Saturday, December 08, 2018

From the Beach to the Desert

This winter we’re volunteering at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge just outside Las Vegas, so it was time to say goodbye to the Oregon Coast and hit the road.  Before we left, we enjoyed a walk on the beach near Bandon during a sunny, warm day.  It was shortly after a major storm, and the beach was littered with interesting stuff that the waves and tide had washed ashore.  There were piles of what looked like the innards of a large space alien.  Kelp on BeachOr it could be kelp.  But that would be boring so we prefer to think of them as alien innards.  We suspect that their spaceships were brought down by the chemtrails from airliners.  It must be true because we read about it on Facebook. 
There’s something about a walk on the beach that rejuvenates the spirit.  The crashing waves, screaming gulls, and bright sun always lift our spirits.Gulls on Beach
Stocked up with frozen organic Blueberries and jars of Marionberry jam, we headed down I-5.  After a stop for annual motor home maintenance, we crossed over the mountains at Bakersfield and turned north up the east side of the Sierras to one of our favorite stops, Lone Pine, California.
Outside of Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills and the Sierras have been the filming location of hundreds of movies and television series.  Most of my childhood favorites; The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers, and many others were filmed here.  This area also filled in for India for the movies “Gunga Din” and “Lives of the Bengal Lancers,” among others.  Driving through the Alabama Hills, with Mount Whitney in the distance, it’s easy to imagine the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding down the road, or one of the “Graboids” from the movie “Tremors” popping up.  Alabama Hills1
There aren’t many trees, but this Cottonwood was a spectacular spot of color:Tree in Alabama Hills
Just west of the Alabama Hills, the view opened up with this spectacular vista:Sierras1
We’re always interested in finding film locations and “Gunga Din”, filmed herGunga Din Panele in the late 30’s, is one of the classics we always enjoy.  So off we went to find some of the sites where filming took place.  We found the area where the English army is about to be ambushed; there’s a monument describing the movie and nearby is the “Khyber Pass”.  Gunga Din Film Site
But our favorite location is the site where Cary Grant and Sam Jaffe, accompanied by their elephant, start to cross a suspension bridge over a huge chasm.  In the movie, they panic THE-BRIDGE 1when the elephant tries to follow them across the bridge.  In an era well before computer-generated graphics, it’s amazing to see how realistic the chasm is – because the bridge is only about six feet above the ground.  We found the site where the scene was filmed; the rocks still have remnants of the bridge support and ramp that was used for the elephant.  In fact, along with a van, we parked in the “chasm”!Gunga Din Bridge SiteTaking a break from exploring, we visited the Lone Pine Film History Museum, a place packed with memorabilia and information.  Clothing worn by John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and cast members of many movies and TV shows are on display; there’s even the actual car that Humphrey Bogart drove in the movie “High Sierra”.Museum India Room
High Sierra Car
Some of the more recent movie props are also here.  Brenda made friends with a “Graboid” and “Assblaster” from the movie “Tremors”.Brenda with Graboid and Assblaster
Finally, we drove the road up into the mountains and to Whitney Portal, the film site for “High Sierra” and the jumping off point for hikers climbing Mount Whitney.  It is impossible to describe the beauty, so I won’t try.Whitney Portal1
Whitney Portal2
We’ve arrived at our winter home and are getting settled in – we’ll be back with an update soon!

Sunday, November 04, 2018

A Busy Month In Bandon

We’re finishing up a month’s stay in Bandon after completing all of our annual medical and dental appointments (everything went well, thank you).  Bandon has become a familiar place for us, and this time we’ve enjoyed a stay at Robbin’s Nest RV Park, a place with wonderful owners, great location, and reasonable rates.  Soon it will be time to head south to Las Vegas, where we’ll spend the winter.  Lorretta and Nancy, two ladies who came for a few days to catch and stock up on Dungeness Crab for their winter stay in Arizona.  They must have noticed our sad looks of longing….and generously shared a few of their catch! 

