Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Closer Look at the Redwoods

Klamath, CA

Yesterday was our chance to get out and actually see some redwoods up close before the rains began again.  A bit of redwood information first.  There are today three types of redwoods remaining in the world. The first, the Dawn Redwood, was thought to have been extinct, but was re-discovered a few years ago in Central China. The second, the Giant Sequoia, grows on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in central CA. The type of redwood in our present location is the Coastal Redwood. It is found along the northern CA and southernmost OR coasts.  Although not as large around (generally) as the Giant Sequoia, the Coastal Redwoods are the tallest redwoods in the world. Only about 5% of the old growth Coastal Redwoods remain in existence today after years of logging activities.

In this area of CA there are several individual parks which comprise the Redwood National and State Park system.  Management is a joint effort by the state of CA and the NPS. The closest park to our current location is Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park. Just a short drive south out of Klamath and we entered the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. The parkway is only about 10 miles long, but it is a leisurely drive through a lot of old-growth redwoods.

We made a stop along this parkway to get a chance to see our first "up close and personal" look at the redwoods. We were fortunate, as this area featured "The Big Tree".  This old Coastal Redwood has the following dimensions:  304' tall, 21.6' diameter, 68' circumference, and is estimated to be 1500 years old. Think of the stories that tree could tell!

We took a short trail walk near this area.  One of the plants prevalent wherever we walked was the fern.  Karen really likes ferns, so a shot of ferns is in order here.

Coastal Redwoods have very thick outer barks.  Old-growth trees can sometimes have bark up to 2' in thickness. The thick outer casing protects them in times of fire. At times, however, the fire reaches the inner core of the tree and eventually causes it to die.

When the fire consumes the core of the tree, the upper portion falls first after many years.  At this point this feature is called a "chimney tree".  Looking up inside the tree resembles a charred inner lining of a chimney.

We found that several individual trees will often share an intertwined root system at the base of the stand.

Did we mention that these trees are really, really big!

After a short visit at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center we drove a bit south to Davison Road and parked at Elk Meadow to look for Roosevelt Elk in the meadows.  We didn't see any, but we did discover another hiking trail to Trillium Falls. This entire area used to be heavily logged up until 1970. The Federal Government purchased the land in 1990 and an effort toward re-forestation began.  The very comfortable 2.5 mile trail first allowed us to see Trillium Falls.

Not great as far as waterfalls go, but the real purpose of this trail is to show the old growth trees.  We learned that although the upper portions of redwoods are massive, the root systems are actually quite shallow. They have no tap root and the depth of the roots are often times only 10 feet or less.

Walking through a forest of redwoods takes on an almost magical feeling.  The sheer size of the trees combined with the lush ground vegetation and filtered sunlight all make for a very "quiet and peaceful" feeling.

We left the Elk Meadow area and continued east on Davison Road toward the shore.  Our goal was to see Fern Canyon beyond Gold Bluffs Beach, but a water crossing in the Honda Fit was not in the cards for today.  We stopped briefly at the beach, but as it was pretty windy and down right chilly, we didn't spend much time there.  It looks as though not many folks wanted to be out on the beach today either.

The redwoods are a magnificent sight to see. For those who have never experienced this, a bucket entry notation should be made.

NOTE: As I write this blog on Sunday morning, the rain has returned as of last night and is supposed to continue thru today and most of Monday.    We were supposed to leave this area on Monday, but might push the move back to Tuesday as I just don't want to tear down in the rain again.

Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Starting the Move South for the Winter

Klamath, CA

We left the Thousand Trails Preserve at South Beach, OR on Wednesday to begin our "slow" movement toward Arizona for the winter season. Neither Karen nor I had ever seen redwoods, so we decided to head toward the redwoods in northern California.

We arrived in Klamath, CA (about 20 miles south of Crescent City) on Wednesday afternoon after driving thru rain the entire drive. I'm really not a fan of driving in the rain, but after the last few days of continuous rain in South Beach, OR, a change was definitely needed.

After reading thru a few reviews of area campgrounds on and checking the Passport America listings we selected the Golden Bear RV park. Most of the parks in the area are described as "fish camps" because of the proximity to the Klamath River and the salmon fishing in the river.  Many times, fish camps might be considered a bit on the rough side, but Golden Bear RV Park is actually pretty nice, and the price was right at $15 per night for full hook-ups.

Surprisingly, the CG is not really busy right now. The CG isn't fancy, but has paved interior roads and paved RV sites.

