Offpeakers

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Category: Oregon

Smith Rock

Remember the first time you visited an amusement park?  From the parking lot you could see the roller coaster.  It looks enormous and so high you feel excitement and fear at the same time, your palms get sweaty, you could feel your heart beating faster.

Bizarro Roller Coaster in New England (photo c/o travel channel)

Bizarro Roller Coaster in New England (photo c/o travelchannel.com)

It had the foreboding look that make you think you should turn around and go see something else yet it somehow drew you in, you just have to go and be on it! The Offpeakers had a similar experience when we followed the strong recommendations of locals and visited Smith Rock State Park.  Not far from Redmond & Bend, Smith Rock State Park is another reason we think life is great in Oregon.

Before the hike.

Before the hike, the impressive rock (should be a mountain!),  Crooked river & River trail behind us. 

The Smith Rock State Parks amusement park is 641 acres of weirdly eroded volcanic rock with the well named Crooked River twisting around and through it.  Our approach past the parking lot had us bouncing with excitement. Amazing views?  Check.  World class Rock Climbing? Check.  Challenging hiking trails?  Check.  Super volunteers and support staff enhancing the park?  Check.

Entrance sign to the State Park

Entrance to the State Park

This is a popular place as 750,000 day users a year enjoy these rugged outdoors but the myriad of trails, bike paths and cliffs seem to suck us all up so even on a busy Sunday, we never felt crowded. We occasionally shared space with people equally happy to be on the rock.  The $5 day use parking fee is a complete bargain.

We saw climbers even before we found a parking spot! Amazing!

We saw climbers even before we found a parking spot! Amazing!

Approaching the area, walking the rim towards the visitor center, we pin balled around looking over cliffs soaring 600 feet over the river. The rock walls were not only beautiful, but it is liberally peppered with incredibly talented rock climbers.  Smith Rock is generally considered the birthplace of modern American rock climbing, and it continues to be a destination and class room for those strong adventurous people that do not need (nor want) a path to get to the top of mountain.

Awesome volunteers at the Visitor Center. If you visit make sure you stop.

Jerry from the Welcome Center. If you visit make sure you stop.

Not all Visitor Centers are helpful, but Smith Rock’s maps, advice, cold water, and volunteers were all terrific.  The Offpeakers were fortunate to meet Jerry, who just may be Oregon’s number one advocate.  Jerry gave us super information on the best hiking trails, views, and where we could hopefully see beavers and/or otters.  We got even more information on the Oregon coast and history of the Brookings district, including interesting background on World War II Japanese incursions in the area.

The uphill trail is visible on Terry's right side

The uphill zigzag trail is visible by Terry’s right shoulder.  Such a fun hike!

Our fun conversation was cut a little short because we could not wait to get on the switchback trails that work their way up Misery Ridge to work our way up, on and around this intimidating outcropping.

Whew! We quickly made it passed the shoot

Whew! We quickly made it passed the Chute and up the Misery, we pity those below us! Hahaha!

From the Visitor Center we dropped down using the The Chute trail to take us down to river level.  Crossing Crooked River we watched people working their way up the steep initial portion of the trail.

Such beauty at every angle! We stop for a breather and to take the scenery in.

Such beauty at every angle! We stop for a breather often to enjoy the scenery in.

Soon we were on their heels, enjoying the fun of spectacular scenery that you have earned through hard labor.  The going was slow and steady with a steep elevation climb.

The group of students in front of us.

The group of fun and friendly students in front of us.

As sometimes happens on these outings, we ended up getting partnered with some outgoing pharmacy students taking a break from Pacific University.  I felt as if we were colleagues on this and peers, but at the top we were referred to affectionately as their “trail parents”.

Our trail "kids'

T with our trail “kids’

If I needed another reminder of our age besides my heaving chest and heavy feet, this was it.  The Misery Ridge trail loop is almost 6 miles long as it weaves up, behind, over and down the main outcropping.

The trail is so beautiful we didn't mind the hard climb!

The trail is so beautiful we didn’t mind the hard climb!

We loved every sweaty dusty step.  The views change, but remain consistently beautiful.  Yes it is a long ways down, but fear kept us careful even as we scanned around to see natural beauty, climbers, and distant snow clad mountains on this glorious day.

You can see Monkey Face in front of Terry

You can see Monkey Face in front of Terry

At the back we see the aptly named Monkey Face, which is an outcropping that bears an amazing resemblance to Curious George except you need to scale a 350 foot column to dance on his head.

On our way down

On our way down

Continuing down we intersect Mesa Verde and River trails.  Down here have close views of the climbers doing very good impersonations of Spiderman.

