Sedona: Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock

18 06 2018

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Ruth Ann, Tully and I managed to get through the traffic south of town, to reach Red Rock State Park. At this time, about mid-day, it was cloudy. Still, the mesas were very beautiful. And if one looked close, the struggle of life in the desert was there for all to see. Our shoes padded through dry, soft dirt. The flora around was very dry, and lots of it had protection like needles or prickers. Evolution created plants specialized to take advantage of whatever rain comes.

Many plants are succulents, evolved to hold onto and store water. And it’s true, the rocks there are red. Or, orange-red.

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And where the rocks are eroded in such a way to capture water for any length of time, even way up on a mesa, oases of life have been created. Life finds a way. On these little places where water stayed on a bit longer, plants that normally grow elsewhere created a miniature ecosystem for themselves!

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Great picture with Ruth Ann. Up above you can see life has taken advantage of every place water has collected.

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I’m holding a nice tumbleweed!

After having our fill at Red Rock, we journeyed further to find Sedona’s famous Cathedral Rock. Using our GPS was of limited use. We kind of futzed around down where we knew it was to be, and eventually found a park and trailhead. During our walk, I kept watch on the sky, and I noticed an upcoming clearing was pending. We waited for it to happen, and it paid off!

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I suck at selfies but this one worked! The sun breaks through!

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On our way out it continued to clear and the red rocks glowed brightly!

 

And what would a day be without a great picture of Ruth Ann!

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So, our day down at Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock was a good one! For Tully and I, it was going to be back to Albuquerque. On the way we’d visit the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and Meteorite Crater.

 

 

 





Wooden Ships, History and Paddling in Port Townsend, WA

21 09 2018
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Schooner at the Wooden Boat Festival

My friends Suzanne and Bob Eggleston recently moved up to Port Townsend and I went up to visit. When you’re living in Portland, Oregon, it’s often easy to forget that a wonderful salt water recreational paradise lies a couple of hours north! Not only that, but many towns in the northern Puget Sound are in a rain shadow – they receive less than half the rain Portland or Seattle gets. This meteorological fact has attracted quite a few folks relocating or retiring.

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Port Townsend has quite a view. You can typically see not only the beautiful vessels in the harbor and the historic buildings, but Mt. Baker dominates the view east. Mt Baker is  10,781 ft and is very glaciated. But on this trip, smoke from wildfires in British Columbia obscured the view.

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Working every weekend in the outdoor recreation business, I looked forward to this mid-week visit. Just after Labor Day and before the Wooden Boat Festival. The early 20th-Century downtown was not thronged with tourists. To get there, I drove up the Hood Canal, and arrived in town about mid afternoon on Tuesday. The drive up Hood Canal was very pretty. Quite the transition to a saltwater culture. Lots of towns right on the water. Some seem to be harvesting oysters for income, and others making ends meet from the tourist industry.

Suzanne and Bob settled in a community named Kala Point. It’s very much peaceful once you pass the gate. Problems of the outside world are left behind. It even has its own pickle-ball courts and a beach where kayaks and rowing boats are stored.

In town, we walked the waterfront, glimpsing the wooden craft coming into port for the Wooden Boat Festival. Power Yachts big and small, schooners, ketches, yawls, sloops and dinghies all coming in.

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Suzanne and Bob on the docks.

After walking the docks, we went to dinner at Sirens Pub, which has a to-die-for view of the docks. Not only that, but my Portobello Mushroom salad was really scrumptious.

One of our highlight activities was to be a paddle on the bay!

I brought up my kayak and Suzanne borrowed a Hobie pedal drive kayak from a kind (and trusting) neighbor.

 

 

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Dinner with a view at The Sirens Pub

Kala Point has its own beach so we headed down there. Perfect day for a paddle! Wind out of the North Northeast about 10-12 mph. Launching my Current Designs Sisu is a simple affair, even with the seaweed along the shoreline. Suzanne’s Hobie Mirage Drive kayak is a bit more problematic. It has these “fins” which move back and forth underneath the kayak and are driven by pedals up on deck. It’s got bicycle chains connecting, and anything that the fins/chains come into contact with can throw off the whole system. So launching Suzanne involved keeping “fins up” and moving out beyond the clogging seaweed. Either way we got ourselves launched and out into the bay.

