaint in a mid-nineteenth century kind of way), but I did pull out the camera when we reached the light dome? Turret? Well, whatever you call it.

It was cozy.

When the tide comes in each day, the volunteer keepers are completely cut off from the mainland. They have no way of getting to shore unless they swim or find a boat. I have to admit that, at times, that sounds quite tempting.

We then headed back home to enjoy the lighthouse, once again, from a distance.

 

Great Oregon Road Trip: Just Over the Border in Crescent City, CA

Read all Great Oregon Road Trip posts here.

Can we still call it the Great Oregon Road Trip if we cross the border into California? We crossed the border with a specific goal – to see the great Redwood forest. And Crescent City provided a great vantage point.

I found us a house that promised a lighthouse view and it didn’t disappoint. OK, so the accommodation was more about the location than luxury. The decor was a carryover from the 1960’s, along with some of the mattresses (just ask my Mum and I’m sure she’ll tell you all about it).

The saving grace was a deck that looked out over the beach and treated us to the type of sunsets that make me realize how lucky we are to live on the West Coast.

But first there was lunch. Seafood, of course.

Followed by a little beach combing to fill up all those pockets in the Junior Ranger jacket.

When I turned my back for a second, Thomas fell in the water. It was surprisingly drama-free but made the photos more shirtless.

Samuel built a few rock sculptures and, in the process, lost one of his Ranger Badges. This photo is the last piece of evidence that he had it pinned to his vest. We went back to look for it the next day but it was lost to the tide. Good thing he forgot about it… until he mentioned it a couple of days ago. That kid has a memory

Then it was back to the house for dinner and a nice, relaxing evening watching the sun go down.

Ahhh… the good life.

Next: we tour a lighthouse and take it easy.

Great Oregon Road Trip: Oregon Caves

Read all Great Oregon Road Trip posts here.

So I know I said after the last post that I’d be back tomorrow but I needed to drop everything for a few days while I was in Seattle for work. It was a crazy busy insane week and I’m grateful to be on the other side of it – especially because the weather is sunny and warm on this side.

When I last left you, we had just hit the road after our Crater Lake boat tour and were headed into smoke-filled and HOT western Oregon toward the Oregon Caves National Monument. The drive was pretty, although a little longer than we anticipated.

Note: If you’re heading to the Caves and see a sign saying only 20 miles to go, don’t get too excited thinking that you’re almost there. That final 20 miles is one very windy, slow road and, in our case, peppered with constant questions for the back row of the mini van along the lines of “Do you feel ok, Samuel? Thomas, do you need a bag? Can I get you both some gum?” This once-bitten mummy was not going to be taken down by motion sickness if she could help it. In fact we made it to the very last mile before Thomas insisted that he get out of the car and walk. It was a close call but I am proud to say that this was a completely barf-free road trip.

We finally reached the historic Oregon Caves Chalet just before dark – a beautiful old building that transports you back to another time – one when guests played chess beside a roaring fire (minus the roaring fire part in the middle of Summer).

In my case, I also felt as though I had stepped onto the set of “The Shining” and it turns out that the Chalet was designed by the same architect who designed Timberline Lodge, the actual building that they used for all external shots in the movie. It was a little eerie.

The Chalet is rests precariously over a ravine and suffers from crooked walls, old pipes and lack of any type of sound proofing, at least in our room. But it was quaint and fun for a one night stay and unlike anything we’d experienced before.

I fear that one day the entire building will collapse into the ravine unless a benevolent millionaire decides to throw some money at it. Though, not literally, because I think throwing anything at it would just weaken the structure.

When you walk through the hallways I found myself questioning my own sense of balance. Everything was slightly (and wonderfully) crooked.

 

My Dad, Kei, Thomas and I took a tour of The Caves on our second day – although I don’t have any photos because I decided that my camera was too cumbersome and I took photos on my Dad’s camera but forgot to download them. Thomas and Kei exited the cave after the first section. Thomas wasn’t feeling well and it just became too much. It’s a shame because the second half of the tour was pretty amazing. I think Samuel could have done the tour as well even though they don’t recommend it for small children. There was another five year old on the tour and he didn’t have any problems at all.

Dad and I emerged from the cave after a couple of hours to find Thomas and Samuel earning a new Junior Ranger badge. Samuel also scored a hat to complete his full Junior Ranger uniform.

