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Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Coast’

Last summer I did a tour of the Pacific coast from California to Tillamook, Oregon.  We stopped at two lighthouses but if you are traveling by auto it would be fun to see all nine of the surviving lighthouse stations since they have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Seven of the lighthouses are available to visit during the summer months, many manned by volunteers.  Over two and one half million people stop each year at these extraordinary links to the past.
All of the structures have been unoccupied since modern technology took over in the 1960s which allowed for installing automated beacons.  The lighthouses are built on prominent headlands near major rivers where commercial fishing and shipping is prominent.
I will tell you a little about each one so if you cannot see them all, you can at least pick and choose which ones sound the most interesting.

Staring from just north of the California border the first one is Cape Blanco.

This lighthouse stands 256 feet above the ocean and is located nine miles north of Port Orford off of Highway 101.  It is the oldest standing lighthouse on the Oregon Coast.  It was commissioned in 1870 because of the gold discoveries and lumbering going on in the area.
Two miles north of Bandon in Bullards Beach State Park is the Coquilee River Lighthouse.  It was commissioned in 1896 to guide mariners across a dangerous bar.  It was decommissioned in 1939 but restored as an interpretive center in 1979.
Cape Arago Lighthouse is twelve miles south of Coos Bay and North Bend.  It stands 100 feet above the ocean on an inlet.  It is the newest of the lighthouses, illuminated in 1934 but is not opened to the public.  However if you visit, there is a very unique foghorn you might hear.
Next up is the Umpqua River Lighthouse located three miles south of Reedsport  above the entrance to Winchester Bay.  This is the second lighthouse on this spot.  The first one fell into the river four years after it was built in 1861.  This one sits sixty five feet above the ocean overlooking sand dunes.  It took 240,000 bricks to construct the lighthouse tower and if you mention this you will get a discount on the tour cost.
Heceta Head Lighthouse located twelve miles north of Florence has a sixty five foot tower that sits 205 feet above the ocean.  It was first illuminated in 1894 but today the beacon can be seen for twenty one miles, making it the brightest light on the Oregon Coast.  The lightkeepers house built in 1893 now operates as a bed and breakfast.

This lighthouse has been undergoing renovation since 2012 and is closed to the public but just below it is a wonderful beach with parking.  This is where I stop on the motor coach so everyone gets a chance to wade in the Pacific Ocean if so desired. Also it is very near the Sea Lion caves.  There is a charge to see the caves but it is a pretty awesome sight and worth the visit.
You can find two more lighthouses near the Newport area.  One is the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and the other is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.  The one on the bay is the second oldest lighthouse in the state.  It has a ninety three foot tower and stands 162 feet above sea level.  There are a lot of seabird nesting sites around this lighthouse and I also like to stop here when I can.
As you continue driving the Cape Meares Lighthouse is ten miles west of Tillamook and US Highway 101.  It stands 217 feet above sea level. This structure was first illuminated in 1890 and automated in 1963.  There is a trail that leads from the parking lot to the lighthouse and there are viewpoints people like to stand on to see sea lions or also for whale watching.
Finally the last one is the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse just south of Seaside.  It stands 133 feet above sea level on a rock islet.  Because it is exposed to fierce storm waves it was given the name “Terrible Tilly.”  There is no public access and was placed here just south of the Columbia River.  However it is visible in a nearby state park.
Even if you don’t get to one of the lighthouses, which would be a shame, just driving the Oregon Coast is an awesome experience.  At any turn in the road you can see waves pounding the shore or the giant monolith rocks that stand like sentinels in the water close to the shore.  It is a truly amazing sight to behold. To me this should be another great area to add to your bucket list.

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I recently did a tour up the coast of the Pacific Northwest and there is so much beauty in that area it inspired to write about a few of the wonderful sites I saw.  First up is the giant Redwoods of California.

Along the coast of Northern California is Redwood National Park as well as several Redwood State Parks.  Starting north of San Francisco as you go over the Golden Gate Bridge you will be astounded by Muir Woods.  As you walk through the grove of Redwoods over one hundred feet tall, you can’t help but marvel at the old growth forest

If you have been to Yosemite National Park, which I have written about in a previous article, the trees living there are the giant sequoias.  They are slightly shorter but more massive than the trees in Muir Woods and along the coast.