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Suzanne about to go to sea!

We spent several hours out there. Super nice to get out on the water!

 

 





Waldo Lake, OR – Beautiful Paddling and Starry Nights

13 09 2018

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Waldo Lake, located about 50 miles east of Eugene, is one of the most pure lakes in the world. It’s one of Oregon’s natural wonders. For sailors and paddlers Waldo Lake is a dream. No powerboats are allowed. So it’s like going back in time. It has no incoming streams – it gets its water from springs and snowmelt only. In fact, the water is so pure, fish cannot live there. Gliding over its surface, you can see 140 feet down. I’ve been going there for years, because the camping on the west side is paddle-in only. Recently, though, forest fires seem to crop up in mid-August every year sending smoke. So there are campfire prohibitions on that side. So this time we car camped on the east side. Because Waldo sits at 5,240 feet altitude, snow melts late and mosquitoes can be a problem in early summer. With the bugs early and fire smoke later on, we decided to visit in early August rather than around Labor Day, as we’d normally do. We lucked out. The bugs were not bad and we had clear air.

I set out with Jessie and her brother Joel. We stuck three kayaks on the roof of my Ford Escape and packed in all the gear. We set out to snag a camping spot. Bill Baxter and Julie Dale would join us the following day.

I’ve never made camping reservations and as usual it worked out this time. We camped at the North Waldo Campground. It’s got a lot of lakeside sites but they were all taken. Still, we got a site just across the road, within walking distance to get our boats to the shore.

After setting up camp, we “slothed” around, reading and relaxing. It was so beautiful by the lake. There were a number of different types of clouds, cirrus, and cumulus. It was fun to watch the little cumulonimbus clouds build. None reached thunderstorm strength. Then, after dinner, we went down to the shore. One by one, the planets came out. We saw Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all at once. Then the International Space Station flew over, and then according to my Star App on my phone, the Hubble Space Telescope too! The Milky Way was so magnificent. And with my powerful binoculars we could check out nebulae.

Next morning, after breakfast, Jessie and I set out to explore the shoreline to discover new campsites. We didn’t really find any on the east shore. We did find some beaches and lunch spots though!

Our paddle took us all the way across the lake, not far from Rhododendron Island. It was much farther than I remembered. By the time Jessie and I made it back to our starting point it was after 2:00. We were both exhausted. After wolfing down lunch I took a stroll exploring the campground. When I returned Bill and Julie had arrived! We all had a gregarious afternoon and evening. We checked out the stars again and did another paddle.

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Next morning we gobbled up everything and set out for another day on the lake. There is no doubt that camping coffee is a nectar of the Gods that can’t be beat!





Backyard Lakes: Trillium and Timothy

25 06 2018
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Trillium Lake just over an hour from my house!

Anyone who lives in Portland, Oregon like I do, has difficult decisions with free time. Go west 75 mins to the coast? Go north to Mt. St. Helens or the Gifford Pinchot National Forest? Head to the Columbia Gorge? South to Wine Country? Or due east to the playground that is the Mount Hood National Forest. Over the past couple of weeks the weather has been great, so I spent some time up by Mt. Hood.

I spent a day relaxing at the shore at Timothy Lake, and not long after, met my friend Laura up there and spent an evening under the stars. Each time, the weather was spectacular. And early season, before school gets out, these lakes shine and seem like Olde Tyme camping. That’s because they are super warm, nobody’s around, and it’s super off season. And added bonus: You will have spring flowers at your campsite! Rhododendron and Trillium are in full bloom. And the there is still snow on the peaks. The flowers, the blue lakes, the green forest and the snow on the mountains make for a feast for the eyes!

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On the day visit, I needed some “me time” and simply packed a lunch, some stuff to read, and most of my camp stoves to tune up for the camping season. I forgot the old Coleman Dual Fuel 533.