Fresh Crab
There's so much beauty here - our visits always energize us for the trips to come.  We're looking forward to the change of scenery that Las Vegas offers, but will miss the ocean while volunteering at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.  During our time in Ohio it seemed that every town had a fall festival with pumpkins, food, and games for the kids.  There's not much of that here on the coast, but we did find something similar at the Mahaffy Ranch Pumpkin Patch.  It was a pretty drive along the Coos and Millicoma Rivers to the tiny town of Allegany where the "ranch" is located.  It was a beautiful weekend day and the parking lot was packed with visitors.  The main draw is pumpkins - at 37 cents a pound some of the shoppers were racking up a pretty good tab as they filled the wagons that the ranch provided.  We strolled the grounds watching the children having fun at the corn maze, the hay maze, the "mole hill" slide, and the "corn cannon" where they could fire a propane cannon loaded with a corn cob.  There was of course a gift shop and food vendors.  Picnic tables under the trees were full of families, and there was even a bit of fall color on some of the trees. 

Leaving Allegany, we drove another ten miles along the river to Silver and Golden Falls Natural Area.  Once an area with logging and farms, it has reverted to quiet forest with few roads or people.  

We met a couple from Pennsylvania who were getting married at Golden Falls, so to keep clear of their wedding party we took the trail to Silver Falls.  The trail was of course uphill but was well maintained.  Walking along listening to the stream flowing below us and surrounded by deep woods was peaceful, except for the sound of two senior citizens truing to get enough air into their lungs.  But finally we glimpsed the falls through the trees, and then finally had a clear view.  There wasn't much water flowing of the falls this time of year, but even so it was well worth the hike.  

Coos Bay has been economically depressed for many years due to the reduction in commercial fishing and logging.  But as we walked the downtown area we could see signs of improvement.  The historic Egyptian Theater, closed for many years, has been completely restored - it is beautiful!  You can take a tour here.  Along with some new businesses, we were impressed by the huge murals of Steve Prefontaine, a local man who held may world records in long distance running.  He was killed in an auto accident at the age of 24, but remains a hero here.  He was an avid advocate of cardiovascular health; in fact Brenda's cardiologist  is located in the Prefontaine Cardovascular Center a the local hospital. 

 We seldom visit Coos Bay without making a trip up the Cape Arago Highway to view the seals and sea lions.  On this day, the ocean was roaring and large waves were crashing against the rocks below our overlook. Even though the waves were roaring and some of the sea lions were barking, these California Sea Lions and Black Oystercatchers didn't seem to mind and were happily sleeping next to each other.  

Back in Bandon, we visited Bullards Beach State Park to walk some of the trails.  We took the short walk to the "secret cemetery", and unmarked trail that leads to the cemetery of the original family (the Bullards) that settled here.  It's not really a secret, but the parks keep the trail unmarked to avoid overuse and not many people visit here.  Looking at the old tombstones we were struck by the fact that people back in the 1800s seemed to either live into their 80s of die as children.

We’ll leave you this time around with a couple of sunsets – we’ve some interesting places to visit on our trip south, so check back!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Eight States & 4000 Miles in 26 Days

