Redwoods, Six Rivers and the Trinity Alps

Marine fog layers from the Humboldt Bay deposit their moisture on the foothills of the Trinity Alps, which is one of the reasons the giant redwoods exist only along the extreme northern California coastline. Climbing east on highway 299 toward Willow Creek elevates us within just 10 miles/16 km above the fog and reveals a clear blue California sky and temperatures 20F/10C degrees warmer than on sea-level. This is a beautiful and bizarre landscape.

The Trinity River between Weaverville and Burnt Ranch has carved a deep and steep canyon that offers plenty of outdoor activities including rafting. The Trinity Alps Wilderness, the second larges wilderness in California, extends to the north providing a gazillion hiking trails reaching up to 9000 ft/ 2700 m. The Trinity River flows into the wild and scenic Klamath River which runs into the Pacific Ocean approximately 50 miles/80 km north of Arcata. Starting in Willow Creek, Highway 97 follows the Klamath River east for 130 miles/210 km to the town of Yreka. One can still see people along the river making a living by panning and sluicing gold. The landscape is varied and beautiful and does not conform with the California picture promoted around the world. There are no palm trees, no neon signs, no endless strip malls, no clogged highways and for sure no high-rises. This is California’s best, I love this place.

We checked out the Mad River Brewery in Arcata and enjoyed their Jamaica Red Ale and their Redwood Stout. Both beers were excellent and the food served was good. By chance I discovered a new seasonal beer from the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka; the Winterbraun. I always was of the opinion that the Downtown Brown from the Lost Coast Brewery is one of the best micro brews in the USA. Well, the Winterbraun is better.

On a hike in the Trinity Alps close to Willow Creek, our dog Dublin rolled in something better unknown, which left a truly disgusting smell. The dog however seemed to think that the smell was perfectly ok. A wash with the outdoor shower prior to entering the motorhome was required and he kind of carried a light touch of the aroma for a few days. But we still love him.

After more than one year of traveling across the country we know that a significant number of low-income families are living permanently on campgrounds and RV parks. While we can all agree that living in a recreational vehicle is better than living under a bridge, it is also clear that most of these people did not choose to live in these spaces. Their socio-economic situation has forced them to abandon more traditional living arrangements and a lot of them are not happy about that, in fact, they are angry. As such they contribute to the huge pool of angry people in this country.

In preparation for our stay in the Bay Area we learned that pretty much all RV parks are full. There are not a large number of RV parks in the Bay Area in the first place and the few that exist are full. Which is probably correlating well to the tight housing market in and around San Francisco. One place in Marin along highway 101 had spaces available and quoted us a price of $762 per week, approximately $3200 per month. Really? The fact that they got the stones to quote us such a price tells me that we collectively have lost our minds. Lastly we found a site on the Alameda Fairground RV Park in Pleasanton for a reasonable price and with connection to BART.

Last but not least, we took a walk through the cute Victorian community of Ferndale were we had a very dog-friendly lunch and saw a photographer’s shop that displayed a number of funny photo-shopped images. I liked these two:

Stay tuned.

California, here we come ……..

Florence, a 10.000 souls community on the central Oregon coast has been home to us for the last week. Located at the delta of the Siuslaw river the city offers a cute downtown with some good seafood restaurants and watering holes. The coastline around Florence is stunningly beautiful and is interrupted by high cliffs and quaint sandy beaches. Even better, dogs are allowed to roam off-leash on all Oregon beaches.

 

Because of the tight and curvy nature of the road, the 180 miles/ 290 km trip from Astoria to Florence along highway 101 south took approximately 5 hours. The GPS used in the motorhome considers the dimension of the vehicle in choosing the most appropriate route from point A to point B. While rolling on highway 101, the GPS persistently tried to direct us to interstate highway I5 which we stubbornly denied. Approaching the Heceta Head approximately 15 miles/ 22km north of Florence the GPS gave a final warning about an upcoming tunnel with a 11 ft 6 inches height limitation. Our motorhome is approximately 13 ft high. If this limitation were real we would have to unhitch the tow vehicle and turn the motorhome around on a very tight and exposed two-lane road. However, I did not believe that the GPS is correct and cautiously moved on until we met the object, a tunnel that indeed was 11 ft 6 inches on the sides but 14 ft 6 inches in the middle. We waited for a moment of no oncoming traffic and drove in the middle of the tunnel occupying parts of both lanes.