The trees in Muir Woods and as you travel up the California Coast are called Coast Redwoods.  These trees grow in the moist climate of this area with winter rains and summer fog.  They keep so much water in their trunks that even a fire won’t burn them down.

About 120 miles south of Crescent City, which is close to the Oregon border, is where all the Redwood Parks begin.  Coming from San Francisco the first park you enter is the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the largest remaining old growth forest in the world.  This park has a road that parallels Highway 101 for 32 miles and is called “The Avenue of the Giants.”

If you have all day you can make many stops but if your time is limited I would recommend two stops.  A third stop you might want to consider is where you drive through a giant redwood tree.  I have never been able to do that because I always go through the area on a motor coach and it can’t fit through the tree.

A very important stop in this area is the Humboldt Interpretive and Welcome Center where Charles Kellogg’s “Travel Log” is on display.  Kellogg was a vaudeville performer who imitated bird songs.  He later campaigned for the protection of the California redwood forests.

Kellogg constructed a mobile home, called the “Travel Log”, out of a redwood tree, and drove it around the country to raise awareness of the plight of the California forests. Its maximum speed was 18 mph.  Looking at it you can just picture the man driving around in his log.

There is also a lot of other information about the redwoods at this visitor center and a short but very nice trail you can walk through just across the street.

I also like to make a stop at “The immortal Tree.”  It is so massive and has been hit with lightening and floods but just keeps on growing.  There is also a nice gift shop there where you can actually purchase Redwood products.  There are several other stops you may enjoy but with our limited time, these are the two stops I make.

Coast Redwoods are the tallest known tree species in the world.  They can average from 150-250 feet tall and some are even over 350 feet tall.  They can have diameters of 12-20 feet.  Sometimes it’s fun to take a picture of several people around one of these massive trees.  I not only do this to show the height but especially to see how many people it takes to form a ring around the tree.

These trees can live several hundred years with some even living over 2,000 years.  The bark can be over one foot thick and has resin making for a strong resistance to disease and fire.  However the shallow root system grows latterly rather than down so they are susceptible to high winds and flooding.

Lightening can cause the trees to hollow out and I stood in one once that was totally hollow but standing over 100 feet tall.  It was a very unique experience.

Redwood has a rich red bark and is easy to work with and resistant to rot.  With the lumber industry so important in this area it is amazing there are so many groves left today.  Thank goodness the state of California preserved these giant wonders by creating so many state parks.

So if you are ever out in San Francisco or anywhere in northern California take a detour up the coast to see these giant wonders. It will definitely be worth your while.

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Do you know the least visited National Park?  While the Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited park in the US, Olympic National Park in Washington State is the least visited.  If you are staying in Seattle there are two ways to get to the peninsula.  You can drive south towards Olympia and take Highway 101 or you can take the ferry to Bainbridge Island.  Then follow Hwy 112 to Hwy101.  Along the way you will cross over the Hood Canal.  This is the longest fjord and floating bridge in the US.  After crossing the bridge you continue driving to the park’s visitor center in Port Angeles.

