Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Returning home from the Pacific

As with most vacations, we are always anxious to leave on a trip, but we are always ready to return home. Perhaps just getting back to a routine is a lot of it.

We were at the airport around 4:30 am. I dropped Mary and the luggage off at the Delta terminal of Sacramento Airport then drove to the rental car return area. The Enterprise representative checking in the cars was very pleasant and helpful directing me to the place to catch the shuttle to the terminal. We left a note on the seat of the rental Ford Fusion describing the many problems that we found with the car. We made sure to notify Enterprise of the car’s problems when we were consulted on the satisfaction survey. We had driven over 2500 miles on our trip and tolerated the car, but I would never take another one like this for any extended travel.

The shuttle returned me to the airport quickly, and Mary had already checked our bag. This time it was just under the 50-pound limit thanks to Mary shifting some heavy items to our carry on. However, that caused an issue at security. The huge bag of wheat pennies caused my camera bag to be pulled for inspection. The TSA agent was pleasant and found no problems with the bag, and we made our way the short distance to the gate. We had some time before our flight, so we ate the granola bars and other things we had packed for breakfast.

The short flight from Sacramento was fairly full but because of COVID-19 social distancing, we had an empty seat between us. We watched some of a rock documentary on the life and career of David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young before landing in Salt Lake City.

We bought a sandwich to share from a vendor at the Salt Lake airport. It was too early for lunch. but there would be no meal service on the flight, so we took it onboard with us to have during the flight from Salt Lake to Cincinnati. We were pleased to learn that the CDC was reporting that air travel is very safe during the pandemic because of the precautions that airlines are taking. The HEPA filtered air exchanges appeared to be a major reason for the safety of the flights. As with our travel two weeks earlier, the cabin was sanitized between all flights, and the crew gave out sanitizing wipes as we boarded.

We finished watching the David Crosby documentary then watched a similar program on Linda Ronstadt that had many of the same people being interviewed. Both were part of the Southern California musical movement of the 1970s giving rise to the Eagles, Poco. Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds, Jackson Brown, Buffalo Springfield, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many other of our favorites. We both enjoyed the programs although we had seen part of the Linda Ronstadt special a year or so ago.

We landed in Cincinnati on time and picked up our checked bags quickly and made our way to the area where the Hilton shuttle picks up. We waited for the shuttle for nearly an hour before I called the number from onestopparking and was told that the shuttle now runs on an “as needed” basis as travelers call from the airport. The van came shortly after our call. The driver, originally from Williamson, WV, was very pleasant and helpful taking us to our car at the Hilton for the hour drive back home. We knew that we would have a mountain of laundry, mowing and other chores in the next few days, but we were happy to be home. The pandemic would require us to have a two-week self-quarantine, but with all of the upcoming work at home, that wouldn’t be a problem.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Apple Hill Orchards

On our last day of fall vacation, we awoke early and packed up our things for the trip back to Kentucky early on Tuesday morning. Since our checked bag was a little heavy, we pulled some items out for our carryon bags. A large bag of wheat pennies from her father’s coin collection was the heaviest thing to be lugged home. We put the few things that we would need for Monday and the return flight on Tuesday close at hand.
Yeh, Allyson, David & Peewee
David made another excellent breakfast for us, and we sat around visiting while planning our day. David suggested the Apple Hill area where 133 listed farms, wineries and attractions are open to the public for tours, festivals, food and drink in the fall. After driving around the area for a bit in David’s Jeep, we settled on Rainbow Orchards where we bought hot apple cider doughnuts and a couple of pies. The area reminded us a lot of farms near us that have fall festivals like Gritt’s Farm in Putnam County and Evan’s Orchard near us in Georgetown. We ate a few of the doughnuts at a picnic table at the orchard then came on back to David and Yeh’s house. We managed to save the pies and a few doughnuts to share with Allyson since she did not join us on the trip.

The afternoon was mostly lazy, just enjoying the time to see David, Yeh and Allyson. After a late lunch, we packed up our things and headed toward the Day’s Inn in Woodland, CA, only a few minutes from the Sacramento Airport. The motel was fine and check in went smoothly. Dinner was carryout from the nearby Denny’s across from the motel. We wanted to get to sleep early since we needed to leave for our flight by 4 am.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Visiting with the Fergusons

The guest bed where we slept at Ferguson’s was very comfortable. We slept well but woke at our usual 5:30 am. We read a little and did our German lessons before coming down for tea. David made omelets filled with beef bourguignon and covered with a light sauce. Like all of David’s creations in the kitchen, the omelets were outstanding. After breakfast, David started preparing our lunch which were steaks done with a sous vied device, a very complex salad with many ingredients and mashed potatoes and gravy.

While the steaks were in the water bath with the soups vide running for two hours, we took a ride in David’s 2021 Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk with a 707 horsepower engine. It can move! We stopped at David’s Bach to Rock music school and toured the studios and classrooms. We were impressed with the instruments and technology at the school.