And then there was just enough time for a few photographs before we were headed on the next leg of our adventure.

I can’t believe I almost missed the Caves Cafe. It’s hidden in the basement of the chateau and feels like a transportation back to the 50’s. I half-expected Fonzie to walk in and hit the jukebox.

But, alas, there was no time to enjoy a milkshake – probably a good thing given the windy drive back down the hill.

The Oregon Caves was definitely worth the detour. Next time I’d allow enough time to eat at the Caves Cafe and make sure everyone is well enough to do the full cave tour. I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to take this short trip back in time.

 

Next: Northern California, here we come!

One Last Glimpse

I’ll get back to our Oregon Road Trip tomorrow. Today, I just want to look back on our beautiful sunny Sunday and dream about the sunshine and warm weather.

Autumn is in the air and, although I’ve fought it for many, many years, I have to admit that I now enjoy the changing of the seasons. Rather than marking the end of Summer, days like yesterday remind me that we may be seeing the last glimpse of blue sky before Portland is covered with one long grey cloud until February. Best enjoy it while we can.

I had to run an errand downtown so the boys and I watched some giant chess in the park. I took it as an opportunity to take some early Autumn pics while they weren’t looking.

And then some when they were. This is my new favorite…and I realize I say that every week.

Sunshine is good for the soul.

Great Oregon Road Trip: Crater Lake, Day 2

Read all Great Oregon Road Trip posts here.

We decided to spend just one night at Crater Lake and it turned out to be the right decision for us at the time. By our second day, Kei was downing the cold medicine and my Dad was starting to fade quickly.

So what you do when people start getting sick? Take a strenuous 1 mile walk down the side of a cliff of course.

We’d decided the previous day to take a boat trip around the lake. Tickets for the boat rides are only available 24 hours in advance from special kiosks inside the park. By the time I located the kiosk to purchase our tickets, our options were 9:30am and 1:30pm. I opted for the earlier time and, despite having to get up at the crack of dawn (you need to arrive at least an hour before the boat leaves), it turned out to be a great decision. The tour takes two hours and there is no shade on the boat so we were well and truly sun kissed in 80 degree sunshine by the time we got back to the dock at 11:30.

That’s not to say that everything was warm. While we were waiting to board our boat, a few insane people decided that jumping off a small cliff into the frigid waters. I was happy to stand by and take pictures.

We boarded the boat and were told to prepare ourselves for some bumpy waters (it wasn’t too bad).

Then the Ranger started the tour. Despite the investment of time and, of course, money, this really is the best way to see the lake. I don’t think you can fully appreciate the geology and beauty without getting up close and personal. You find out that the water really is that blue and clear and that the cliffs are far higher than you imagined. I even learned a thing or two (or 10).

The rocks in this photo lie about 50 feet below the surface. The water was incredibly clear and I added no filters to the color. Stunning.

The boys loved the boat ride at first…

But two hours is a long time to ask them to sit in one place and keep themselves entertained without the aid of an iphone.

The complaining really kicked in about 30 minutes before the end of the tour and then abated when they worked out how to build a fort between the seats using a collection of sweater and jackets.

After two hours, we arrived back at the dock and, while we took some time to mentally prepare ourselves for the steep uphill climb, we dipped our toes in the water.

But only because the line to jump in off the cliff had grown too long. I would have totally jumped in otherwise (ummm, no).

It was then time to make the steep climb back up the hill. Mum and Dad had a head start so we caught up with them on the way. Then Thomas decided that, since he is never first at ANYTHING, he wanted to reach the top first. I decided to walk with him while the rest of our group took it a little more easy.

We passed a lot of people on their way down to their own boat tour and were sweet enough to let them know that the walk down is a lot easier than the walk back up so they should enjoy it while they can. And then an 87 year old woman passed us coming down the hill and I saw a 70-something year old man pass us for the 4th time (he was training for something and had walked the trail both ways over and over again). Suddenly I felt like I shouldn’t be complaining at all even though my face was red and my lungs ready to burst. I mean if an 87 year old woman can do it… I just wonder how long it took her to get back up.

Still, the steep climb didn’t stop us from enjoying the view.

And Thomas’ wish to be first was granted.

