After camping for three nights at the beautiful but often-windswept Cape Blanco State
Park on the Oregon coast, I packed up the truck on a drizzly morning and
continued my southward voyage down U.S. 101.
As I drove through the
small town of Port Orford, I decided to see Port Orford State Park, which is
actually an old lifeboat station that was manned up until the 1970s by the U.S.
Coast Guard. Although it's been a State Park for several decades, and
although I've driven right by it on Highway 101 at least 30 times, I've never
visited it, but I'm not sure why. However, as I
discovered, it's a great place with lots of trails, overlooks, and interesting old buildings.
best part of Port Orford State Park is the old dog tag machine that sits
in the corner of the the headquarters building. The machine still
operates and, for a few dollars, the friendly caretaker will punch out a
4-line dog tag for you. I got one for myself and one for my Dad, who
probably hadn't seen a real dog tag since his WWII days in the Navy.
Anyway, if you get a chance, be sure to visit this out-of-the-way park and
get a dog tag (maybe even get one for your dog). Yeah, it's a little
hard to find, but it's well worth it.
The closer I got to
California that afternoon, the worse the weather got. By the time I
reached Brookings, Oregon, just a few miles from the state border, it was
raining the proverbial cats and dogs (though without dog tags, I'm sure).
I pulled into the very soggy Harris Beach State Park that afternoon and, after
securing a campsite in the crowded campground there, I drove into nearby
Brookings with the windshield wipers slapping back and forth. Being in
Oregon's so-called "Banana Belt," Brookings has attracted a lot of retirees from
California and Oregon over the past few decades -- which is exactly why I'd
never want to retire there.
It's a nice
town, though, and I spent much of the afternoon wandering around the Fred
Meyer store in Brookings.
"Freddies" is my absolute favorite store and it's a Northwest institution, with
groceries, appliances, plungers, and just about anything else you need, all
under one roof. There are certain places that I really, really like
to shop at:
For outdoor gear, it's REI
For computers, it's Dell
And for just about everything else, it's Fred Meyer.
Since I'd already
stopped at the Fred Meyer stores in Astoria, Tillamook, and Florence on this
particular trip, I figured I'd visit the one in Brookings, as well. Plus,
it was a lot drier there than in the soggy campground.
The sun came out the
next morning and, after getting resupplied (yes, at Fred Meyer), I continued
south on Highway 101. As I crossed the California border and entered the
Redwood Country, I thought about where to spend that night. There are a
lot of great redwood campgrounds in Northern California, and on this trip, I
stayed at my two favorites: Mill Creek Campground in Del Norte State Park,
near Crescent City, and Hidden Springs Campground in Humboldt Redwoods State
Park, near Eureka. There really aren't many things better, I decided, than
camping in a quiet campground surrounded by lofty and majestic redwood trees.
If you visit the
Redwood Country of northern California, be sure to get off Highway 101 and take
one of my very favorite roads in the the U.S. -- the Avenue of the Giants.
The Avenue is a 20-mile stretch of road that meanders through the redwoods.
It's actually the old Highway 101 and, although I've driven it a dozen times, I
never get tired of it. And it was where, on this trip, my truck proudly
turned over 250,000 miles.
Above left: Driving through the redwoods in
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, northern California.
Above center: They grow 'em big up here in the Redwood Country.
Above right: Camping in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Above left: This used to be downtown
Weott, California. Weott was wiped out by a mammoth flood of the Eel River
in 1964. This high-water mark is about all that's left of Weott.
Above center: My 17-year old truck hit exactly 250,000 miles here amidst
Above right: My odometer at a quarter-million miles, on the
Avenue of the Giants.
Lassen Volcanic National Park: An Undiscovered Jewel
As I've stated many
times, I'm a big fan of National Parks. I've visited them ever
since I was in diapers, I studied them in college, and I even once applied to be a
park ranger (but was turned down like most other applicants, though, darn it). I've visited about 200 of the
394 National Parks in the U.S., and I have a NPS Passport book filled with
stamps to prove it. I especially like visiting parks during the
off-season, when Park Rangers have time to chat.
However, I've never
understood the popularity of certain parks, and conversely, I've never
understood why certain gem-like parks aren't more visited. Some of the
"overrated" National Parks, in my opinion, include Mt. Rushmore, Great Smoky
Mountains, and Crater Lake. I've written a page called
My 10 Favorite National
Park "Hidden Jewels", in which I've listed what I believe are the most
underrated National Parks in the country.
Here's Jimmy Buffett
RealPlayer. If problems, see
One of the most
underrated parks in the U.S. is Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern
California. I've been visiting Lassen for 30 years and during that time, I've hiked all over
the park from one beautiful side to the other, yet I still haven't figured out
why more people haven't discovered this place. It has geysers, fumaroles,
and all kinds of other nasty and interesting geothermal stuff. It has
meadows, alpine forest, and dozens of sparkling, beautiful lakes. And best
of all, it has Lassen Peak, which last erupted in 1915 and was the last volcano
in the lower 48 states to erupt before Mt. St. Helens blew its top in May of
1980. Lassen is a very cool park, with lots of neat things to see and do.
If you go in the summer, though, make sure that the cross-park road is open and
free of snow (it's usually clear by mid-June).
I was really
looking forward to seeing my old friend, Lassen, again, so after leaving the
redwoods, I headed straight east through Redding and made the gradual ascent up
Highway 44 to Lassen Park, finally reaching one of my very favorite campgrounds,
Manzanita Lake, that evening at sunset. Lassen has several campgrounds and
I've stayed at most of them, but none beats Manzanita Lake. Best of all,
it has coin-operated showers and a little gift shop where I always buy Lassen
One morning, I drove
to the south side of Lassen and hiked into a geothermal area called "Devil's
Kitchen." I love "Devils" names in parks and have started a collection of
Devil's photos. Let's see, there's
Devil's Punchbowl State Park on the Oregon coast
Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley
Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming
Devil's Postpile National Monument in California
Devil's Orchard at Craters of the Moon National Monument, in Idaho.
One of these
days, I'll post photos of all the "Devil" sites I've been to in the U.S.
Anyway, I spent
about a week camping at Manzanita Lake and exploring Lassen and enjoyed
every minute of it. The highlight of my visit occurred one afternoon
on the south side of the park. On my way back from a nice hike up to Devil's Garden, I
stopped in the town of Chester and went into the busy grocery store.
After about 20 minutes, and just as I was putting a cantaloupe into my
shopping basket, all of the lights went off. No kidding.
Everybody stopped what they were doing, mainly because they could hardly
see their hand in front of their face.
Ever the Boy Scout, though,
and always prepared, I whipped out my key chain, which has a handy
flashlight on it. As I walked around with my flashlight that
afternoon, going up one aisle and then down another, I was the most
popular guy in the grocery store.
Above left: Entering Lassen Volcanic
National Park in northern California.
Above center: Lassen Peak's "Devastated Area," wiped out during the 1914
Above right: Before the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980,
Lassen was that last volcano to erupt in the U.S. -- and the first one in the
U.S. seen by whites.
Above left: Hiking up to the 10,500'
Above center: View from the summit of Lassen Peak.
Above right: The Lassen park road.
Above left: Lake Helen, still frozen in
late June, with Lassen Peak in the background.
Above right: Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake, one of my favorite places in
Above left: Snow plants. These are
saprophytes like mushrooms and don't have
Above right: I've been going to evening campfire shows at this very
amphitheatre in Lassen since I was a little kid. Everybody sing:
"She'll be comin' round the mountain..."
1, 2002 (Looking Glass Rock, Utah)
18, 2002 -- Part 2 (Port Orford, Oregon)
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)