Farragut State Park to US-101We’ve been writing our blog for over 13 years now, and this is the longest we’ve gone without an update.  But we’ve been busy with our time as program hosts at Farragut State Park, with motorhome maintenance, and a trip to Iowa. 
Our decision to drive to Iowa was made in April when we visited the new Winnebago factory service center in Junction City, Oregon.  The two big slide-outs on our motor home have been operated for over ten years, and some of the part were worn and needed to be replaced.  I asked for an estimate to “inspect and repair” as necessary and left the rig for their evaluation.  Later that morning I got a call with the first words being “are you sitting down?”  The estimate was $5250 and four days in the shop.  I immediately called the slide manufacturer in Iowa (HWH), asked the same question, and was told that if everything worn needed to be replaced, around $800-1000.  So we made an appointment for the end of the summer.
Bear Bag PartsBack to our summer…   ..what a wonderful one it was!  Farragut State Park had all of the elements we look for when volunteering; interesting job, great staff, friendly fellow hosts, and an outstanding Pine Cone CraftRV site.  We were welcomed, given free rein to develop our programs, and given the support we needed to conduct evening programs, school hikes, and Junior Ranger programs.  We had fun cutting parts for the “Bear Bag” craft, gathered pine Fur Displaycones for the peanut butter and pine cone bird feeder, and taught the kids about Idaho predators using a variety of furs.  Our evening programs were well attended – over 1000 people a month came to see us as we taught “leave no trace”, campfire safety, and  showing of nature films on our “big screen”. 
We had pot lucks, bonfires, and evening get-togethers.  With over 40 resident volunteers, it was a large but friendly group.  Many had been coming to Farragut for years – one couple for 15!  And the rangers, from the manager on down, were part of our get togethers, supportive, and great to work with.  I usually don’t mention names, but Errin, our “Interp Ranger” is a special person – and we’ll be back to work with her next year!
In August we had a visit from our daughter Kim, her husband Bill, and Bill’s dad Paul.  Dinner at Lake HouseWe enjoyed showing them around northern Idaho, especially some of our favorite restaurants.  Sitting on the deck of the Lake House, a floating restaurant on Lake Pend Oreille, in 70 degree temperatures was just about perfect.  Bill bravely signed up for the “Tree to Tree Adventure”, an obstacle course built high in the huge Ponderosa Pines.    He completed all four courses, the last being the very high “black” course.  We knew that being married to our daughter that he had courage…..but were truly impressed!Tree to Tree
We left Farragut after the Labor Day holiday and headed east, spending a night in Missoula where we met old friends Jim, Heidi, and Deb from our volunteer days at the Lee Metcalf NWR.  All too soon it was time to make the long drive across Montana, cut the corner of Wyoming, and enter South Dakota.  We were able to spend a few days here, at a time of year when the Black Hills are the most beautiful.  We’d been here before in the fall and it’s worth reposting a few of the pictures:
Fall Colors5
Fall Colors6
Fall Colors7
Crossing all of South Dakota, we entered Iowa, turned south then east to the HWH plant in Moscow.  We dropped the motor home off early and expected an all-day wait, but were called early in the afternoon to tell us it was ready.  Picking it up, I expected the worst……and was stunned when the bill was $163!  Quite a bit different than the Winnebago quote – a savings of over $5000.  I asked a tech “what was Winnebago going to do that cost that much?”  He said he didn’t know, but obviously they’d need 4 or 5 days to do it.  My joy in the low price was somewhat tempered by anger at Winnebago – we’re glad we decided to let the experts work on our system. 
Then it was off to Forest City, the home of Winnebago, to have our slide-out Buddy Holly Crash Sitetoppers replaced by a dealer (Lichsinn) known for their good work and integrity.  In previous visits, we’d visited the Clear Lake area where Buddy Holly gave his last performance, and this time we found the site “where the music died’.  The crash site is back in the cornfield, but these iconic glasses mark the path.
Slide toppers installed, we headed back – up to Minnesota then back  the way we’d come.  An so after 26 days, almost 4000 miles, and $1385 in diesel fuel, we’re back in Bandon for a month of medical appointments, seeing friends, and resting.  Then it’s off to Las Vegas for the winter – so check back!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Northern Idaho Backroads