Olympic National Park has tremendous natural diversity and breathtaking beauty with over 922,651 acres of preserved wilderness. Little has changed since it first became a home for Native American tribes.  In the 1500s European settlements appeared. President Grover Cleveland designated the area as the Olympic Forest Reserve in 1897 and in 1938 President Franklin Roosevelt signed the act establishing the area as a National Park.  Finally in 1981 the area was named a World Heritage site in recognition of its exceptional natural beauty and outstanding diversity of plants and animals.
If you go in early summer the green grass and white & yellow wildflowers along the highway seem to go on forever.  The park contains the only rain forest type flora in the contiguous U.S—265 inches of rain per year and sometimes even more than that. The peninsula is home to the only rainforests in the Continental United States. These forests are among the rainiest places in the world.
Bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Hood Canal and on the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the peninsula has as a backdrop the majestic Olympic Mountains.  At 7,980 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest peak in the park and is easily spotted.
It is also the site of the restoration of the upper reaches of the Elwha River–the largest dam removal project in the U.S. The last of the two very illegal and century old power dams on the Elwha will finally be removed.  This should restore fish habitat and what had been a legendary salmon run of five to six foot King and Sockeye salmon might even have a chance to return.  Although if this happens the salmon will probably not be the size nor numbers of the past.  Both dams were illegally built on the Elwha with no fish ladders. The city of Port Angeles will also benefit from this project with safer drinking water.
Spectacular waterfalls as well as herds of Roosevelt elk are found in this area.  Just passed Port Angeles is a pristine 10-acre natural lake over six hundred feet deep called Lake Crescent.  The first time I drove by the lake, the beauty took my breath away.  It is a glacial lake and the deep blues and greens are amazing.
The way you can always spot a glacier lake is by its colors.  What happened was as the glaciers moved the ice scraped against the surrounding stone.  This stone became ground up into a fine silt called “rock flour.”  As it entered the rivers and streams the silt of the rock flour was suspended in the water.  The reflection of light off the particles eliminates all the colors of the color spectrum except for the beautiful blues and greens. In the Canadians Rockies you find lakes such a beautiful emerald green it literally takes you breath away.
Just passed the lake is Marymere Falls.  If you visit in the summer you will notice large Western Red Cedars and fields of grass loaded with daisies stretched before you.  Then you can take a short but steep one and a half mile hike to the viewing bridge. The waters of Falls Creek drop nearly 90 feet from a cliff into a small plunge pool near the trail below.  And if you are lucky and the sun hits the water just right you will see rainbows.
If you continue west you arrive at Neah Bay.  At this point the road turns south.  When I traveled to that town I drove straight for two miles and ended up on a dirt road for another five miles.  When the road ended I was at the overlook of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  I could see Tatoosh Island in the distance.  This is where the waters of the Pacific Ocean meet the waters of the strait.  I had arrived at the Northernmost spot in the contiguous US.
Whether you like hiking, backpacking or just enjoying the scenery this area should be on your bucket list.  There are so many things to do and see in the area and pictures do not do justice to the incredible sights.  This next summer I will be conducting a tour to this area in July.  If anyone is interested, email me at kileenp@gmail.com for details.  And don’t forget to check out “Journey Beckons” on Amazon to read more about this area.

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This last February my brother and I took the train to Yosemite National Park (well sort of…).  We got on the Pacific Surfliner
at 8:00 a.m. from Oceanside, California to L.A.   The ride from Oceanside to San Juan Capistrano was awesome.  We followed the Pacific Ocean sometimes high up on bluffs and other times right down next to the beach.  We saw a lot of surfers with pelicans circling around them

San Juan Capistrano was a mission established in 1776 and the swallows used to come back every year on March 19th on their migration from Argentina.   Unfortunately since 2009 the swallows now migrate a little further north.

After the train stopped at Capistrano, we headed inland towards L.A.   There we boarded our thruway bus to Bakersfield.  Then it was another train, the San Joaquin, up to Merced, the gateway to Yosemite.   We arrived at 4:30 p.m. and picked up our rent a car before going to our hotel for the next two nights.

The next morning we were up early because we had a lot of miles to cover.   The area we stayed in is referred to as the Valley and many of
California’s fruits and vegetables are raised in this area.  The land is very flat and we drove the long way south to Madera before cutting over towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains where Yosemite is located.

Our plan, in order to see as much of the park as possible, was to drive in the south entrance and drive out the west entrance.  Yosemite’s elevations start at just under 3,000 feet and are as high as 13,000 feet so we had a steep climb from the valley floor to get there.

First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, beautiful meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and a vast wilderness area.   Over 95% of the park is wilderness with the main part of the action in Yosemite Valley where hotels and campsites are located.

Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is known for its geographic and biological diversity.  Most of the trees are the Western Red Cedars (the Sequoias) and Ponderosa Pines.  The Ponderosas were so round and tall I thought they were 200 years old (since they tend to grow a foot a year in most areas) but a ranger told me they were 300 hundred years old.  There are not many places left in the U.S. today that you can see old growth forests like we saw in Yosemite.  There are also two rivers, the Tuolumne and Merced rivers, that begin in the park and flow west to the Central Valley.