On the “day visit,” campgrounds were maybe 25% full. It was so quiet I only encountered one wife with kids on the shore. Oh. Well, wait a minute! I encountered a whole family! Just not human.

 

The geese have a plan of action. Adults have a guard who keeps up a vigil whilst the kids and other adults can clean and preen. There is a rear guard too. I found the longer I just sat, the trust built and they came up almost to my toes. No worries!

Okay, so then the following Monday I resolved to go up and spend the night. It would be my “birthday eve.” Laura, who was in Bend, Oregon, offered to meet me up there and celebrate. It was another perfect day!

The evening was pretty chilly but in my sleeping bag, with pillows, and a ski hat and the all-important eye shades for the Pacific NW 4:45 a.m. sunrise, I was set. No tent fly needed, the stars are far more important! The sky was absolutely bright with the Milky Way on full display.

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Venus was on hand for my birthday eve sunset. Not the sharpest focus but I hope you get the idea!

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Laura captures an image of the sunset.

For Timothy Lake, my suggestion is its best times are before school gets out in the early summer, or after Labor Day.  In high season summer, it’s best mid week. However, there are plenty of kayak-in or hike-in spots on the opposite side of the lake. There is opportunity for quiet camping over there!

 





Sedona, Arizona: Reuniting with Friends

17 06 2018

Our next destination was Sedona. I’d been there back in 2003 with my girlfriend Tonya. We stayed out in Jerome, about 25 minutes away. I remembered hiking the Oak Creek Canyon section, and spending a few hours by the river looking at Cathedral Rock.

Sedona’s big draw is its beautiful red rock canyons and rock formations. This time we’d be doing some hiking but I’d also meet up with some friends I’d not seen in ages. My friend Ruth Ann, who’d moved to Arizona from Portland and I hadn’t seen in 9 years would meet us. And my high school friend Kim Kroeger Miles lives in Sedona. I had not seen her since the mid 1980’s! We all had a cookout at Kim’s house, which is surrounded by the red rocks. I was a little nervous seeing people I hadn’t seen in so long! So much history has gone on since last we met. Children, marriages, near-death experiences, travel, and triumphs.

 

It turned out to be a lot of fun. Kim made a unique Caesar Salad, whipped up some burgers for the grill, and created an amazing dessert made with some of the fruit from her orchard. So good to visit!

The following day Ruth Ann, Tully and I set out to get outside to see some of Sedona’s outdoor attractions. What I discovered is that Sedona is an international magnet for tourists, so much so that it might not be possible to visit on a budget. And its roads are jammed with tourist buses and cars. The main road just cannot handle all that traffic! And while beautiful, every trail we visited charged a fee, from $5 to $20! It was so busy the Oak Creek trail was “sold out.” I imagine locals know other less busy trails to get out on.

The first park we visited was Slide Rock State Park. It was open, and not busy. We learned it really doesn’t have trails, just a swimming area and picnic area on the river. It would be busy in warmer weather!

Next, we decided to visit Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock. We’d be driving through downtown Sedona to get there. Wow, what a traffic jam! On the single-lane on the other side of the road, it was bumper to bumper for a couple of miles. Lucky for us, our side wasn’t so bad. I’ll cover those parks in the next post!





Grand Canyon, AZ day two

7 06 2018

 

OK, yesterday we checked out the eastern side of the South Rim, and glimpsed the sunset. One thing about the Grand Canyon, and some of the other Planet Earth Famous places I’ve been (like Torres Del Payne, and Angkor Wat) is that these are international superstars. We heard Chinese, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Hindi, and at sunset, one language we could not pin down. It was a family, so we asked them. It was Portuguese, they were Brazilians!

Okay, for this day the idea was to spend a few hours “getting into the Canyon.” Tully had been here before twice, the first in high school, and he’d hiked all the way down and back up. We certainly didn’t have the time to do that today, but we decided to hike the well-trodden Bright Angel Trail down a ways and back.

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Icicles clinging from flora at the start of our hike!