Here's a look at our site. Notice the "pull in" sites for a nice view of the river.

The view out the front windshield is pretty nice. The river is literally right down the bank, but the CG also has a boat dock for those with boats. The mouth of the river into the Pacific Ocean is only about 1/2 mile down river.

A popular area attraction is the Klamath Jet Boat Tours up the Klamath River. Their business is located beside the campground, but this time of year most of the tourists have gone and it's not nearly as busy as summertime.

Today we ventured out a bit to explore the area. Just a bit north of us is an overlook on the north side of the Klamath River located high on a bluff overlooking the junction of the river with the Pacific Ocean. In the picture, the Klamath is separated from the ocean only by a thin sand bar, but empties into the ocean toward the top.

Here's a view looking north along the coast from the observation deck at the top.

Of course we had to hike down the trail to a lower level to take a closer look.

More beautiful views from a lower position on the cliffs.  We're again looking north in this picture.

After leaving this area, we stopped briefly for a view of our rig's position along the river. Our MH is circled in red.

Our next stop was on the south side of the river. The south observation point allows you to see how the Klamath River arrives at the entrance to the Pacific Ocean. 

A trip further up the hill took us to an interesting spot.  The site is known as Radar Station B71. It was constructed by the US Army for use during WWII to monitor the movement of Japanese subs in the northwest waters. The interesting part was that it was built to look like a working farm. Although constructed of concrete blocks, it was clad in wood planking and had split wooden roof shingles with false dormers. 

From the air, sea, and even from the road the structure appeared to be a farm, but inside contained electronics, a diesel generator, and 2 50 caliber machine guns.

We returned to the beach area on the south side of the river to watch the fisherman catching Chinook Salmon using both nets and lines.  This area is dominated by the Yurok Indian Tribe who have lived near and fished these waters for centuries.

The salmon were so plentiful that they would occasionally beach themselves.

Not only were the humans fishing today, but the seals, gulls, and pelicans were also having a field day.

The seals were literally 50 feet off the beach waiting for the fish.

Here's one fellow who appears to be surfing the swells.

We ended a great day by watching the fisherman, seals, birds, and the surf rolling in until the sun began to set.  Tomorrow we hope to explore the area and visit some of the nearby parks containing the redwood trees.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Make it Stop!

South Beach, OR

Today's blog is going to be short and non-informative.

Here's what we've seen out our window every day since last Saturday.  

Courtesy of

It will rain hard for a few minutes, then the sun will actually come out for a few minutes.  Then, it's back to raining again.

Sorry, but I'm not a fan!

The only thing I hate worse than watching the rain thru the window each day is setting up and tearing down camp in the rain.

We're due to move south tomorrow, so every little chance (of non-rain) we've had today to get out and put things away, we've taken advantage of.

Please make it stop! I know you die hard north westerners will say that you just have to get used to it, but really, no we don't.  We have wheels and they will be turning again tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by to listen to my rant for the day.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

South Beach, OR

Yesterday's weather was just flat out gorgeous here on this part of the Oregon coast. After checking the weather reports for coming days, we decided that it would be a good day to do a bit of exploring, hiking, and beaching. 

A look at the map indicated that the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area located just 20 miles to our south (just south of Yachats) sounded like it fit the bill.

We were not disappointed.  The sky was very clear, temps in the mid-60s, and the tide was going out as we arrived.  This area was formed long ago when the hot lava flowed to the sea. The craggy rocks create some interesting features where the land meets water.

The first feature located just down the Captain Cook Trail from the Visitor's Center is called Spouting Horn.  Unfortunately, this feature is best viewed when the tide is high.  The inrushing water is forced up through a small hole in the lava rock and creates a pretty spectacular show. (We just saw a "small" spouting, so I guess we have another reason to return.

We've come to love exploring the tidal pools along the coast. Here's a picture looking to the south at mid-tide.

Barnacles cover these rocks and are easily viewed when the tide recedes.

These plants break loose and wash up on the beaches occasionally.  They are called bullwhip kelp and can grow to great lengths.  The nodule at the top is filled with carbon monoxide.

These plants are very tough in  my opinion. They are called sea palms (Postelsia) and cling to the rocks. I watched them get pounded repeatedly by the surf, but they just kept swaying back and forth.

A closer look into the tidal pools allows you to observe all sorts of sea plants and animals.  Here's a picture of the very common sea anemone, but they are still fun to watch.