Believe it or not, we had a mouse in the Honda Fit. It is a mystery to me how these little buggers get into closed spaces. The no-kill trap and a piece of cheese did the trick again.

The republican lawmakers in Washington, DC voted last week to permit oil drilling in ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Unlike these clowns, I have been to ANWR several times and seen the unspoiled nature of this place. Do we really need to sacrifice it for oil and gas extraction? Clearly, there is no lack of drilling and fracking sites in the USA. We just crossed North Dakota and I know what I am talking about. BTW, some of this oil and gas, whether we like it or not, will have to be left in the ground. We cannot afford to burn it all.

Stay tuned.

 

Pacific North-West

The city of Bend on the east side of the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon has developed over the most recent 20 years into a nice but expensive, liberal leaning community of approximately 80.000. Bend is located in a truly spectacular landscape dominated by dormant volcanoes and ancient lava flows at an elevation of 4000 ft/1200 m.

We only stayed for one week in Bend but we used most of the time for outdoor activities. I don’t know why it took so long to visit the Smith Rock State Park for the first time. Even though we were there on a weekend with a small crowd of people, this little park did not disappoint. I found it very refreshing to see that a lot of visitors were young climbers.

Needless to say, we also visited the Deschutes Brewery and evaluated the outstanding Black Butte Porter, the enjoyable Obsidian Stout and last but not least the surprising Mt. Bachelor Bitter. Yummy.

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After leaving Bend we spent two nights in the excellent Maupin city RV park right next to the Deschutes River. Maupin is a small community of 400 in the middle of nowhere about 40 miles south of The Dalles. Visitors to Maupin are interested in two things only; fly-fishing and rafting. Those two outdoor activities are the lifeblood of the community and the people that live here.

The Deschutes River has carved a big canyon into the eastern Oregon landscape. Just 50 miles from Maupin the Deschutes River joins the mighty Columbia River. One of the tributaries to the Deschutes River is the White River, which close to its confluence falls over several levels in the White River Falls State Park.

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Approximately six years ago we have been to Astoria, OR for a single day visit. I liked this little city from the beginning. It looked like a place with history, character and an interesting bunch of inhabitants. It looked like a city that has organically grown over a long period of time. I am pretty sure the weather in Astoria can be miserable, but something tells me that this is a place I could live.

Astoria is a quirky little town of approximately 10.000 at the mouth of the Columbia River with Cape Disappointment, WA to the north and Fort Stevens, OR to the south. Astoria is the seat of Clatsop county which marks the endpoint of the 1804 – 1806 Lewis & Clark expedition that discovered the West. The small group of discoverers wintered 1805 to 1806 in Fort Clatsop close to what is today the community of Warrenton, OR. My hat goes off to these folks that travelled for several years through an unknown country without any infrastructure. No roads, no bridges, no shelters, no means of communication. Early Americans were so versatile, they carried their tools with them and wherever they stopped they were able to build a homestead and survive.

We visited the North Head Lighthouse, the Cap Disappointment Lighthouse, the Peter Iredale shipwreck, Cannon Beach, Long Beach, the Indian Beach, the Leadbetter Point State Park and Fort Clatsop.

 

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The dogs loved being back on the ocean.

After the shooting event in Las Vegas, America is going through an intense gun regulations debate. As far as I remember, America has gone through an intense gun regulations debate every time a mass shooting occurred. Asked about the Las Vegas event, the former FOX anchor Bill O’Reilly stated, “this is the price of freedom”. I for whatever reason started thinking about this statement a lot. If O’Reilly is right and there is nothing that can be done to at least significantly reduce the frequency of these events, the societal response will be extremely polarizing. You either pack your bags and get the hell out of Dodge City, or, get yourself armed to your teeth and be prepared to defend yourself against everything at any time. Both options are quit frankly not very appealing, at least not for me. However, I am cautiously optimistic that there are groups in this country that will be able to find a solution between the two extremes. Just keep on pushing, something will have to give. It would be in the interest of all of us.

On Friday we will start migrating south along the Pacific coast and Highway 101 from Astoria to the San Francisco Bay Area; 800 miles/1300 km of sheer bliss.

Stay tuned.

A River runs through it

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The Big Wood River is a 137 miles/220 km long river that originates in the Sawtooth Mountains close to Galena Pass. The valley named after the river stretches south-west and includes the lovely communities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey. The Big Wood River is a tributary of the Malad River, which is a tributary to the Snake River and the Snake River subsequently feeds into the Columbia River.