A well-known fact about hiking in the Grand Canyon is transitional climates. The weather or temperature at the rim might be chilly but at the bottom it can be unmercifully HOT. On the day we hiked we struck a PERFECT balance. It was chilly when we started but nice and warm on the return.

I forgot to mention the altitude. I did feel some altitude oxygen deprivation my 1st 36 hours. But by the day our hike arrived, I was acclimated just fine. So my suggestion if you head to the park: Don’t try to do these hikes your first day. Spend that day doing less strenuous activities like hiking the flat rim. The 7,000 to 8,000 ft. altitude doesn’t sound like much, but if you are accustomed to living within 100ft of sea level, believe me, you will notice it your 1st 24 hours.

 

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On this wall something had “scratched” the rocks.

Today it was much more busy. People had rented bicycles, the “Grand Canyon Train” had arrived, somewhat like some kind of cruise ship, and the “village” was packed with folks from all over. I ought to mention the North Rim was closed. If you get to the Park later in the year, go to the North Rim and you will get a much more up and close personal experience. It gets more snow, and was closed in mid -April when we were there.

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We continued down the Bright Angel Trail to its 1st rest stop. This was only about 1.5 miles. There were a lot of other folks. Some had done the hike down to the bottom and spent the night there, and were coming back up. Others were completely unprepared. I saw women in fur coats. Saw flip flops. And a guy trying to run the trail with his smart phone in his hand. On our way down we passed through millions of years of geologic time. We chanced upon a National Park Guide, who told us that this trail hugged a geologic fault and pointed out that the rocks on one side of the trail mis matched the rocks on the other side because of faulting!

We did not spend as much time down there as anticipated, but it was OK as this place, an international magnet, was getting super busy. Once back at the Rim, we saw even more tourists. It was time to head back. Next stop: Sedona Arizona and meeting up with more friends!





Grand Canyon, Arizona, day one

5 06 2018

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I’d never been to the Grand Canyon. It was way overdue! Since my college and Portland, OR friend Tully Alford moved down to Albuquerque, NM we hatched a plan to visit Grand Canyon National Park as well as meet up with some other old friends in Sedona.

I landed in Albuquerque about Noon, and after a bite we set off to Flagstaff where we’d spend the 1st night. We stayed at the Flagstaff Hostel, in a room on the 2nd floor. I can’t recommend. They forgot to provide towels, and the twin beds didn’t even have top sheets. It’s also noisy, with the all-night-long busy BNSF railway just a block distant. Literally there were 100-car-long freight trains every 10 minutes. It might be cheap, but you pay in loss of rest!

After stuffing down the biggest breakfast burrito I have ever seen, I rode with Tully driving to the Canyon. IMG_0055

Today we’d spend the afternoon on the east side of the South Rim, and then check out the famous Grand Canyon sunset. It was mid-April on a Tuesday – and not terribly busy.

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I’d heard the crowds can be crushing in summer. The road wends its way not far from the canyon rim, with many turn-outs sporting spectacular views.

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A view from the South Rim, the Colorado River cutting through.

Grand Canyon is truly one of the wonders of Planet Earth. The Colorado River runs 277 miles through, and it’s over a mile deep. From the North Rim at 8,255ft to Diamond Creek at 1,500ft, a hike down is a journey covering nearly 2 billion years of geologic history. And on the way down (or up) hikers pass through numerous climate zones, homes to innumerable flora and fauna.  An early morning hike includes icicles clinging to rim flora, then by mid day it can be roasting down below.

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The colors of the rocks, combined with the sky and the spring-green of the trees and bushes made it super vivid.

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We arrived at the Tusayan Museum and Ruin. It’s located right on the rim.

We went back to the village to check out some more information about the park. Then it was time to see sunset fall on the canyon. The canyon is overwhelming during the day, but the sun is at its highest, which can cause colors to seem bleached out. It is at the beginning or end of the day, when the sun is lower, that its colors really pop out.

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The next day we’d take a hike down one of the canyon’s trails and get an up close experience!