We’ve settled into our role as Interpretive Hosts here at Farragut State Park, and now that we’ve established a routine we’ve had a chance to explore the area.  I’ve St Joe Riverbeen wanting to do an evening program on the “Big Burn” of 1910, a wildfire that burned 3 million acres in 36 hours.  Since we’re close to the area where it happened, we decided to make a day trip to see what the area looks like today.  We headed for the western side of the Bitterroot Mountains and drove the St. Joe Scenic Byway along the river of the same name.  Although this area is fairly remote, we were surprised by the number of RVs, either in parks or boondocking, along the river.  It wasn’t until we reached Avery, almost 50 miles from the nearest town, that we entered the National Forest and left the crowds behind.  Aside from a few people fly fishing, the river, beautiful as it wound around through canyons, was deserted. Tunnel We made a short stop at Avery, now a small collection of buildings which was once a vibrant mining town.  From here, we drove a short distance on the road over the mountains to Wallace, but turned around at the old railroad tunnel since we wanted to continue along the St Joe River to St. Regis.  The tunnel is spooky – rough carved rock, no lights, wet, and long. 
St Joe River2Getting back on the road along the river, the river canyon became steeper and the road climbed up, eventually turning into the mountains.  The road was well-used, wide, and dusty, and even though it’s far from anywhere it serves as a shortcut for people coming and going to the Clearwater Basin.  We hit pavement in St. Regis, where we jumped on I-90 for a trip to Wallace.  On the way we passed what was once the town of Taft, wiped out by the fire of 1910.  It’s said that Taft had three prostitutes for every man, and that as the fire approached, the residents decided to drink all the town’s whiskey before they evacuated.  There’s a story about how one drunk, burned and wrapped in  oil–soaked gauze, was ignited when a drunken friend went to check on him, lit a match to see, and dropped it – on his friend.  He became the only casualty at Taft.
We visited Wallace, an old mining town with history and character.  Wallace was the largest town affected by the fire; about one third of the town burned.  Wallace2Fortunately, trains evacuated most of the population and there were no fatalities.  This was the home of ranger Ed Pulaski, a legend in the Forest Service and the inventor of the tool that bears his name.  Original PulaskiThe original “Pulaski” can be seen in the town museum.  Walking around the town is a journey through history – many of the buildings are original and there are some very good restaurants and coffee shops, some with interesting signs. 
Center of the Universe
Twerk Sign
Wallace Sign1
There’s a lot of interesting history in Wallace – if you’re interested, you can read about it here.
Just down the interstate from Wallace we found this sign and memorial of the Sunshine Mine disaster, a little known modern mining event that claimed 91 lives.  Sunshine Mine Sign
Miner Monument
Priest Lake1I’ve always been interested in visiting Priest Lake, ever since I saw the posterMoose Poster showing a huge Bull Moose raising his head from the water, high, snow-capped mountains in the distance.  The lake is in the upper corner of Idaho, in what looks to be a remote location.  So off we went, expecting to find a pristine area like the poster.  What we saw when we arrived was an overcrowded area of resorts, campgrounds, RV Parks, and subdivisions.  The lake was….well, lake-ish, and it wasn’t until we drove around the lake to the North side that it became interesting.  The road turned to gravel as we slowly climbed, with forests on both sides and mountains in the distance.Priest Lake Road
Priest Lake Road2
We finally started to see the scenery that we’d expected as we climbed further into the Selkirk Mountains.  To our east was a vast wilderness area, with a population of Grizzly Bear that have been seen closer to the lake.  We’d kept our eyes open, but only saw a few Mule Deer.  But that was OK because the views were spectacular.Selkirk Mountains1
Selkirk Mountains2
What a beautiful area – cool, clean air, mountain views, and abundant wildflowers.  Along the road we saw Wild Rose, Avalanche Lilly, Bear Grass, and Indian Paintbrush.  Wildflowers
Although we didn’t see any Grizzly Bear on our trip, we returned to find another fierce predator raiding our bird feeder.  This ferocious Red Squirrel had made himself at home, quickly eating his way through our feeder’s supply of seed.  As you can see from the picture, he’s a steely-eyed, bad-tempered monster!
Red Squirrel2
Red Squirrel1
That’s it for now – we’ve more places to see, so check back soon!