Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Lost Coast

We ventured out to "The Lost Coast" of California for a few days - an aptly named, extremely remote part of the coast. The road out to The Lost Coast was the worst we have seen; steep, narrow, and seemingly one continuous pot-hole, sometimes filled, sometimes not. Quite the adventure in our van!
We ventured through the "town" of Petrolia where there was no petroleum or much else to be found. But we did stumble upon these amazing creatures grazing on a farm that we passed. What a surprise!

And these more common creatures were grazing by the sea.

We found a great campsite on BLM land (in a tsunami zone) where we stayed for 2 nights. The coast here is wild. Just look at the size of these waves.

We also stumbled upon this labyrinth in the sand.

We met some interesting folks while we were here. One wily, beach-encrusted fellow we met was bursting with excitement because the seasonal lagoon had just breached the sand bar that separates it from the ocean. He said that in the fall, when the rains return, the river rises and makes its way to the ocean, turning this summer lagoon into a wet-season estuary, allowing the salmon to spawn up the river. A sure sign of fall he assured us. Here's the lagoon / estuary with the breached sand bar in the background.

We also befriended a neighbor who was camping there with his 3 horses. He was on a hunting trip, and he shared some fresh black-tailed venison with us one night. It was delicious, but definitely tasted different than the white-tailed venison we are accustomed to.

Another guy we met was about to take a new job as one of the scientists assigned to build a machine that can measure a newly conceived particle called a neutrena. Who knew? You meet all kinds of folks on The Lost Coast!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Arcata in Full Color

We've been treating ourselves to a hotel room about once a month. It's really nice to get out of the van, have a long bath and a real bed for a night. We went crazy this time, and ended up getting a room for 2 nights in Arcata, CA. We stayed in the Hotel Arcata which overlooks the town square; that's our room on the top floor with the windows open.

I loved our view, thus took lots of photos from it. Notice the palm trees. A sure sign we're getting to the warm lands! Except for the palm trees, the scene reminded me of a west coast Burnsville. That could be Otway Burns out there in the middle of the square.

But the similarities came to an abrupt halt once the sun went down. Here was our view at night.

Yes, that is purple haze!

Arcata is the home of Humboldt State University, located in the heart of Humboldt County, one of the three counties that make up the "Emerald Triangle" we learned. Northern California, and Humboldt County in particular, is infamously known for it's illegal agricultural pursuits (although medical marijuana use has been legal for some time now here, and a referendum - Proposition 19 - to legalize it altogether is up for vote on November 2nd). But we were all pretty amazed to see (and especially smell) how abundant this cash crop is. The smell was thick in the air from 3 stories up when we poked our heads out the window. Just driving around town and throughout the countryside, we were inundated by the pungent smell.

The next morning we awoke to a whole other scene below our window - a thriving farmer's market with a rockin' Cuban band.

Check out this colorful produce! Notice that the purple theme continues.

Purple broccoli even!

But our favorite bit of local color was the woman at the "Poem Store". She was wearing full retro regalia, had an antique typewriter in a box on her lap, and clacked out original poems for her customers. We couldn't resist patronizing her Poem Store with her slogan, "Your Subject, Your Price".

While I continued the fun adventure of procuring provisions for the week, George and Adalaya brought out the Frisbee and joined the other families, dancers, hula hoopers, jugglers, hippie kids, and general freaks that were enjoying the day on the square.

And just to remind everyone of where they are on this beautiful day, Arcata had these colors flying.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Redwood Country

Well, we've made it to Northern California! This is a huge milestone for us. The Redwoods have been on the top of Adalaya's list of places to visit on our trip. These ancient old-growth forests are preserved in Redwoods National Park, and numerous other state parks along the northern coast of California. We have explored many of these primeval groves now, and they are all unspeakably magical. My photos don't do them justice, but I think they'll give a glimpse of the enormity of these awe-inspiring trees which are the tallest in the world.

We also did the all-too-touristy but not very reverent act of driving through one of these giants.

The Redwood forest stretches (intermittently now) along the coast of Northern California, so as we zigzagged our way from the coast to towns and cities more inland, we sought refuge in these amazing forests. We always felt like we could ground ourselves here, like we were home.

This photo was taken in "The Children's Forest", a magical grove dedicated to children.

Adalaya really enjoyed making forts in the Redwoods whenever we camped in the parks. This Redwood stump in one of our campsites made for a great place to record these good memories.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oregon Coast

After leaving Portland, we headed to Oregon's rugged coast. Our first stop was the little community of Oceanside, where Will and Mara had gotten married a few years earlier. George was really excited to return to such a beautiful area and show us some of it's unique qualities. We explored this neat tunnel through the cliff built in WWII that connects two beaches.

We also saw this beautiful Pacific sunset behind the sea stacks.

We continued down the coast stopping at scenic spots such as the Sea Lion Caves. Unfortunately the cave was having technical difficulties with their elevator so we couldn't go down into the sea cave, but luckily the sea lions weren't in the cave anyway. We were able to see them frolicking together in the surf - looks like fun!