If I would ever stay for a longer period of time in this area, I would like to learn how to fly-fish. The Big Wood River has a very calming, almost meditative quality.

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Our two-week stay in Ketchum, ID has sadly come to an end. Sure, we could have extended by a week or two if we wanted to, but then we would not be able to do other things we planned to do. Such is life. Every time you say yes to something, you also say no to something else. We left on 19 Sep 2017 and rolled west again towards Bend, OR for a one-week stay. In order to manage the 480 miles/770 km trip from Ketchum to Bend we boondocked for one night in a lovely BLM area near Juntura on the Central Oregon Highway (Highway 20). While Highway 20 provides a narrow band of cell phone connectivity, just one or two miles off the highway there is no service. To be more exact, there is not only no cell phone service, there is nothing but wide-open space.

Oregon is a pretty big state and the center of the state is surprisingly remote. Most people know Oregon as a lush and green state with big forests and plenty of volcanoes stretching south to north along the pacific coast. Well, in the rain-shadow east of the Cascade Mountains Oregon is high and dry and the population density is extremely low.

It is interesting to experience the absence of the world-wide-web on once activities. How did we ever live without all these devices? It is clear to me that we are all hopelessly addicted to our cell-phones, tablets and computers.

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Being in Ketchum was great. We hiked everyday on different trails in the Big Wood River Valley. To name a few there was the Fox Creek Trail, the Adam Gulch Trail, the Oregon Gulch Trail, the Chocolate Gulch Trail, the Stanley Lake Trail, Proctor Mountain Trail and last but not least the Titus Lake Trail.

We re-evaluated the Sawtooth Brewery and successfully sampled their “False Summit Amber Ale” and their “Mustache Black Rye IPA”.

On the trails we met a number of elk/deer bow & arrow hunters. Hunting these big animals with such a weapon is an activity that is not only strenuous but also requires a great amount of skills. These folks carry a lot of equipment into high mountain regions and have to get really close to an animal before they can attempt a kill. After the kill, they have to dress the animal down and carry it out on their backs. Once an elk or deer is on the ground, there is a lot of competition for the easy food source, including wolves and bears.

The nighttime temperatures in Ketchum prior to our departure dropped as low as 22F/-6C and the higher elevations of the Big Wood River Valley had received a first dusting of snow. Let me remind you, these are the last days of summer.

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While in Ketchum we also spent time and money taking advantage of the excellent veterinary services provided by the Ketchum Animal Clinic. The clinic is known for it’s expertise in animal joint diseases and we asked them to diagnose Coopers limping (which manifested itself the last time in June 2017). The problem was determined to be CED (Canine Elbow Dysplasia). We were ready to submit Cooper to joint surgery, however, the clinic does not offer surgical solutions for CED. The disease, when active, must be managed with medication. The rest of the pets received vaccinations as needed.

After the visit to Bend we will move to the left coast. We have not seen our friend the Pacific ocean for almost one year.

Stay tuned.

Middle of Nowhere – Center of the Universe

Happy September y’all. It’s about time we enter fall and enjoy some cooler temperatures. With the official vacation season being over and kids are back in school the country belongs to the non-working people again.

housemouseIt is ironic that on one hand we are living with two cats and on the other hand we had mice living amongst us. Since the cats were unable to catch the intruders we declared total war on the little rodents and we were not taking any prisoners. Just kidding, we are sissies and bought a no-kill mouse trap. As of today we have caught and released four of these little buggers. At the moment there are no signs of additional rodents.

_BDS0963We observed the 21 Aug. 2017 solar eclipse right outside of the motorhome in Wallowa, OR on a meadow under a cloud-free sky. Using a very strong neutral density filter on a 400 mm lens we observed the moon as a black disk moving over the disk of the sun until there was only a slight slice of the sun’s disk uncovered. 97% of totality. The small amount of the sun’s disk peaking out provided enough light to illuminate the landscape, it was not entirely dark. The light was very dim, the temperature dropped instantly. The landscape appeared in bizarrely false and eerie colors.

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The Wallowa Mountains provide a beautiful playground in a very remote location. The dogs and I hiked the Eagle Cap Wilderness entering from several trailheads. We hiked the Bear Creek Trail and the Huckleberry Trail near Wallowa. After those trails we explored the Lostine Corridor and starting at the Two Pan Trailhead we explored the East & West Fork of the Lostine River Trails. Finally we hiked the West Fork of the Wallowa River Trail starting at the Wallowa Lake Trailhead. All of these trails are long distance trails that require in/out hiking. They all can be characterized by rather steep approaches to the higher regions of the Wallowa Mountains.