Can you spot the spider like humans on the cliff face?

Can you spot the spider like humans on the cliff face?

Men and women looked tiny as they worked their way up cliffs that have visible white marks from powder used to dry sweaty hands.

These 2 are on a "beginner" cliff! Looks scary to me!

These two are on a “beginner” cliff! doesn’t look like beginner stuff to us!

Across the river, beginner classes were taking place on cliffs that were still daunting even though they were in the shadows of their much bigger brothers.

There is no bad view on this site?

There is no bad view on Smith Rock only happy Offpeakers!

Smith Rock is a great place to feel the positive energy of the earth and people working together.  Everyone was in excited moods, pushing hard to see and do more.  What a fun experience to work hard yet feel energized at the same time.

what a beautiful place

What a beautiful place, we can’t wait to go back!

While they could have probably come up with a more inspirational name, we fail to imagine a better experience. This is our favorite sight in all of Oregon!  What’s yours?  Please share your favorite spot in Oregon or a time that you were reminded that you have gotten older.  Thank you for traveling with the Offpeakers!

 

Fort Clatsop & The Oregon Coast

Even the toughest people need to take a rest.  Fort Clatsop was an encampment where the 33 hale and hearty members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent a fairly miserable winter waiting for better weather to return home back east.

Photographs of Rossevelt, Lweis & Clark

Photographs of (L to R) Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis & William Clark

Located near the mouth of the Columbia River, the Fort Clatsop National Memorial houses a striking replica of the fort along with an interesting museum of the region and the Corp of Discovery.

We witness the flag lowering at the end of the day

We witnessed the flag lowering at the end of the day

A visit to the fort is enhanced by a group that in period costume that answers questions about life in the camp and in part reenact life as it may have been in this remote outpost.

Standing at corner of the rebuilt fort

Standing at corner of the rebuilt fort

Fort Clatsop was an encampment forced on the expedition in the winter of 1805-1806.  The heavy rains and limited food sources were less than ideal but the journey back had to be delayed waiting for snow melt in the Rocky Mountains.  After some investigation and even a vote that include all races and sexes, the Fort Clatsop site was chosen.  Construction by the party took three weeks.

A painting in the museum of the fort

A painting in the museum depicts a possible scene with the fort in the background

This is another of the indicators of what hard working people comprised the expedition.  The work force, not even the full 33 person team as there was a party gathering salt and another getting food during construction, completed most of the fort in three weeks.  Move in date was Christmas Eve, 1805.  The current replica of the fort, built in 2006, took over 700 people three months to construct.

A Bull Elk

A Bull Elk like this one provided sustenance to the expeditioners. Photo was taken at the Dean Creek Wildlife area.

The men ate a diet of mostly elk meat and roots.  The elk meat proved to be harder and harder to get and it spoiled quickly. Elk still inhabit the area in great numbers.

Beautiful elk grazing in the field

Bull elk grazing in the protected wildlife area in Dean Creek. So exciting to see them up close in a safe environment.

We enjoyed stopping at the Dean Creek Wildlife Area, an important habitat administered by the BLM.  Over 100 head of Roosevelt elk call this home.  It was exciting to see groups of large bulls in velvet up close.

A look at the inside of the fort

A look at the inside of the barebones fort

For most of the members, the three months in Fort Clatsop was the least favorite of the entire 2 year 4 month journey.  Besides tight quarters and poor food, many of the men had colds, influenza, and venereal diseases along with irritating skin conditions from the continual wet weather.  The team happily left the Fort on March 22, 1806 heading upstream in several canoes including one stolen from the neighboring Native Americans.  The Fort was left to the Indians for their use.  It rotted away in the wet weather, with no mention of it past the mid 1800’s.

We enjoyed walking on the empty beach

We enjoyed walking on the empty beach. We picked some shells that John just rinsed in this photo. 

Much like Lewis and Clark, we enjoyed Oregon’s gorgeous coastline.  Our 3 mile round trip hike on the Tahkenitch Trails tooks us from pine trees to sand dunes across swampy wetlands on to the beautiful beach.  In 45 minutes on the beach we only saw one other person.  We found a few interesting shells but only partial sand dollars.   The plovers were nesting so we had to stay on the wet sand in order to not disturb these tiny little shore birds.

In front of the Sea Lion Cave entrance and store

In front of the Sea Lion Cave entrance and store

Further north of Florence there is an opportunity to visit the privately owned Sea Lion Caves.  For $15 a person, you can take an elevator 208 feet down to see the signature Sea Lions.

