The Road Again
"The Silence of the Dogs" next door, I left Bellingham on June 3 for a
six-week solo camping trip around the West. I
didn't have a definite schedule for this trip; I was just going to play
things by ear and see what happened. I had a few months before I was
supposed to go back to work in Portland, and after spending the winter and spring driving
around foreign landscapes in New Zealand and Australia, I was looking forward to
visiting a lot of my favorite places in America -- kind of like seeing old
my way out of Bellingham, I stopped at my favorite camping store, R.E.I. and got lots of equipment and a National Parks pass.
I was heading that day to Olympic National Park, a terrific place that for some reason is
never very crowded. Maybe I'm strange, but I really don't think some of
the more popular National Parks in the U.S., like Great
Smoky Mountains, Mt. Rushmore, or Crater Lake are very interesting, and I don't
understand why so many people flock to them. I don't even think a place like Yellowstone,
which many consider to be the ultimate National Park, is all that
great. Yeah, the geysers in Yellowstone are fascinating... but you can't see
much there because it's pretty flat, it's really cold most of the year, and the place is
crawling with visitors during the few warm months in the summer.
On the other hand, there are some really terrific but lesser-known National
Parks in the U.S. that are a lot more interesting -- and a lot less crowded.
I've visited about 200 of the 394 National Parks in the U.S. and some of
my favorite, lesser-known parks include:
of the Moon, in Idaho
Cascades, in Washington
Island, in Georgia
it turned out, I'd visit five of these six parks during this trip.
a ferry ride across the Puget Sound to the Olympic Peninsula and a quick dash up to Hurricane Ridge for
a view of the Olympic Mountains, I camped the first night in a rainforest at Sol Duc campground
in Olympic National Park, then headed over to the Hoh (pronounced "Hoh")
rainforest the next
day. I've camped at Hoh a lot during the last 30 years and I
always see something different each time I visit. This time it was a
close-up view of an elk.
morning at the Hoh campground as I was eating a blueberry muffin, a 600-pound elk (yes, I weighed it) wandered into my campsite and started walking over to
me. I thought it wanted some food, silly me. When I slowly started walking over to the
elk to offer a friendly greeting, it CHARGED at me... so I beat a quick retreat. I'd heard that elk can
be dangerous and that you should never look an elk directly in the eye, because
they interpret that as a threat. For the next 20 minutes, the elk, which
seemed as big as a horse -- well, O.K., maybe a skinny horse -- had me
pinned near my truck and wouldn't let me walk away. During this impasse, I
decided to name it "Lawrence" (get it, "Lawrence
Elk"?). Lawrence was pretty feisty, and since I knew that a lot of folks
get injured by elk each year, I kept
my truck between us until Lawrence got bored and wandered away.
several Close Encounters of the Elk Kind in my life, but I've never been charged
one. Actually, as I learned later, "Lawrence" was probably a
she. Since it was calving season, I think Lawrence was just being protective of her nearby
calf, but she sure scared the
crap out of me. And worst of all, she had bad breath.
left: My life in 136 boxes. This
is my Dad's basement in Bellingham where I've stored all my stuff during my
center: Packing up my truck for yet another camping
right: First stop: Deception Pass, north of
Seattle. The tide churns through here at up to 10 knots, making it a pretty
exciting place to sail through... as I've learned the hard way.
left: Riding the ferry into Port
center: The majestic Olympic Mountains of western Washington,
from chilly Hurricane Ridge. Yes, that's snow in the foreground.
right: Olympic National Park has a lot of great
campgrounds, including this empty one at Sol Duc.
left: Sol Duc river
(left) and falls (right) in Olympic National Park.
center: Windy Rialto Beach, also part of Olympic National Park.
right: The logs grow pretty big in the Hoh
Rainforest. This area gets over 100 inches of rain each year.
left: Hiking through the soggy Hoh
Rainforest on my way up to the glaciers.
center: Sword fern on the Hoh trail after a morning shower.
right: So far on this trip, I've been attacked by
mosquitoes in Louisiana, sand flies in New Zealand, a kangaroo in Australia...
and now a belligerent 600-pound elk in the Olympics. I kept my truck
the unruly elk that were wandering through the campgrounds at Olympic National
spent about a week there enjoying the mossy trails, lush
foliage, and the huge yellow banana slugs that slithered through the
campsites, before continuing on my southward voyage down Highway 101 into
After I got back to
the U.S., I bought Sheryl Crow's album "C'mon, C'mon," which had
just come out, and played it almost non-stop as I drove down the
sunny Oregon Coast highway.