After we returned to the house, we enjoyed the steak lunch that David prepared earlier. The steak was exceptional. After removing the meat from the bags in the sous vied water, he put them on the outdoor grill to brown the steaks. We were impressed how perfectly the steaks were cooked to medium rare all the way through with remarkable consistency. Everything was excellent and made for a memorable meal.

To get some exercise, Mary and I took a long walk through the neighborhood in El Dorado Hills. The name was very appropriate for our walk. We walked up the steep Ridgeview Drive to Ridgeview Park, an El Dorado Hills city park then came back to the house.

We watched some football on television with David and Yeh while Allyson worked on a school project. During halftime of the Minnesota-Seattle game, Yeh made Chinese pork filled dumplings that were quite good and a perfect snack after our large lunch. Their dog, Peewee, started to make up with us although he never completely came around.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Lassen Volcanic National Park

There was a good bit of light coming through the curtains at the Redding Travelodge, but it was quiet so we both slept well enough. After waking a little after 5, we showered and did our German lessons before checking out around 7 am.

View from Manzanita Lake
We had a breakfast of applesauce and a protein bar on the one-hour drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park. We appeared to be among the day’s first visitors since the ranger at the north entrance gate was just raising the flag. We wanted to get there early since the park is very popular, and we wanted to be sure to get a parking place. We had read that the rangers strictly enforce that visitors park only in available spaces.

Otter in Manzanita Lake
Our first hike, the Manzanita Trail, was a little over a mile around Lake Manzanita. When were at this park in September 2012, we did not drive this far north so we had never been to this lake. We were the first to park in the lot. The air was cool so our long pants and sweatshirts felt good, but we didn’t need our jackets. The lake was beautiful, and the water was crystal clear. When we got about half way around the lake, we saw something moving in the water. A few minutes later 4 river otters were swimming near us. The mother and three juveniles played just a few yards from us for several minutes before moving on around the lake. There were some nice views of Lassen Peak, whose peak was still under a cover of cloud. By the time we returned to the parking area, there were only a few visitors in the area. Mary went to the visitor center to get her National Park Passport stamp and to buy a postcard for Peter.

Bumpass Hell hydrothermal area
We continued to drive up the mountain and learn about the area’s history. We learned that the mountain exploded only a little over 100 years ago. In 1915 there was a tremendous event that blew volcanic debris over a large area. In fact, Lassen is still considered an active volcano.

Steam vents at Bumpass Hell

Our next stop was at Bumpass Hell, a hydrothermal area, that is probably the park’s most popular attraction. Although the parking lot was filling, we were able to get a spot quickly. The air had cooled to the lower 40s, so we wore our jackets and hats for the hike. The Bumpass Hell Trail is about 1.5 miles each way with a 500 foot elevation rise then a 250 foot descent into the volcanic area. Because we were hiking at an elevation over 8,000 feet, we took the ascent slowly so as to not get winded. The air temperature dropped into the 30s as we were on the trail and a strong wind picked up, so we picked up our pace to keep warm. Our face masks actually felt good, keeping the wind from our faces.

Boardwalk through Bumpass Hell
Bumpass Hell Trail was being well traveled today, probably because it was a Saturday and people were wanting to get out during the pandemic. Unlike other trails that we were on for the past two weeks, few hikers were wearing masks. Because we were faster than some and slower than others, we passed a lot of other hikers on the steep trail. There was an abrupt drop off over the edge of the trail, but the path was well maintained and safe. 

Geysers and vents at Bumpass Hell
As we approached the Bumpass’ Hell area, there was no doubt that we had arrived. A very strong rotten egg smell of sulfur hung in the air. The strong wind drove the stench at us as we continued on the trail. Once we were at the location, we had the feeling that we were here seven years ago but couldn’t remember the long trail. We walked along the boardwalks through sulfur vents, boiling mud pits, geysers and steam holes all through the area. We continued to think that this was one of the places we had visited.

We took a lot of photos and walked back on a different trail toward the parking lot. Along the way we chatted with a family from nearby Oroville, California. They told us that until a couple of years ago the parking area was much nearer the Bumpass’ Hell site. They mentioned something about a tourist getting injured, which resulted in the trailhead being moved to make the potentially hazardous locations less accessible.

The 1.5 mile walk back to the car seemed to go more quickly, probably because it was more downhill than up. By the time we got to the car, a line of people were waiting for parking spaces. We left the lot to find a place for lunch at a less crowded stop. A few visitors were at the Sulfur Mine stop, but since the volcanic features were near the road, people didn’t tend to stay long and there were plenty of parking spots. We found a large boulder near the parking area and had the turkey sub that we had bought at the Walmart deli in Redding this morning.