After a big drink of water, we headed back to the lodge for a well-deserved (and delicious) lunch. It’s a little spendy for dinner, but I highly recommend lunch at the Crater Lake Lodge.

Finally, with our bellies full, we hit the road for our next destination.

Coming soon: We explore the Oregon Caves

 

Great Oregon Road Trip: Crater Lake, Day 1

Read all Great Oregon Road Trip posts here.

We spent three nights in Sunriver before embarking on the next part of our adventure.

For years, Kei dreamed about a visit to Crater Lake but I didn’t share his enthusiasm. Here’s what I knew about Crater Lake before we went: It’s a long way away and fairly remote, closed for 6 months out of the year due to snow (snow equals cold) and has limited (and expensive) accommodation options.

And here’s what I learned: It’s really not that far from Portland and even closer if you’re coming from Bend, if you’re lucky then you’ll enjoy the lake on a sunny 80 degree day in the middle of Summer and the accommodation is not fancy but worth the convenience of staying close to the lake.

It’s also an incredible place and quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

We headed out from Sunriver early in the morning, stopping along the way to pick up some sandwiches from the grocery store and stop for a photogenic train.

Google (or maybe I) miscalculated the distance so, what we thought was going to be a 4 hour trip, turned out to be just a 2 and a half drive to the north park entrance.

Then we drove just a few more miles to our first view of the lake and it was, well, underwhelming. It turned out that fires burning in the western part of Oregon had filled the lake with smoke so, instead of the deep blue waters that we had expected, our view looked something like this…

Beautiful, sure, but as impressive as I’d hoped. Still, we made the most of our first stop by walking alongside some poorly constructed fences. I mean,  would they really stop, say, a five year old from plummeting over the edge? I spent a lot of time saying “stay back from the edge” and “don’t run!” (Between photographs, of course)

The kids soon found some tree stumps to climb (I was happy as long they weren’t climbing fences).

And then we jumped back in the car to drive 20 minutes to Rim Village… where the smoke parted and I began to understand why people make such a big deal about this lake.

That teeny tiny white thing in the middle is a tour boat.

After lunch, we went for a walk to check out the Crater Lake Lodge, a beautiful old building that perches on the edge of the cliff. And I found myself wishing that I had booked our trip earlier so we could have stayed in this wonderful place.

Alas, it was not meant to be so we made do with taking in the view from the rocking chairs that sit out front.

After using the facilities we walked back to the Ranger Station and gift shop (*there’s always a gift shop). It was here that we made easily the very best purchase of the entire trip – a Junior Ranger vest for Samuel. I mean, this thing has pockets and loops and zippers galore. It was the uniform of choice for the remainder of the trip and was, literally, filled with rocks by the time we got home.

Thomas bought himself a book about birds of North America which he used as a guide to complete one of the Junior Ranger activities.

Let me just pause and say that the Junior Ranger program is fantastic. Kei and I had been to National Parks before but, without kids, you really don’t appreciate how much these rangers do to share their knowledge with the next generation. And they take their jobs as educators very seriously. My boys loved the chance to earn badges and were generally interested to hear about how the crater was formed and the wildlife that surrounded them. I’m now motivated to take them to as many National Parks as I can before they become surly teenagers.

After we finished the Junior Ranger activities (it took a while), we spent some more time taking in the view.

At this point a couple of the adult members of our group began to fade. It turns out that Kei had come down with a flu-type illness so we headed to our cabins at Mazama Village where he could take a nap and I could try and keep the kids entertained. I booked the cabins back in January which was lucky as it turned out because they fill up fairly quickly. The rooms were simple, but clean and comfortable and even came with complimentary wireless internet. Dinner at Annie Creek Restaurant wasn’t the best meal in the world but our choices were limited.

After dinner, Dad and I took the kids for a walk through the adjoining campsite to listen to the Ranger talk. Unfortunately a combination of my poor map-reading skills and the pitch black darkness meant that we weren’t able to find the amphitheater and spent a good 45 minutes wandering aimlessly through the campground until we gave up and headed back to the cabin for an early night. The boys were disappointed but I secretly thankful for an excuse to get them to bed knowing we had an early start the next day.

Coming soon – you haven’t really seen the lake until you walk more than a mile down a 700 foot descent…