Here's Soak Up The
RealPlayer. If problems, see
The first city you hit
on the Oregon coast is Astoria, which probably has
more "interesting things to see per capita" than any city in Oregon. There
are only about 10,000 people in Astoria but largely because of its geography,
located at the mouth of the Columbia River, there are oodles of neat things to do
here. Let's see... you can visit Fort Clatsop (Lewis & Clark's winter
home in 1806), the Maritime Museum, and the Astoria Column (a high tower that
provides one of the best views in Oregon), all of which I did. You can
also visit the elementary school where they filmed Arnold Schwarzengger's movie "Kindergarten Cop,"
which I didn't do.
a few days of camping at Fort Stevens State Park outside of town, I said "hasta
la vista, baby" and continued south on U.S. 101,
also known as the Oregon Coast Highway. Fortunately, the weather was glorious
during the next week, so I took my time and stopped at a lot of places that I'd
never seen before. I've driven the Oregon Coast Highway dozens of times in
my life. However this time, unlike on all my other trips, I purposely
wasn't on a schedule -- and that made all the difference, as Robert Frost would
say. Or was that Arnold Schwarzengger?
As many times as I've driven the
360 miles of the Oregon Coast Highway,
I still haven't come close to seeing everything on it or near it. It really is one of the
most spectacular drives in the U.S. I don't recommend driving it during
July or August, though, when the highway, the motels, and the campgrounds are
all packed, and when you're likely to get stuck behind a constant stream of sluggish
RVs. June is a good
month to drive it and September is even better.
Anyway, this was mid-June and it wasn't very crowded at all... and nary a
plodding RV to
be seen. I even thought about writing a book someday about the Oregon
Coast Highway, but then, I get lots of funny ideas.
traveling down the coast, I finally learned how to
throw the boomerang that I had bought a few months earlier in Brisbane. As I discovered, Oregon's beaches are a great
place to throw a boomerang because errant tosses can't do much damage, except to
your ego. My boomerang even came back to me a few times... and almost hit me in the
head. I'm sure I looked pretty foolish, throwing a boomerang and then
running like heck to get away from it as it bore down on me.
left: Ruby Beach on Washington's west
center: I finally got to Oregon and spent a couple of days in
Astoria. This is the "Columbia," a lightship that operated at the
mouth of the Columbia River until 1979, the last operating lightship in the
U.S. It's now part of the Maritime Museum in Astoria.
right: Astoria has a lot of interesting sites, including
the Astoria Column. That's a mural on the outside depicting Oregon's
left: Walking 133 steps up the Astoria Column
gives you a great view. In the distance are Lewis and Clark's 1806 winter
encampment (left) and the mouth of the Columbia River (right).
center: Heading down the Oregon coast. Here I'm eating
lunch and enjoying the view in Yachats
(pronounced Yaw-hots), one of my favorite stops on the coast.
right: Heceta Head State Park, one of the 70 state parks
that line Oregon's 360-mile coast.
left: I got an interesting tour of the
Heceta Head lighthouse. For a hundred bucks, you can spend the night in
the old lighthouse keeper's house nearby, which is now a B&B.
center: One of the most interesting plants on the coast is
Darlingtonia. It's a carnivorous plant, something like a Venus fly-trap.
In fact, there's a whole Oregon State Park devoted to Darlingtonia.
right: One of my favorite Oregon State Parks is Honeyman, near Florence. There are lots of lakes and high sand dunes
here, and a
nice campground. I first camped at Honeyman when I was in diapers.
It hasn't changed much since then -- come to think of it, neither have I.
left: The beach, as I discovered, is a great place to
throw a boomerang. And to get hit on the head by a boomerang.
center: Tahkenitch Creek, during a 4-hour hike across the Oregon
right: Cape Blanco State Park near Port Orford, on a glorious
afternoon. The weather was great so I spent three days camping here.
left: Irises near the beach.
center: The Cape Blanco lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on
the Oregon coast. Tours are given daily during the summer. I spent
about 20 minutes up there.
right: The "marina" at Port Orford, Oregon is a busy
place. There's no harbor here, so every afternoon all the boats are
hoisted out of the ocean and carted ashore.
June 25, 2002 (Lassen Volcanic
National Park, California)
18, 2002 -- Part 1 (Port Orford, Oregon)
22, 2002 (Bellingham, Washington)
7, 2002 (Sydney, Australia)
4, 2002 (Coffs Harbour, Australia)
1, 2002 (Hervey Bay, Australia)
28, 2002 (Airlie Beach, Australia)
25, 2002 (Port Douglas, Australia)
16, 2002 (Winton, Australia)
13, 2002 (Alice Springs, Australia)
11, 2002 (Ayers Rock, Australia)
8, 2002 (Coober Pedy, Australia)
5, 2002 (Port Augusta, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Robe, Australia)
18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
2, 2002 -- Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
12, 2002 -- Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
1, 2002 -- Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
3, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
3, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
18, 2001 -- Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
18, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 -- Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
18, 2001 (Watertown South Dakota)
17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)