Boiling mud pit at the Sulfur Works
The Sulfur Works site was a really great stop with a boiling mud pit, several steam vents and sulfur deposits, all of which are viewable from a sidewalk along the main road through the park. There were a number of tourists at the site, but people tended to move. As with the Bumpass Hell site, few people were wearing masks.

The last stop of our day was at the visitor center at the south entrance to the park. This entrance appeared to get a lot more visitors than the northern entrance that we used this morning. We used the southern entrance when we were here in 2012.

While driving toward Sacramento I had to stop along the road for a quick power nap that really restored my energy. Then we continued to David and Yeh’s house near Folsom, arriving a little before 5 pm. The only slowdown was in Wheatland, California where a construction project as well as activities at a pumpkin farm had traffic backed up. That added about 30 minutes to our drive time.

We were happy to see David, Yeh and Allyson since we hadn’t seen them since they came to Huntington for Emily and Ian’s wedding in June 2014.

Yeh made shabu shabu with fish, shrimp, squid, beef, fish balls, mushrooms and bok choi dunked in hot seasoned broth. We enjoyed everything including the nice red wine to accompany the meal. Both David and Yeh are very accomplished in the kitchen and always serve exceptional meals. This was no exception. We stayed up chatting and reminiscing until after 10 pm when we turned in.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Crater Lake National Park

The Best Western in La Pine, Oregon was very nice. We were all very tired after all of our walking on Thursday, so we struggled to stay awake until 9 pm. We slept very well, woke around 5:30 am and made our way to the hotel’s hot breakfast a little after 6. They had scrambled eggs, biscuits, sausage and gravy as well as other available items. 

Crater Lake National Park
Mark and Cindy came to our room shortly after we returned from breakfast, so we left for Crater Lake National Park by 7:30. We arrived at the park a little after 9 am. Our first stop was at an overlook entering the park. The air temperature was 43 degrees, so we were happy to have long pants, sweatshirts and jackets. Smoke from the fire coupled with morning fog made visibility an issue. We could see Wizard Island in the center of the lake but could hardly see the other side of the lake. We learned that Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US at nearly 2000 feet deep. Wizard Island is a small volcano that formed in the caldera after the main volcano blew off. We were standing at over 7000 feet in elevation, and the air temperature was around 43 degrees. When standing in the sun, we felt pretty good, but when a gust of wind came, it was chilly.

Wizard Island in Crater Lake
We drove to the park visitor center in Rim Village and walked around some of the short trails and paths while waiting until the visitor center opened at 10 am. We saw a lot of evidence of forest fires from prior years. On the road into the park, almost all the trees on the west side of the road were burned and dead. Because the road acted as a firebreak, there was virtually no fire damage to trees on the east side of the road. Mary was disappointed that they did not have a stamp for her National Park Passport, but a ranger gave her a Junior Ranger sticker to put in place of the stamp. Mary and Cindy browsed the gift shop where Cindy picked up a couple of gifts for Peter and Nicholas. Mark and I walked around outside.

Phantom Ship in Crater Lake
We drove around the Rim Road encircling crater, then parked to take the architectural tour of the buildings on the Lady of Woods Trail. A trail guide told the history of each of the park’s buildings and how they were used in the past as well as their roles today. From there we took the short drive to the Sun Notch Trail that took us to overlooks of the lake.  We could see the Phantom Ship, a large rock in the lake that looked like a sailing ship. We saw a few other hikers on this trail, and most were wearing face masks. We then drove to the Phantom Ship Overlook where we ate our usual peanut butter and cracker lunch with Mark and Cindy. There was still a good bit of smoke, so we didn’t have a great view of the lake from there. 

Pumice Castle overlooking Crater Lake
The next stop was the Pumice Castle Overlook where a large pumice formation on the inner wall of the crater looks like a stone castle. This formation hung high above the lake at the bottom of the crater. After we took some photos Mark and Cindy decided to start back toward home, so we drove to the Pinnacles area of the park. This area is a steep canyon with tall slender fumaroles looking like giant smokestacks. As we walked the Pinnacles Trail, we were pleased that there wasn’t much smoke in this canyon so we had a great view of pinnacles. There were two young women with a child about 4 years old. Like most boys his age, he ran everywhere he went. We were worried because the canyon dropped off sharply just off the path. If the boy would trip he might easily fall hundreds of feet to the canyon floor. The two women did not seem too concerned and, fortunately, the child didn’t fall.

Pinnacles at Crater Lake
We left the park by the southern entrance on US 97 and continued south toward California. We stopped at Klamath Falls, Oregon, for gas before we entered California with higher prices. We picked up I-5 near Weed, California and drove less than an hour to the Travelodge in Redding, California. We were happy to hear that the grass fire in Weed had been extinguished and didn’t cause a delay in travel.

The Travelodge is not the best motel, but it is convenient. We hope that it is quiet tonight because we are very tired.