We watched sea lions swimming and catching suns rays on the rocks

We watched sea lions swimming and catching suns rays on the rocks

Being frugal Offpeakers, we stood at the top and saw the interesting marine mammals with binoculars and the camera’s zoom lens.

Beautiful view of the Heceta Lighthouse

Beautiful view of the Heceta Lighthouse

Further down the road we had a great view back at the Sea Lions along the coast as well as of the Heceta Head Lighthouse.  This area is one of the most beautiful we have seen.  From this one spot you can see steep cliffs, crashing surf, swimming and sunning sea lions a the spectacular light house.

The coast was breathtaking

The coast was breathtaking

Less than half an hour further north, save time to investigate the Cape Perpetua Scenic area.  Included there is a nice Interpretive center from where you can reportedly see whales swim by earlier  in the year.  There are also short but interesting trails that can lead you down to the shoreline to see the Devil’s Churn, Cape Cove as well as tidal pools.

John found this beautiful starfish in one of the pools

John found this beautiful starfish in one of the pools

Heading north, Tillamook has a massive cheese factory that just cries out for a visit.  In a few minutes you can go on a self guided tour, enjoy nice restrooms, and sample a buffet line of cheeses.

We enjoyed sampling the cheeses at the factory

We enjoyed sampling the cheeses at the Tillamook factory

Of course you can purchase blocks of the cheese or tasty looking ice cream if you can brave the long lines and steep prices.  By now we were near Fort Clatsop, so we hurried on in the tradition of Lewis and Clark.  Our new home base is only a few hours away, so the Offpeakers will be back to see Fort Stevens (you can even hike to a shipwreck!), the Tillamook Aviation Museum among other notable sights in the area.

What an impressive bridge

The longest continuous truss bridge in North America, the impressive Astoria-Megler bridge. 

Our exit from the area was not in a hot canoe but still memorable.  The Astoria-Megler bridge crosses the mighty Columbia, taking us from Oregon to our new home state of Washington.  The towering 4.1 mile long bridge, with a top road height of 215 feet, is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.  7,100 cars a day take this vertigo inducing trip.

A view from the top of the bridge. Washington Ahoy!

A view from the top of the bridge. Washington Ahoy!

We felt safe despite the height as the bridge was built to withstand windstorms of 150 miles per hour. Reading about the bridge brings to mind how the cost of infrastructure continues to rise.  When bridge construction was completed in 1966, total cost was $24 million.  Just recently the bridge was painted for a cost nearly the same, $21 million!

We loved the Oregon Coast, we want to go back!

Oregon is a diverse state that we must explore more. The Offpeakers will be back.

Whether you are following the Lewis and Clark Trail or just want a fun outing in the area, the Offpeakers endorse a visit to the Fort Clatsop National Memorial and of course the beautiful Oregon coast.  With so many coastal related sight seeing opportunities in the immediate area, try to set aside additional time in order to take more of it in.  What are some of your favorites on the Oregon Coast?  Are you a fan of Lewis and Clark’s Corp of Discovery?

Crater Lake National Park

Classic bands produce several albums, resulting in a variety of music to enjoy.  One hit wonders do not provide us with variety, but we still  can appreciate the fun of the single offering.  Crater Lake National Park is the one hit wonder of the park scene.

Photo not altered or filtered the lake is really THAT blue

Photo not altered or filtered the lake is really THAT blue

The hit is the memorable view of the fabulous blue lake waters.  Basically all of the 183,000 acre Crater Lake National Park is dedicated to providing the view.  Rim Drive is a 33 mile loop road surrounding the lake.  You can stay in Rim Village.  I would not work there.

The stops at rim drive offers lots of opportunities for photos but it is windy and cold!

The stops at rim drive offers lots of opportunities for photos but it is windy and cold!

Unfortunately, a major resurfacing project has half of this loop closed for most of the summer.  The road closure did prevent us seeing a few of the major sights including the Pinnacles rock formation and Lost Ship Island.  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in United States with its deepest measurement of 1,943 feet (592 meters).  At 6 miles wide at its greatest, it covers 20 square miles.

Photo taken by nice couple from Wisconsin.

Photo taken by nice couple (Mike & Carol) from Wisconsin.

There are no known outlets or streams flowing into it, yet its water is some of the purest in a large body of water.  The crater was filled solely by precipitation.  This is an area that does receive great amounts of snow.

There's plenty of snow on the ground. Enough for snowball fight in July!

There’s plenty of snow on the ground. Enough for snowball fight in July!

Even in mid July large drifts are visible.  Three different times the park has received 37 inches (96 cm) of snow in one day.  The highest yearly total was 903 inches (75 feet/2,290 cm).