Here's a couple of scenic lighthouses we went by.

About half way down the Oregon coast, the landscape changes dramatically from rocky cliffs to huge sand dunes. We had a great day exploring Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. There's a full mile of sand dunes before you reach the beach.

Once we reached the deserted beach we found all kinds of cool things: interesting stones, huge crab shells, and gnarled driftwood.

The walk back to the van evoked images of being lost in the Sahara.

We found some good free camping on the beaches.

And with beach camping, we enjoyed more gorgeous sunsets. It's my favorite part of the day. I feel like the whole horizon is a huge amphitheater where there's a new show every evening.

As we reached southern Oregon, the coastline turned rocky again, and we explored some of the beautiful natural arches and sea stacks that have been sculpted by the sea.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Portland, OR

I send a heartfelt apology to all the devout blog followers out there in the blogosphere. I have fallen drastically behind in my postings. We've been so busy having so much fun lately, that I haven't made time to sit in front of the computer for hours on end. But here I am now with some down time, a power source, and a good internet connection so here we go . . . I'm backdating the posts for an accurate time-line of the events.

We spent a wonderful (albeit wet) week in Oregon. Our first stop was Portland, where we hit up another of George's cousins for a nice dry place to stay. We stayed with Will and Mara in their beautiful house for 4 days while we explored Portland. One day we beat the rain and rode our bikes into downtown in search of Portland's treasures.

We found all kinds of treats including the best hot chocolate in town. We sampled the sweet hot chocolate, dark hot chocolate, and their mocha. Chocolate love!

We went all out at this cafe and ordered some tasty pastries too; a good reward for a long bike ride.

I loved this statue of a mama and baby elephant.

And of course we spent several hours in Powell's Books - one square block of books!

Another day, Will took us to the Japanese Garden - a tranquil, verdant, oasis in the city.

Adalaya has ranked this garden as one of her favorite places that we've visited. It was definitely a magical place.

The Japanese theme continued throughout the weekend. Chef Will was avidly practicing his Japanese before leaving for a 4 month trip to Japan where he would be working in a world-renown restaurant. After we visited the Japanese garden, we all went out to eat at Bamboo Sushi that evening. We let Will order for us and we sampled all kinds of delicacies including sushi, nigiri, urchin roe, and some really smooth sake. It was a great night of feasting and fun with family.

If you haven't noticed, we are eating our way across the country, but it has gotten more decadent since we hit the west coast! In the morning we went to the Portland Farmer's Market for more fantastic food. One vendor had a table full of different types of mushrooms; a definite sign that we're in the Pacific Northwest.

Portland is probably the "greenest" city in the nation, and it's not because of all the rain. It is extremely bike friendly - there are miles and miles of well-marked and heavily used bike lanes and bike paths which make getting around the city on a bike quite pleasant. They also have added a 3rd tier of waste disposal. Most cities now have trash and recycling pick-up, but Portland also has a weekly compost pick-up! Throughout the park on the day of the Farmer's Market you had 3 options if you needed to throw something away: trash, recycle, or compost. Let the rest of the country take note!

We had a great time visiting Portland. It was so nice to get to spend time with Will and Mara. Good luck in Japan, Will! And Mara, I hope your students behave!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We started homeschooling after Labor Day and it has been great so far. Adalaya is loving the computer-based math program and keeps asking me if she can do more math. This is a first. This week we are also studying volcanoes, and (not coincidentally) we happen to be in volcano territory. Our first stop was Mt. Rainier National Park to visit the active volcano that looms over Seattle. It's a breathtaking sight when this mountain appears out of the clouds and seems to hover over the city. We were lucky to catch a clear day and make it to the mountain before the clouds engulfed it. An hour after I took this photo you couldn't see the mountain anymore, just cloud cover. It's so massive that it creates it's own weather patterns.

We had a great hike through the subalpine meadows.

We then headed south to Mt. Saint Helens in order to get a good "before and after" understanding of volcanoes. We drove up the east side of the volcano, where most of the blast damage occurred. We had a good view of the caldera and could even see some wisps of steam still rising from the crater - it is still active after all!

The entire area was covered in ash and pumice, and dead stumps and snags still remained. Thirty years after the eruption, it still looked quite barren. Even Spirit Lake still has a huge amount of logs floating in it from the blast. You can see the peak of Mt. Rainier in the background of this photo too.

The view from here was amazing. All the volcanoes in the Cascade Range are much taller than the surrounding mountains, and from this vantage point we could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood (in Oregon) and this beauty, Mt. Adams.

To complete our first-hand experience of volcanoes, we also explored a lava tube. Ape Cave is a one mile long cave that formed 2000 years ago during one of Mt. Saint Helens' eruptions. As a river of lava cooled and hardened on the outside, it formed an insulated tube where the inner lava could continue to flow. The hot lava eventually drained, and this cool cave remains. It was pitch black in here except for our flashlight and the flash of the camera.

Homeschooling is so much fun!!!