For dinner, we walked to the nearby Janya’s Thai Cuisine Restaurant. We split an order of Pad Si Ew which is Mary’s favorite, and each had two spring rolls. We both enjoyed the meal, and it was about the right amount of food for both of us.

We are looking forward to Lassen National Volcanic Park tomorrow. We loved it when we were there in 2011 and plan to walk several trails tomorrow before going to David and Yeh’s house Saturday evening.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

After sleeping well at the Whittingtons. we awoke and had breakfast before driving east toward Newberry National Volcanic Monument. We planned to hike into the caldera of the ancient volcano that collapsed and now holds beautiful high desert lakes.

Acres of obsidion
Mark and Cindy drove ahead of us in her new Audi, and we parked in the lot of the La Pine Best Western where we would be spending the night. All four of us got in Cindy’s nice car and headed up US 97 to the National Park.

Obsidian glass

The lava caves were closed for the winter to allow the resident bat population to hibernate. We decided that our first hike of the day would be the Big Obsidian Flow Trail, which is a one-mile loop through a 700-acre field of volcanic glass that is over 1600 years old. The black volcanic obsidian looked just like the waste glass at Blenko and was very sharp. Part of the trail went through a field of pumice formed from more slowly cooled lava. The very soft and lightweight pumice was very different from the obsidian of the same lava flow.

View from Little Crater Trail
We walked from the Big Obsidian Flow trail to the 1.8-mile-long Little Crater Trail that took us on a loop with great lake views as well as a good look onto the obsidian field. The trail was a gentle up and down slope that made for a nice walk. There were only a few other hikers on any of the trails and most were masked up. A little haze from the fires in California as well as some closer fires made the view hazy.

River otter at the High Desert Museum
We got back to the car around 1:30 and had our usual travel lunch of peanut butter and crackers. We had some of Mark’s jerky and chocolate covered almonds too.

From the Newberry Volcanic Park we drive to the High Desert Museum. We were glad to get a 10% AAA discount for our group. The museum had displays on the plants and animals of the area, as well as the native people and the influence of European exploration and settlement. There were also odd displays on daredevils such as Evel Knievel, who performed many of his better-known stunts in the high desert, and on the Burning Man Festival, which takes place at the end of summer in the Nevada high dessert. The outside portion of the museum had river otters, fish and local birds of prey. There was also a recreation of an early 1900s ranch that would have been typical in the area. We all thought that the museum was very enjoyable. Mark and Cindy come here fairly regularly.

Since everyone was starting to get hungry, we drove into Bend to look for a place to get dinner. We settled on a food truck in a small food court area in a hip part of town not far from the Oregon State campus. Alebrije Oaxaca turned out to be a very good choice. Mary got a torta with roasted beef, tomato and avocado on a bolillo, and I had chicken mole enchiladas with beans and rice. Mark and Cindy split a burrito Mexican pizza with retried black beans, avocado, tomato, roast pork and cheese. We all shared some of each other’s meals and were very happy with our orders.

After the meal we drove back to the La Pine Best Western and checked in. Our rooms were comfortable, and the area was very quiet. We were looking forward to Crater Lake National Park tomorrow then on the California on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Mt. Pisgah

We slept well in Robert’s room. The cool air coming in the open window felt really good.

View from Mt. Pisgah
After eating breakfast and doing a little laundry, we decided to go for a walk at a nearby county park. We decided to hike Mt. Pisgah in the Howard Buford Recreation Area, which is a Lane County park. The area has 17 miles of trails leading to the over 1,500-foot-high butte.

Since the park is very near Whittington’s house, we got there very quickly. A day camp was being held, so there was a little more traffic at the park than we expected. However, most of the camp was being held at or near the 118-acre arboretum. We decided on the Summit Trail and started up the mountain. Quite a few hikers were out, and most were wearing face masks.

Mt. Pisgah summit marker
We arrived at the summit a little after noon and found a geocache there. We sat around on some of the benches and admired the views of the Willamette Valley before starting down on a different path. The route we took was a rough narrow track that took us through fields of blackberries. We snacked on a few berries that were still on the vines as we walked downhill. The path has a lot of loose stones causing us to walk carefully down the hill. We saw several hikers coming up the hill, especially as we neared the trailhead.

We walked through the arboretum and passed small groups of children in the day camp on our way back to our rental car. We had our usual lunch of peanut butter and crackers and drank several bottles of water. To keep isolated, we ate in the rental car. We had to keep the windows open because the day had warmed since we had arrived.

When we left the parking lot, we drove to a Fred Meyer, which is part of the Kroger group, and picked up more crackers and some fresh fruit. Like many Kroger stores we have seen, Fred Meyer stores offer a large array of goods.