We are standing on a massive volcanic crater! So cool!

We are standing on a massive volcanic crater! So cool!

The lake was formed when an immense 12,000 foot volcanic mountain (Mount Mazama) erupted almost 8,000 years ago.  This eruption was 150 times greater than that of Mount Saint Helens.  Having expelled its contents, the now hollow volcano collapsed, creating an immense bowl like depression in the remnants of the volcano’s crater.

Cleetwood trail, going down is easy, coming back up is a bit more challenging

Cleetwood Cove trail, the hike going down is easy, coming back up is a bit more challenging.  A jaunty hat always make the hike more interesting.

This is an isolated lake but the beautiful sapphire blue waters are mesmerizing.  There is one path that will allow you to hike down to the level of the water, Cleetwood Cove trail.  It is 1 1/4 miles down to the lake, dropping about 800 feet in elevation.

The water is really clear and just as blue up close.  It is very cold, but a few people where joining the Polar Bear club by stripping down and plunging in.

The cold water did not stop some from taking a dip

The cold water did not stop some from taking a dip

A group of young students were making a film that featured a hunky guy jumping in and swimming. He had a very difficult time speaking due to the shivers and shakes.

The actor jumping in.

The actor in bright yellow shorts jumping in.  Terry offered to help with sun block.

If you want to see more shoreline, tickets are available ($40) for a boat tour around the lake.  I was surprised we saw several lizards in this cold, high altitude spot.

We saw several of these type of lizard along the trail.

We saw several of these type of lizard along the trail.

The lake had no native fish, but was stocked extensively through the 1950’s.  Visitors are allowed to fish and no fishing license is required.

The hike up was more difficult but with a view like THAT, it's totally worth it!

The hike up was more difficult but with a view like THAT, it’s totally worth it!

As expected, the hike up was a lot more work than the hike down.  A stop for a breather did allow some great photos and another look out over the heavenly blue waters.  Another stop provided a good place for  picnic and more of that great view.

Entrance to this Park (which is surprisingly the only National Park in Oregon) costs $15.  We received admittance for free via our well loved and used Inter Agency pass.  In order to make a full day of it, we additionally visited Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a couple hours north of Crater Lake.

We are walking on the trail in the big obsidian flow.

The trail is ON the big obsidian flow!

The Newberry Monument is 50,000 acres set aside inside the Deschutes National Forest dedicated to preserving interesting volcanic features.  We loved the Big Obsidian Flow.  This is a 700 acre, 150 foot deep deposit of obsidian and pumice deposited only 1,400 years ago.

No, you're not allowed to take them home.

No, you’re not allowed to take them home.

Obsidian and pumice have the same composition, what differs is if air was introduced while drying.  It makes an interesting hike where you see these rocks interspersed in great quantities.  Obsidian was a prized resource used to make tools such as spear and arrow heads and while rare and highly prized around most of the Americas, it is certainly in great supply here.

Behind us is Paulina Lake

Behind us is Paulina Lake

The Newberry Monument has several other attractions including Lava River Cave, a lava tube that tourists are allowed to explore (we did not), Lava Butte which is a 500 foot cinder cone, Lava Cast Forest, and two lakes, Paulina and East Lake.  Paulina Lake is picturesque and is circled by a trail for a peaceful hike.

At the summit of Paulina Peak

At the summit of Paulina Peak

Better views are available from the 8,000 foot summit of Paulina Peak where you can overlook the lakes, Big Obsidian Flow, and the surrounding mountains.  It is a steep drive but the view is worth every hairpin and nervous encounter with a car coming the other direction on the narrow road.

Beautiful lake

Beautiful Crater Lake

Crater Lake Park is a one hit wonder, but a fun stop if you are passing in the area.  Include Newberry National Volcanic Monument to make it a full interesting day. When visiting the Oregon coast or the other locales in Central Washington, we recommend you make a detour to include these sights.  What “One Hit Wonder” sights have you visited?

Painted Hills Oregon

If you travel a bit in North Central Oregon, you might start to wonder who in the hell is John Day. There are the towns of John Day and Dayville, the John Day River, and the John Day Dam.  John Day was an early trapper and hunter that made this rugged country home in the 1810’s.

We have never heard of him until we looked closely at the map of Oregon.

We have never heard of him until we looked closely at the map of Oregon.

The Offpeakers were interested about John Day due to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.   This Monument is comprised of three separate geographical locations comprising 14,000 acres. The three sights are separated by 150 miles in a sparsely populated region with few services.

