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June 18, 2002 -- Part 2  (Port Orford, Oregon)

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On The Road Again

After "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 friends again.


On 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:

  • Olympic, in Washington

  • Lassen, in California

  • Canyonlands, in Utah

  • Craters of the Moon, in Idaho

  • North Cascades, in Washington

  • Cumberland Island, in Georgia

As it turned out, I'd visit five of these six parks during this trip.


After 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.


One 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.


I've had several Close Encounters of the Elk Kind in my life, but I've never been charged by 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.  

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Above left:  My life in 136 boxes.  This is my Dad's basement in Bellingham where I've stored all my stuff during my journey.

Above center:  Packing up my truck for yet another camping expedition.

Above 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.


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Above left:  Riding the ferry into Port Townsend.

Above center:  The majestic Olympic Mountains of western Washington, from chilly Hurricane Ridge.  Yes, that's snow in the foreground.

Above right:  Olympic National Park has a lot of great campgrounds, including this empty one at Sol Duc. 


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Above left:  Sol Duc river (left) and falls (right) in Olympic National Park.

Above center:  Windy Rialto Beach, also part of Olympic National Park.

Above right:  The logs grow pretty big in the Hoh Rainforest.  This area gets over 100 inches of rain each year.


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Above left:  Hiking through the soggy Hoh Rainforest on my way up to the glaciers.

Above center:  Sword fern on the Hoh trail after a morning shower.

Above 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 between us.


Caution:  Boomerangs Ahead

Despite the unruly elk that were wandering through the campgrounds at Olympic National Park, I 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 Oregon.  


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 Sun.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


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.


After 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.


While 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.  



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Above left:  Ruby Beach on Washington's west coast.

Above 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. 

Above right:  Astoria has a lot of interesting sites, including the Astoria Column.  That's a mural on the outside depicting Oregon's history.


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Above 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).

Above 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.

Above right:  Heceta Head State Park, one of the 70 state parks that line Oregon's 360-mile coast.


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Above 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.

Above 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.

Above 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.


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Above left:  The beach, as I discovered, is a great place to throw a boomerang.  And to get hit on the head by a boomerang.

Above center:  Tahkenitch Creek, during a 4-hour hike across the Oregon dunes. 

Above right:  Cape Blanco State Park near Port Orford, on a glorious afternoon.  The weather was great so I spent three days camping here.


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Above left:  Irises near the beach.

Above 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.

Above 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.




Next News

June 25, 2002  (Lassen Volcanic National Park, California)



Previous News

June 18, 2002  -- Part 1  (Port Orford, Oregon)

May 22, 2002  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 7, 2002  (Sydney, Australia)

April 4, 2002  (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

April 1, 2002  (Hervey Bay, Australia)

March 28, 2002  (Airlie Beach, Australia)

March 25, 2002  (Port Douglas, Australia)

March 16, 2002  (Winton, Australia)

March 13, 2002  (Alice Springs, Australia)

March 11, 2002  (Ayers Rock, Australia)

March 8, 2002  (Coober Pedy, Australia)

March 5, 2002  (Port Augusta, Australia)

March 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Robe, Australia)

March 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Robe, Australia)

February 18, 2002  (Bega, Australia)

February 7, 2002  (Auckland, New Zealand)

February 2, 2002 -- Part 2  (Taupo, New Zealand)

February 2, 2002 -- Part 1  (Taupo, New Zealand)

January 25, 2002  (Hokitika, New Zealand)

January 20, 2002  (Geraldine, New Zealand)

January 16, 2002  (Te Anau, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002 -- Part 2  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002 -- Part 1  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

December 24, 2001  (Wellington, New Zealand)

December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)  

December 14, 2001  (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)

December 10, 2001  (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bellingham, Washington)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bellingham, Washington)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 3  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 6, 2001  (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 15, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

August 30, 2001  (Webster, South Dakota)

August 18, 2001  (Watertown South Dakota)

August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)

August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)