We got back to Whittington’s around 2:30 pm and finished the laundry. We walked around out back and looked at Cindy’s landscaping. Cindy returned home from work a little after 3 pm, so she and Mary went to their attic to sort through some items that had belonged to their parents. I did some reading and relaxed after our long walk.

Mark came home around 5 and cooked tri-tip, roast potatoes and corn casserole for dinner. It was all very good. Robert and Michael were both at the dinner which was very nice. After dinner Mary and Cindy discussed plans for Thursday’s trip to Crater Lake.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Silver Falls State Park

North Falls

Cindy was due to arrive at the Vancouver, Washington Amtrak station at 8:30 so we grabbed our bagged breakfast from the hotel a little early and had the apple sauce along with the raisin bran from our travel food. The only tea in the room was green tea, but we enjoyed a cup before drove downtown to the train station. We were glad to see her and knew that we would enjoy our visit with them over the next few days.

View from under North Falls

She directed us to Silver Falls State Park, about 20 miles southeast of Salem, Oregon. This nearly 10,000-acre state park was a logging community in the late 1800s but now has over 24 miles of hiking trails to ten beautiful waterfalls. Cindy paid the $5 day use fee, and we set out on the Trail of Ten Falls, ending at the South Falls plunging 177 feet. We returned to our parking lot via the Rim Trail which took us to the historical area. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it offered concessions and events for the public. Our walk around the area and to most of the waterfalls was about 10 miles. We were back at the rental car a little after 2:30.

Lower South Falls
The trails have a good bit of elevation change, but nothing was very steep. A variety trees cover the park, but because the area was logged, none were exceptionally large. The trails are well marked and appeared to get a good deal of traffic from locals. Even though we were there on a Tuesday morning, a lot of people were out enjoying the day.

We were pleased that the smoke didn’t seem bad here at this time, although we understand that visibility was much lower just a few days earlier when winds brought smoke from the Napa fire in California as well as from fires  Oregon. Everyone is hopeful that rain will bring some relief to the efforts in controlling the fires.

South Falls
After our picnic lunch of peanut butter, crackers and the granola bars from our breakfast bags, we dropped Cindy off at the Eugene Amtrak station where she got her car then drove to her Springfield house.

It was great to see Mark and Michael and find that all were doing well. Robert was still at his new job at the trucking company. We played with the dogs, Cedar and Jade, while Mark grilled chicken. He had made a great salad that included ramen noodles, almond slivers and marinated chicken. We had local ice cream for dessert. After dinner Robert told me about his new job which is with a large trucking company that mainly transports utility poles. He performs maintenance on the large semi-trucks and flatbed trailers. He is still in the training phase of the job now but seems to enjoy it and is gaining skills as he works.

Mary and Cindy played cribbage and planned our next potential travel adventure. They are looking at possibly taking a Road Scholar trip to interior Alaska. They have several options that they were weighing for early July 2021. A lot depends on whether Mark and Cindy are able to sell the stores in the next few months, but I think they would like to make a decision soon to lock in on current prices and tour availability.

We turned in a little before 10 pm and slept well. The bed was comfortable, and the house was quiet. We are looking forward to spending more time with the Whittington family while we are here.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Mount Rainier

As we checked out of the
Olympia La Quinta, we were given “grab and go” breakfast bags that had yogurt, a water bottle, Danish, applesauce and a granola bar. We took the bags with us to eat on the road as we made our way up to Mount Rainier National Park. We stopped at a small community park along the way and ate the yogurt with the raisin bran.

Mount Rainier from Paradise Road
Our senior annual pass got us in the park for no additional fee, and we made our first stop in the former town of
Longmire. The name struck us because we had read the Craig Johnson books with the main character, Walt Longmire. The air at Longmire felt cool to us, so we changed into long pants and warmer shirts at the Ranger Station bathrooms. We could see parts of the mountain, so we were anxious to get up on the mountain and on some of the trails. Glimpses of ice and snow on the mountain top made us glad to have warmer clothes. Mount Rainier is 14,411 feet and is the second highest mountain the contiguous United States. Mount Rainier is considered an active volcano, although the last confirmed eruption was in the early 1800s.

Narada Falls
As we drove up the mountain, we feared that the fog would impede our views. However, as we drove, the fog cleared and the air warmed. We stopped at
Narada Falls, which is very near the road. The falls are beautiful, so we took some snapshots and walked around the area a good bit. We continued up the mountain drive.

The road had a lot of pull off where we took photos of the mountain along the way. Different angles showed the glaciers and waterfalls on the mountain. When we arrived at the National Park Paradise Visitor Center, we were surprised at how warm we were. This visitor center is at 5400 feet above sea level and receives nearly 54 feet of snow each year.