For tens of thousands of years humans have lived in this area. The Ahwahneechee lived here for generations, followed by the arrival of Europeans in the mid-1800s. The rugged terrain challenged many of these early travelers who came by horseback or stagecoach.   By 1907, construction of the Yosemite Valley Railroad from Merced to El Portal eased the journey, thereby, increasing visitation.  Historic mining sites remain from miners who came to the Sierra to seek their fortune in gold.  And, today 3.5 million people enter the park every year to explore.

John Muir helped spark the creation of Yosemite National Park in 1890.  He was also instrumental in getting Sequoia and the Grand Canyon named as National Parks.   In 1869, Muir landed a job as a shepherd which gave him the opportunity to study the flora and fauna.  When he saw that the grazing sheep were destroying the area, he lobbied for a National Park.

Yosemite was also a favorite place for photos by Ansel Adams and you may want to read more about both Adams and Muir since space here is limited.  A third person important to the area if you would like to read more is Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service. He used his wealth and political connections to take the national park idea in important new directions when he saw how poorly the parks looked in 1914.  He even hired staff to help him and paid them out of his own pocket.

When you arrive in the valley area you see El Capitan, the 3,000 foot monolith and it is one of the world’s favorite challenges for rock climbers.   You can only climb up because it is way too dangerous to go back down so the trail must be taken.  And right by El Capitan you can gaze upon the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America.  Across from El Capitan there are some other granite monolith rocks, like Half Dome.  These rocks were carved out by the glaciers that came through the area.   But I am getting a little ahead of myself.

We drove for almost an hour after we entered the south entrance and it truly was wilderness.  The only bad thing was it was February and we were over 5,000 feet and there was no snow!  That does not bode well for this summer’s fire season.  Finally we entered a tunnel.  The tunnel was constructed by the WPA in 1933 but as people came out of the tunnel there were so many accidents and the Overlook was a very dangerous place to pull over.  So the Tunnel View Overlook was renovated and re-dedicated in 2008.

The Tunnel View scenic overlook is a historic site, and has beautiful views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and Half Dome. Both the Wawona Tunnel and Tunnel View were determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 because of their exemplary designs.  The overlook is such a popular site that there is an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people who visit every day during the
height of the tourist season.  But even more special to us when we pulled off onto the Overlook was the sun was positioned in such a way it created a huge rainbow on the distant Bridalveil Falls that was an incredible site to behold.

If you ever get to a National Park there is a book about the great lodges of the West.  I have written about the lodges at both Yellowstone and Glacier.  Whenever I get to a new Park, I always try to visit the famous lodge built there.

The lodge in Yosemite is called the Ahwahnee and is quite unique since it was Mather who lobbied for it to be developed.  Many of the
other famous lodges were built with materials found in their areas.  But all natural resources in National Parks are protected now and building materials cannot be used from the parks any more.  Since the lodge was not built until 1926, trucks had to haul all the building materials in over primitive roads seven days a week.  The lodges in Glacier and Yellowstone used existing timber and stone but that can no longer happen.  The primary building materials were steel, granite and concrete and then the outside of the granite and concrete was stained to look like redwood.

There is a central tower several stories tall and three separate wings with huge fireplaces.  The west wing has a dining room that seats 350 people.  The room is 130 feet long, over 51 feet wide and the ceiling reaches 34 feet.    It is a massive room and very beautiful.   During World War II, the Ahwahnee was a rest and relaxation hospital for the Navy.  Over 90,000 troops rested there and almost 7,000 patients were treated at the lodge.

Not too far from the Ahwahnee is Curry Village where you can rents tents and Yosemite Lodge where you can also stay.  There are also little towns just outside the park with lots of hotels and motels so you have a lot of choices when visiting the park.