Walking further south along the beach we came to an area named the Devil's Churn. It's an area where the water rushes into a narrow chasm created in the lava rock and violently crashes into the rocks.

This is a picture of Cape Cove located just south of the Tidal Pools and Devil's Churn. Quite a nice area for playing on the beach when the tide is going out.

As the day was slipping away, we left the beach area and drove up the Forest Road to the top of the cliffs overlooking Cape Perpetua. We're really glad we did as we were also able to view quite a number of whales spouting just off shore. This view (indicated by the red box) shows where we had been earlier in the day exploring the tidal pools.

This stone structure is named the West Shelter and was constructed back in the 1930s by the CCC workers.  Today it provides a wonderful vantage point for viewing the Cape Perpetual area below.

Just on the north side of the West Shelter was our view looking toward the little town of Yachats and beyond.

Another great day on the Oregon coast! Hey, we've come to really enjoy Oregon after spending some time in different parts of the state.  We knew very little about the state prior to these visits. We've already decided that we want to return again.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Whale Watching Excursion

South Beach, OR

While traveling along the coast the past few days we had seen some whale activity from afar when we made stops at the scenic turnouts and used the binoculars. The area near Depoe Bay is considered one of the prime spots to whale watch as there are a number of whales which stay in this area year round.

We decided it was time to take a closer look if we really wanted to be able to view the whales. There are several companies in Depoe Bay which take people out on fishing excursions and do “whale watching” trips as a sideline business to increase revenue.

We wanted to learn something about the whales and their habits rather than just go for a boat ride. One such company seemed to fit the bill nicely. Whale Research EcoExcursions  is owned and tours are personally guided by Carrie Newell, a marine biologist, who has spent the last 20 years studying the habits and following the paths of the grey whales which inhabit these waters.

Another choice we had to make was what style of boat would get us closer to the whales.  Several companies offered large boats which hold 40-50 people.

We decided that a smaller boat not only offered a more “personal” tour (since the Zodiac-style boat only holds 6 passengers, plus the captain), but it would put us lower to the waterline and be able to roll with the waves a bit better and offer greater maneuverability. This is the type of boat which Carrie pilots when looking for the whales.

Depoe Bay’s harbor has a very narrow passageway to get to the ocean, but the Zodiak took the surf quite nicely.

We also saw a few harbor seals lounging on the rocks as we exited the harbor.

Carrie’s dog is named Kita and accompanies her on all of her excursions. We quickly found out that Kita is not along just as an extra passenger, but within the past few months as learned to bark when a whale spout is first observed. She was a very well-behaved dog.

Let me apologize in advance for the lack of pictures of the actual whale sightings. A couple of things contributed to this. First was Carrie’s rule that no one was permitted to stand in the Zodiac. Completely understandable and with the swells we were encountering yesterday, it just would not be a good idea. Secondly, did I mention large swells. Many times, when a whale was spotted a large swell would roll between it and our boat and you would lose sight of it altogether. Lastly, have you ever tried to photograph a whale when you didn’t know exactly where to look to begin with, and then get a quick shot off before it went under again? All the while doing this from a sitting position?

Keeping the above in mind, here’s two shots I got that will at least let you know that we did actually go out into the ocean and find a few whales.

Carrie explained that fluke sightings (whale’s tail) are not all that common.  It depends upon a number of factors, but much has to do with the depth of the water. Whales show their flukes when they are diving straight down to look for food.

(Courtesy of
We really knew very little about whales (and grey whales in particular) before taking our excursion. Adult grey whales usually grow to 45-50 feet in length and weigh 45-50 tons in this area of the world.  They have no teeth and feed on very small shrimp called krill. The whale opens its’ mouth and takes in a huge amount of water containing the krill which are “filtered” through over 300 baleen, which is similar to keratin in humans. The whale’s tongue expels the excess water by pressing against the baleen.

If you would like to learn more about whales and whaling in Depoe Bay’s history, be sure and visit
The Whale Watching Center located on the main street on the south side of the bridge.


I can’t say enough good things about our whale excursion with Carrie (and Kita). If you want to view whales up close, there are a number of companies which could get you there, but if you really want to learn something about these great creatures, then Carrie Newell has the knowledge, experience, and a real passion for whales. Her excursion is not the cheapest of the possible companies in Depoe Bay ($40 per person for a 1.5 hour excursion), but I think you’ll come away very happy. We did! (And to think, I got paid nothing for the above commercial.)

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!