Myrtle Falls
We consulted a ranger for advice on some
trails that were 1.5 to 2 miles in length that would take us to scenic waterfalls and views of the mountain. Our first trail was the Myrtle Falls trail that took us up the mountain and past an attractive small waterfall fueled by snowmelt coming down the mountain. We continued past the waterfall into a mountain meadow filled with wild huckleberries. We chatted with three local ladies who said that they have been seeing a mother bear and two cubs in the meadow on most mornings. We walked up to the area where people had been seeing the bears. A fellow told us that they had been in the meadow earlier but had gone higher up on the mountain nearer the ice field. By the time we made it up to the meadow we had shed our jackets and hats since the sun was getting us warm. We made our way down the mountain to the visitor center and had lunch at a picnic table that had a great view of the mountain. Surprisingly, we had a great cell signal there, so we sent some messages to family and friends. We went into the National Park gift shop and picked up a couple of gifts.

Nisqually Vista
After lunch we went to the car to drive to the trailhead for the
Nisqually Vista Trail. This path led us to a few great spots to photograph the mountain summit as well as a stream coming off the mountain. A good many meadow wildflowers were in bloom. There were a lot of large cedar and fir trees along the walk as well as a good bit of fallen timber in the wooded area. By the time we made it back to the car, we were ready for a bottle of water and a break from walking.

Reflection Lake
We took a different path down the mountain and stopped at Reflection Lake. It lives up to its name because the water is very still and presents photographers with an opportunity to take a snapshot showing a reflection of the surrounding mountain and tree covered hills in the water.

Slot Canyon
After our quick stop at the lake, we did a short trail at a
slot canyon that is only 13 feet wide and 180 feet deep. It was incredible looking into the narrow gorge and seeing a stream so far down. We marveled at how that stream had eroded through the rock to cut the narrow and deep canyon. From there we stopped at the Grove of the Patriarchs which has a number of large old trees along the mile long path. We didn’t spend much time there since we had seen many large Douglas Fir, cedar and spruce trees on other trails. We were ready to get to a hotel for some rest.

Mount Rainier from Stevens Canyon
By the time we got back to the car from our last trail hike, it was time to drive to our hotel in Vancouver, Washington. Because we had such a nice room at the
Olympia La Quinta, we decided to go with La Quinta in Vancouver. We checked in quickly and found our room to be very nice. The desk clerk told us that a bag breakfast would be available in the morning.

While checking nearby restaurant reviews, we learned that the best food near our hotel was an Ei8ht Noodles Thai restaurant in a Fred Meyer strip mall. We decided to split a dinner, so Mary ordered her favorite, Pad Se Ew, which is chicken with wide noodles and broccoli dinner along with some side egg rolls. The dinner was plenty for both of us.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Hurricane Ridge - Olympic National Park

Panorama from Hurricane Ridge

We awoke at the Port Angeles Super 8 around 5 am. We did a few things in the room, checked emails and did some reading. Rather than our usual breakfast, we had the leftover Chinese food from last night. Our meals were just as good this morning as they were yesterday evening.

View from Hurricane Ridge

We drove to the Hurricane Ridge area of Olympic National Park. It took nearly an hour to drive the 17 miles to the visitor center at the top. When I was there in July 2007, there was so much fog that seeing beyond a few feet was impossible. Today was very different with no fog and bright, warming morning sun. We stopped to take photos at several areas on the narrow winding road up the mountain rising to over 5000 feet. I was chuckling to myself along the drive thinking about the 2007 trip when I was driving a huge Ford Excursion filled with friends from Cabell County. It was an unpleasant surprise then the SUV’s power steering went out on Hurricane Ridge Road. Although we don’t like the Ford Fusion that we rented on this trip, it performed well on the drive up the mountain.

Chipmunk along Hurricane Hill Trail

Since we arrived at the top of the mountain a little after 9 am, the visitor center wouldn’t open for another hour. We drove 1.5 miles past the visitor center to the Hurricane Hill trailhead. This 1.6-mile trail rises over 700 feet to the summit of Hurricane Hill. The path was nicely paved and made walking pleasant . I did not recall this trail when I was here 13 years ago but since learned that it had recently been upgraded and reopened just two months ago. The views were great at every step on the trail, and we took a lot of photos. We chatted with a few other hikers on the trail and made it to the top a little after 10 pm. We took some pictures from the top and started back down for another hour walk.

After returning from our hike, we left the trailhead parking around 11 and stopped briefly at the visitor center for a National Park stamp We made it to the bottom of the mountain before noon and drove to the Dungeness National Wildlife Reserve where we had lunch at picnic table overlooking the Juan De Fuca Strait. Since we had dinner leftovers for breakfast, we decided to have our breakfast food for dinner. Our yogurt and raisin bran made was as good for lunch as it is for breakfast.

Our next stop was the town of Sequim. The town is famous for their huge lavender farms, so we stopped and picked up a few lavender gifts for friends and family. When I was here in July 2007 with the Cabell County group, we spent a day photographing the lavender fields. However, the lavender had all been harvested this year, so we settled on buying dried lavender for our gifts.

