Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oregon Coast Part I

In February Z and I headed up to Anacortes in northern Washington, but instead of following our usual route straight up Interstate 5, we decided to take a detour and explore some of the Oregon coastline. We spent the night at the Guesthouse Inn in Sutherlin, and the next morning we headed west along picturesque Highway 38. The skies started out with brilliant sunshine, but the temperatures hovered around 28 degrees the whole day. In short, it was beautiful but freezing; you'd never know it by the photos I took!

Our first coastal destination was Reedsport, 
where we checked out the Umpqua River Lighthouse...

 Reedsport is also home to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area...

 Our next stop was Florence...
 There's a quaint historic downtown filled 
with art galleries, cafes, and boutiques...
 ...and a big harbor...
 All along Highway 101 there are pullouts where you can savor 
views of the coastline...
 Haceta Head Lighthouse off in the distance...
 The Assistant Keeper's house...
 One of the many spectacular beaches...
 Waldsport...
 Alsea-Bay Bridge in Waldsport...
 Clouds were moving in and temperatures were dropping...
 Newport and the Yaquina Bay Bridge...
 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse...
 Boats safe in the harbor...

 Harbor seals resting near the pier...
 Yaquina Head Lighthouse silhouetted...
 More coastal vistas...
 Cape Foulweather and foul weather approaching...
We ended up spending the night in Lincoln City with plans to continue northward as far as Astoria at daybreak. The next morning, however, we awoke to news that a large, freezing snowstorm was quickly approaching the coastline. It threatened to dump a lot of snow on most of western Oregon. We had to make a choice: stay put in the motel for a couple of days until the storm and ice subsided, or hightail it out of there and try to get through Portland and Vancouver, Washington before the storm started causing trouble on the Interstate.

We packed our bags, paid our bill, loaded up the car, and sped eastward along Highway 18 all the while watching in our rearview mirror as the storm got closer and closer. We were determined to outrun the storm. It started snowing heavily as we crossed the Columbia River and reached Vancouver, Washington. Luckily we made it through the worst before a big accident closed the interstate down, and we didn't need to utilize our chains. As we reached Chehalis, the skies and road surface started to clear up. Whew! As it turned out, we had made the right choice by leaving. The entire area ended up getting snowed in for a few days.

Next stop: Northern Washington.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Manzanar National Historic Site, CA

After our enjoyable visit to Death Valley, our next destination was Manzanar, which is one of the ten internment camps where Japanese Americans were forced to relocate during World War II. In Spanish, Manzanar means apple orchard, but there are no signs of apples there today, only stark reminders of the injustices the prisoners endured during this unfortunate period in our history.

Now Manzanar is a National Historic Site - thanks to a group of survivors who fought long and hard to preserve its history. You can visit a very impressive and informative museum and then tour the remains of the encampment by vehicle. As we drove around the acreage, we could only imagine the feelings of desolation and devastation that the internees must have felt. The entire site is well worth a visit; don't pass it up if you find yourself in the Owens Valley.

Here we are on our way to Manzanar...


A lone Joshua Tree dots the countryside...
Before we reached Manzanar, we stopped off in a tiny town called Keeler just next to Owens Lake...

Here's a view of the Eastern Sierras with the rocky Alabama Hills in the foreground; 
one of those distant peaks is Mt. Whitney...
The town of Lone Pine is just a little bit south of Manzanar 
and is a jumping off point for mountaineers and wilderness fans...




The entrance to Manzanar...
A replica of a historic watch tower...
The parking lot was pretty much empty, so we had the place to ourselves...
Just follow the road for a tour...
You can go inside the barracks for a glimpse of what life was like...

The old hanger in the background is now the Interpretive Center...

Such a stark, barren landscape...
The memorial at the cemetery site reads "Soul Consoling Tower"...
The inscription on the back reads "Erected by the Manzanar Japanese"...

A weathered prayer cloth...
Only five graves remain in the cemetery...
The Eastern Sierras are known for extremes in climate - hot, dusty, dry summers 
and freezing cold winters... 

Z and I had planned to continue up along Highway 395 all the way to Carson City and then head back to the Bay Area via I-80, but as this last photo suggests, a big storm was moving in, so after spending the night in Bishop, which by the way is quite a charming little town, we abandoned our plans and drove south along 395 and headed back home through Tehachapi and then on Highway 99.

Another successful road trip completed. But there's more to come - Next stop Oregon.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Death Valley National Park, CA

After a brief stopover in Ridgecrest and Randsburg, Z and I made our way to Death Valley National Park. The last time I was here, I was a lot poorer and had to pitch a tent in one of the campgrounds. Fast forward several decades later - and luckily for Z - I was able to splurge and book a few nights at the Furnace Creek Ranch, not to be confused with the luxurious Furnace Creek Inn. I was very pleased with our accommodations. The Ranch has everything you need: restaurants, a well-stocked general store, a museum, golf course, horse stable, swimming pool, garden paths, and a variety of rooms. We ended up on the second floor of the building closest to the golf course. We were not disappointed.

You definitely need several days to see all of Death Valley and if you want to do lots of hiking, you either need more than several days or you will have to scale back your explorations through the park. We only had three days, so we weren't able to see everything, which just means that I'll have to go back, right?

Here's a brief tour of our stay...

We entered at Panamint Springs Area...

Then stopped at the Stove Pipe Wells Area...
You can buy gas and take a break here...

And hiked around the sand dunes at Mesquite Flat...
Our last stop of the day was Furnace Creek Ranch...
There's a post office if you need one...
The General Store has just about anything you may need during your stay...
Our room was in this building...
Here's a view of the golf course and our building...
A peek from our room...
The golf course and desert  mountains...
You can also stay in one of these bungalows...
The spring-fed swimming pool was divine...

The outdoor museum has lots of interesting old items...

We took a stroll to the solar power facility...

This old carriage is at the entrance to Furnace Creek...
Leaving Furnace Creek Ranch...
We checked out the Harmony Borax Works Interpretive Trail...
Then we spent a day checking out Badwater Basin Area...




And drove the Artist's Loop Drive...
We had to visit the spectacular Zabriskie Viewpoint...

And we hiked to Natural Bridge...

That's me up there on that rock...
Some travelers choose to bike it...
The next day we took the winding road up to Dante's Viewpoint at 5475 feet...
Here's the incredible view from Dante's point...



Time to leave...
In our trusty old Toyota Corolla...
Springtime is probably the best time to visit this park so that you can enjoy the blooming wildflowers; however, because of the severe drought that even this desert has had to endure, there may not be too many wildflowers this year. I'm just happy that I was once again able to experience the beauty of this wonderful national treasure.

Next stop: Manzanar.