Unfortunately, during our stay there were no opportunities for landscape photography due to the persistent smoke from burns in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The western USA is on fire.

The Mutiny Brewery in Joseph has been closed permanently. However, not all was lost since the Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise is still operational. They have a really nice and dog-friendly beer-garden attached to the brewery building that offers decent food and good beer. I liked their Apolitical Stout and the Eagle Cap IPA. The tastiest beer in my opinion however was the Tap-out, a American Strong Ale that carries a punch at 10% ABV.

In the meantime we moved back east a few hundred miles to Ketchum, ID into the Sawtooth National Forest. The constant change of time zones is getting annoying.

Stay tuned.

We are back on the West-Coast

…. and that is a good thing. We crossed the country from Bemidji, MN to Wallowa, OR.

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We took our sweet time for the 1500 miles/2400 km crossing but we also did not spend a lot of time in any of the locations we stopped along the way. The most time we spent in Dickinson, ND where we visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Enchanted Highway.

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While traveling on I94 the landscape changed dramatically once we passed Bismarck, ND. Forests and lakes slowly turned into the treeless prairie of the “Great Plaines”. The prairie did not give way until we reached the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Billings, MT. From there we rolled through Missoula, MT into Coeur d’Alene, ID and into Lewiston, WA. The short 80 miles/130 km trip after crossing the Snake River from Lewiston, WA to Enterprise, OR was some of the tightest and most curvy road I drove in a 20 ton vehicle. That kind of road separates the boys from the men.

At the moment we are located in Wallowa, OR surrounded by the stunning Wallowa Mountains, the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. We will stay here until 5 Sep 2017, the day after the Labor Day holiday and the official end of the US tourist season. There is plenty of excellent hiking around here and the dogs and I have started exploring the trails. There are also some local breweries nearby to be evaluated. Life is good.

Tomorrow is the day of the great 2017 American eclipse. Here in Wallowa the show will start at 9:10 AM, reach it’s maximum at 10:26 AM and finish at 11:30 AM. We will experience 97% of totality. I am very much looking forward to the spectacle.

I know it’s getting old, but I have to ask. Are you enjoying the Donald show yet? To quote Heather Heyer, the young lady that died in the Charlottesville nazi rally a week ago; “if you are not outraged, you are not paying attention”.

Stay tuned, there is more to come.

Moving on

We have been sitting still for more than three weeks amongst Minnesota’s 10000 lakes. Our stay here started slow and has now reached a glacial pace. For the first 3 weeks it was simply too warm for extended outdoors activities. We did short daily hikes and swimming with the dogs in one of the lakes. That was it. Now, that the temperatures have drop we are getting ready to leave.

It turned out that it’s almost impossible around here to find single-track trails as we know them from the western parts of the US. During the snow-free season Minnesotans seem to spend their free time either sunbathing on lakes, fishing or boating. Nobody hikes. The few single-track trails we found were badly overgrown and appear only to be used during the winter for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. What we found are lots of paved long distance trails, many of them are conversions of former railway lines to trails. It is telling that many of these long distance trails display “no motorized vehicles except snowmobiles” signs.

We spent our time hiking on the Migizi and North Star trails and went swimming with the dogs in Cass Lake and Pike Lake. On a side note, the amount of bald eagles soaring overhead is truly astounding. Life for large fish-consuming birds in northwestern Minnesota seems to be good.

One lesson learnt traveling the country is how difficult it is to find good bread. By “good bread” I mean bread of sustenance and taste that has not been baked in a distant manufacturing facility and has not been treated with food preservatives and put into a plastic bag. By “good bread” I mean artesian bread that manifests the skills of a talented and thoughtful baker. It seems like we spend a significant amount of time trying to find a decent baker in every new location. In many places we were unable to find such a source.

Our initial plan was to move from Bemidji, MN to Ketchum, ID. We changed the plan slightly and will instead travel from Bemidji, MN to Wallowa, OR (1400 miles/2250 km). After a few weeks in Wallowa we will eventually travel to Ketchum. While Ketchum will be in the path of 100% totality during the 21 August solar eclipse, Wallowa is approximately 50 miles/80 km north of the path and will consequently only observe 95% of totality.

Traveling west will be exciting, it feels almost like traveling home. To quote the Doors, the west is the best. Our next stop will be in Medora, ND for a visit to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Stay tuned.