As the sun was setting we drove down out of the park and back to our hotel in the Valley.  The next day we headed home and that also turned into an adventure.  Our Amtrak train was late; almost an hour by the time we got to Bakersfield.  We were rushed onto out thruway bus to LA.  Our driver was excellent and took several back roads in LA to avoid rush hour.  We actually made our train back to Oceanside with ten minutes to spare!

 

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My company, Mayflower Tours, has a wonderful new tour called Pacific Coast Journey. It is already so popular that they have added another departure to include two in September.

The tour starts in Portland, Oregon, the “City of Roses.” On the first day, there is a welcome dinner @ Rheinlander German restaurant complete with singing waiters. The next day begins with a city tour of Portland, including the famed International Rose Test Gardens. In the afternoon we take a ride along the Columbia River Gorge; the last river Lewis and Clark journeyed on to get to the Pacific coast. Some of the cliffs rise as high as 2,000 feet. There is a stop at the famous Multnomah Falls, the Bonneville Lock & Dam, and finally historic Timberline Lodge at towering Mount Hood.

To digress, the Great Lodges of the West are awesome sites to visit. Paradise is where you find the lodge at Mount Rainier and there are four lodges in the Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park. All the Western National Parks have wonderful old lodges built in the early 1900’s and Timberline lodge at Mount Hood is no exception.

If you want to know more about the lodges there is a book you can buy describing them all, aptly named, “Great Lodges of the West” by Christine Barnes.

On the third day, we journey to the Pacific coast of Oregon. We visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, travel along the breathtaking Three Capes Scenic Drive, and visit the unique Lookout Gift Shop located high above the Pacific at Otter Rock. The views are awesome but one time, I had a man who had Alzheimer’s and he wandered away here. It was a frantic thirty minutes worrying that he might have fallen down the cliff trying to get to the Pacific. I always think of that every time I visit here. (For those wondering, we found him wandering down the road). There is also a stop at the 1873 Yaquina Head Lighthouse before heading to our oceanfront hotel in Newport.

Days 4-7 are packed with excitement. There is a dune buggy ride on the Pacific Ocean @ Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This is a lot of fun but if the wind is blowing, prepare to have your face sandblasted if you don’t have a scarf on. But, don’t women pay a lot of money to have the same effect as a beauty treatment? I’d rather sandblast my face riding on a dune buggy on the ocean. Then it’s on to Crater Lake. (As you probably know, this is another favorite place of mine & you can read about it in a previous article). There is also a jetboat ride down the Rogue River through the spectacular Hellgate Canyon wilderness area and finally a ride through the redwoods along the “Avenue of the Giants.”

After a stop in Sonoma touring and tasting at the Korbel Champagne Cellars, it’s off to an inn in Novato for 2 nights. The last full day is touring San Francisco, including the Bay tour. We end the tour with a farewell dinner in San Francisco’s famed Chinatown. Actually, sometime I will write an article about San Fran. You can spend several days there seeing the sights in and about that area and not grow bored. But for now this journey is over, and flying out of San Francisco you can look back at all the sights and attractions you have stored in your memory forever.

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For the next few weeeks I will be discussing some top vacation spots for you to consider.  If you have any ideas that you would like me include, send your thoughts thru facebook or twitter.  They can be places, like national parks or cities, or special attractions.

First up, one of my favorites–Seattle & the Pacific Northwest.  This is a perfect place to visit anytime mid-June -Aug.  If you want to know about specific places you might want to consider my book, Journey Beckons.  You can buy it on Amazon in book form or the kindle version is only $3.99.  And then you can do what a friend who went on an Alaskan cruise out of Seattle told me she did–“follow in the footsteps of Cassie & Ryan.”  Of course, the characters are not real but the places they go to are.  Read about the Olympic Peninsula, the San Juan Islands, and Vancouver Island where the wonderful city of Victoria is located.  And, of course, don’t forget all the great sights in the city of Seattle, itself.

If you get there, don’t forget to visit Ivar’s down on the waterfront for the best clam chowder in the entire US (of course this is my opinion but I have tried lots of different versions from Seattle to New England).  And while there, you might get lucky & the mountain (all 14,411 feet of it) will be out & you can eat your soup while looking at the surreal sight of Rainier standing like a sentinel over the city.  How cool is that?

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