Elk at Dosewallips State Park
We continued on Highway 101 toward the Cushman Staircase area of Olympic National Park. While driving, Mary spotted a large herd of elk near Dosewallips State Park. We turned around and drove back to see them. The elk were grazing among the cabins and campers at the state park, ignoring the campers and those, like us, who were there to watch and take photos. We couldn't estimate the number of animals because they were spread around the buildings and campers. There were at least 50 elk.

Stream on the Staircase Trail
We drove to the Cushman-Staircase area of the Olympic National Park and took the 2.1 mile Staircase Rapids loop trail from the ranger station through the forest with little change in elevation. The trail was a well-maintained gravel path winding through spruce, red cedar and hemlock trees. We were back at the rental car in a little over an hour. We left for our hotel in Lacey, Washington, a suburb of Olympia, the state’s capital.

We checked in at the Lacey LaQuinta easily and got a very nice suite. The room was very clean and comfortable. We later learned that we were given this larger room in error, but we were charged only for the smaller room that we reserved.

We didn’t want a huge meal, so we went to the Denny’s across the street. Because of traffic patterns, walking there was impractical, and driving was complicated. We both got the grilled salmon which was very good and reasonably priced.

Panorama from Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Olympic Peninsula

Washington atate beach

We left our room at the Aberdeen Travelodge around 7:30 and filled up the rental car. We just can’t get used to paying nearly $4 per gallon when we have been accustomed to paying less than $2 per gallon. Like the past few days, thick fog made driving a challenge. We knew that the fog would persist for most or all the day.

We started driving north on US 101, the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, when we saw a sign for a state salmon hatchery a short distance off the highway so we had to make a quick stop. There wasn’t much to see at this site. A few tanks had some small salmon that were unidentified. We didn’t stay there long and continued moving up the coast.

near Kalaloch

Our first planned stop was in the Olympic National Forest at Quinalt where we walked a nature trail with a lot of informational signage on the flora and fauna of the area. There were huge trees of Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir. We also looked at a lot of the underbrush vegetation and dense temperate rainforest undergrowth.

We drove northward on Highway 101 and stopped at a few of the Pacific beaches. We were hoping to observe some of the aquatic life in the tidal pools, but the tide was coming in. We didn’t see much life among the rocks on the shore. Several locals were surf fishing, and we walked on the rocky shore and across the driftwood, watching the waves crashing on the rocky beaches. These beaches are not the sandy beach areas where sunbathers, swimmers and surfers like to congregate. These beaches have stones from the size of golf balls all the way to house-sized boulders. The beaches were well below the level of the road, so we had a long and steep walk from our rental car down to the beach.

Small waterfall in Washington

We made a quick stop at Kalaloch Lodge which is where the Cabell County group when we came to the area in July 2007. The group stayed several nights in some of the cabins while we explored the area and took photographs. We didn’t stay there long but continued north on 101 to Kalaloch Beach. After walking the steep path to the beach, we walked around for a bit then worked our way back up to the car and continued driving north toward Ruby Beach.

Ruby Beach sea stack

Like at Kalaloch, I had been here in 2007 when I was with a group of Cabell County educators on a photography trip. We had our Ritz crackers and peanut butter lunch before going to the beach. The path to the beach was steep. We had to climb over huge driftwood logs to get to the beach, but it was beautiful. Part of the beach was coarse sand, but most was cobbles of varying size. There were also some giant sea stacks. A lot of people were walking around since this beach is very well known for beautiful views. We even met a man who grew up in Huntington. He spoke to us because I was wearing a Marshall sweatshirt. We took several snapshots and walked in the warm fall air with the ocean breeze blowing.

We left Ruby Beach for Forks, Washington which is the setting for the Twilight vampire stories that were very popular a few years ago. Mary took a few postcards to the post office, while I went to a stand where members of the Hoh Tribe were selling traditional fry bread tacos. We split a taco which was very good and made a good snack.

Salmon Cascade

Continuing north on Highway 101, we turned off on the road to Sol Duc Falls. My annual senior pass got us into the park and we drove the 13 miles off the highway to the trailhead for the falls. Parking was a premium because the falls are a popular attraction and trails there lead in many directions to several attractions. We had quite a walk to the trailhead then walked about a mile up to the falls. The path had many hikers but passed through a beautiful part of the Pacific temperate rain forest. There were a lot of people at the falls, making photography difficult, so we took a few snapshots then walked back to the car. We drove about halfway back to 101, then we stopped at a place where salmon swim up Sol Duc Creek to spawn. We watched the huge salmon, some of which were two feet or more in length, jumping over rocks to reach ideal spawning locations. We stayed at the cascade for some time, then drove on to Port Angeles where we checked in at the Super 8.