We see endless clouds while driving on the Oregon Scenic byway

We see endless clouds while driving on the Oregon Scenic byway

Only 140,000 people a year visit any of the Units.  Gas stations are few and far between, and even if you manage to find a store or restaurant, places close early.  Plan ahead for this visit.  Out of the way travel is fun.

Serpentine roads and gorgeous views on the way to the Fossil bed monuments

Serpentine roads and gorgeous views on the way to the Fossil bed monuments

The drive is interesting as it will be flat rolling plains and a few miles later it is climbing to a timbered forest and then down to a relatively lush river bottom.

Great view surrounds the museum/visitor center

Great view of the geologic formations surrounds the museum/visitor center

The Sheep Rock Unit (35 miles west of Mitchell, OR) is the headquarters for the John Day Monument and hosts a very nice Paleontology Center (or as I would call it, a Fossil Museum). Included are many specimens of early mammals as well as plant fossils.  Large murals offer guesses as to what the area looked like in earlier periods. This was a wet, humid place with terrific volcanic activity.

Near the end of the blue basin hike

Near the end of the blue basin hiking trail surrounded by 29 million year old volcanic formations

Volcano eruptions would spread lava over hundreds of miles, vastly larger than any eruption in recorded times. This lava and aggregate rock would erode at different rates, helping to form another draw to the area besides fossils, the colored rock formations.  Near the Sheep Rock Unit are the Blue Basin and Foree locations. These locations allow short hikes of ½ to 1 mile to see rocks of different hues.  Blue Basin in particular leads you into a deep gulley of light blue tinted stone. A ranger aptly described it as making you feel like you are on a Star Trek planet.

On our way to our favorite

On our way to our favorite, John Day Fossils Bed National Monument Painted Hills  Unit!

The John Day Unit we enjoyed the most was the Painted Hills, which we learned is listed as one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders!  Just eight miles west of Mitchell, you are in this brilliant colored vista with alternating layers. Have your camera ready. The Painted Hills Unit again has several locations such as Overlook Trail, Red Hill Trail, and Painted Cove Trail where a little walking will earn you unusual sights.

DSC05840

Pictures don’t do justice on how beautiful this location really is. Amazing!

In the same area, Leaf Hill trail shows were literally thousands of leaf specimens were earlier collected. A few are on display incorporated into a trail side sign.

No filter used on this photo. It looks like a painting

No filter used on this photo. It really looks like a painting or for those old enough to remember, sand art.

There is a picnic area and restrooms at the location. Do be warned that if you linger too long in the restroom, the other patrons do get quite antsy and impatient. Hold to your guns, as sometimes it takes a little time to do the job right.

Still

Clarno unit of the monument, not as big as the other two  units

The Clarno Unit of the Monument is the northernmost location. This Unit receives the fewest tourists and we would suggest you not visit . While this is a beautiful location, it is lacking in the “wow” factor as compared to so many other locations in the area. The Clarno unit is known for leaf fossils fused into a scattering of boulders. These fossils are hard to see.

The fossils are hard to see

The fossils are hard to see, I think I found an avocado leaf!

A few signs have directions such as “See the leaf fossil one foot to the left” and even with this help, we had difficulty seeing the specimen. There are two very short trails here, one ¼ mile, one ½ mile so you don’t get much of a hike in either.

I have used Mitchell, Oregon as a reference point for these visits. Mitchell is the closest this area has to a large town with a population of 140. There is no gas station but it does have a nice family run hotel/bed & breakfast, The Oregon Hotel.

Sam watched over us while we sleep. No one dared bother us!

Sam watched over us while we sleep. No one dared bother us!

A variety of rooms are available at a nice price.  Food options are limited.  Don’t wait too late even on a Saturday night, as the Little Pine Cafe closed promptly at 8 PM.  And it would have been a real shame to miss one of the finest Hamburger and Fries that we have EVER tried.  This alone would be worth the interesting drive.

We had the best burgers at Little Pine Cafe.

Little Pine Cafe (left) in Mitchell, Oregon, yummy food and friendly service, what a find!

Our meal was enhanced by a couple of tourists who snapped a picture of a wild animal on the town’s lone street. They refused to believe the waitress that the tan cat they photographed was her pet tom cat, insisting it was a cougar.  It made them happy and secretly pleased the locals, so no harm.

We are loving Oregon! We're glad it's our neighboring state!

We are loving Oregon! We’re glad it’s our neighboring state!

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument was interesting and we enjoyed its remote location. However, if your travel days are limited, there are other sights in Oregon that might bring you more joy.  Let us know if you have travel suggestions for the Pacific Northwest.

Thank you for traveling along with the Offpeakers.

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