We got carry out Chinese food from Tendy’s Garden, which was one of the best rated restaurants in Port Angeles. We made a quick stop at Safeway for tomorrow’s breakfast. While Mary was in the store, I filled the rental car’s gas tank. We picked up our food and brought it to our room at the Super 8. Mary reports that her beef and broccoli was very good, and I enjoyed my General Tso’s chicken, Neither of us ate even half of our meals and planned to have more of it at breakfast tomorrow. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

We were able to sleep in until nearly 5:30 this morning. Our room at the Coos Bay Super 8 was much quieter than we expected so we both slept well.

We started packing up after our usual breakfast of raisin bran and yogurt along with a cup of hot tea. We did our morning German lessons and watched a little of the local news then got on US 101 northbound for Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The morning was extremely foggy on the coast, and we had a difficult time seeing so we proceeded to take it slow. Because the air conditioner in the rented Ford Fusion wasn’t working, the defroster didn’t work well either. That made the issues of the fog even worse. Overall, we do not have a very high appraisal for the Ford Fusion and will be happy to see the last of it at the end of our vacation.

Coastal Oregon beach

When we arrived at North Bend, Oregon we learning that the Headquarters for the area was closed due to COVID-19. We took a few snapshots and read the signage before getting back into the car. We stopped at a nearby beach in the Oregon Dunes area and walked along the beach, hoping to see some sea life in the tidal pools. The area we were in had a lot of volcanic rock surrounded by fine sand, but there were not many animals in the surf. We walked among the rocks and watched as people were launching balls for a dog to fetch. Since the tide had started coming in, we decided to walk back to the car before becoming stranded on a rock in high tide.

Hecata Head Lighthouse

We continued north on the 101 and stopped at a few more beaches just for a quick walk. These northern beaches are much rockier than the broad sand beaches of Southern California. Many sea stacks and large boulders line the shore. We saw hundreds of pelagic cormorants swimming and roosting on rocks. We looked for seals and sea lions but didn’t see any until we got to Yaquina Head Lighthouse. This structure built in 1873 has been protecting ships along the coast since. The lighthouse initially had a kerosene light, but it now has electric bulbs that change themselves if a bulb burns out. The lighthouse now operates completely autonomously with no keeper.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Because of COVID-19, we were unable to go up into the lighthouse but were able to walk around the grounds. We took a few snapshots through the dense fog then took the trail down from the lighthouse to the rocky shoreline. We watched as the powerful waves pounded and rolled the fist-sized basalt stones. When each wave retreated, we could hear the stone tumbling in the surf. It is easy to see how the stones became rounded.

As we were watching the waves beat the beach, we saw several harbor seals floating in the surf. They seemed to enjoy the rough seas and swam about as if the water was as smooth as a lake. We walked back up the many stairs from the beach, stopping to read the informative signs along the way. We made our way back to the car and ate our lunch of Ritz Crackers and peanut butter as we drove toward Tillamook, Oregon.

Lewis & Clark's Ft. Clatsop

We had intended to take the tour of the Tillamook Creamery and purchase some locally produced ice cream and cheese curds from the dairy cooperative. However, when we arrived, we saw a long line of people waiting outside to enter the building. We decided to pass up Tillamook for the day and move on to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park near Astoria, Oregon.

This is the site where the Lewis and Clark expedition overwintered from December 1805 until March 1806, after reaching the Pacific Ocean. This site, only seven miles inland from the Pacific, had access to fish from several streams, wild berries, abundant game and friendly natives. Structures have been reconstructed at the same site as the originals using the carefully drawn renderings from the expedition party. We purchased the National Park Service’s Senior Pass for $20, allowing us unlimited access to all National Parks through October 2021.

Elk herd near Astoria, Oregon

We took the short trail out to the site of the camp then walked a longer trail to canoe launches along the river. Signs along the trail gave information on many of the plants and how the expedition used them. There were few noticeable invasive plants in the area but were mostly plants that would have been seen and used by the Lewis and Clark party.

Just outside the historical site, we saw a herd of wild elk. We counted at least 70 animals grazing and resting in a field. There was one large bull elk and all of the others appeared to be females or juveniles. We had never seen that many wild elk congregated in one place.

We left the historical site a little before 5 pm and stopped at the Walmart in Astoria. I needed to replace the sunglasses that had broken on the trip, and we picked up grocery items that we would need for Saturday’s trip along the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. We continued driving north on 101 into Washington for nearly two hours until we arrived in Aberdeen, Washington. Before going to our room at the Aberdeen Travelodge, we stopped at Arby’s for a couple of turkey reubens. We were both hungry, and there were few choices in Aberdeen. We took the sandwiches to our room and prepared for bed.

The room was typical of motels in this price range. It was a bit noisy, and the television didn’t work. At least, the outlets in the room worked so we could charge our phones and other devices. Since we only needed the room for a place to sleep and shower, we couldn’t really complain.