Sneak Peak: A Land of Volcanos and Oceans

Waves crash on the ancient lava flows at Cape Perpetua, Oregon

Waves crash on the ancient lava flows at Cape Perpetua, Oregon (btw, that kid isn’t as close as he looks)

So if anyone’s been wondering where I’ve been (or why I haven’t been) on social media over the last month, we just got back from a 3 week adventure to the Pacific Northwestern US!  It was pretty amazing, filled with volcanos, volcanic formations, and the Pacific Ocean.  The weather was really quite good, too, except that it was 115 in NorCal and Mt. Hood decided to hide its head in the clouds.  But, hey, you can’t have everything, and I think we made out pretty well considering.

 


 

Wildflowers on the side of Mt. Shasta, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California

Wildflowers on the side of Mt. Shasta

We started out by visiting the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, IL (almost in Iowa).  Here we got to see big machinery, climb into a bulldozer and front end loader (not to mention a ginormous combine and more normal size big farm tractor).  Let’s just say some of the younger (and older) members of my group had a terrific time!

Front End Loader that you can actually climb into at the John Deere Pavilion, Moline, Illinois

Front End Loader that you can actually climb into at the John Deere Pavilion

Then we ended up having to get a tire fixed in Salt Lake City, UT.  It just happened to be Pioneer Day, a state holiday celebrating the coming of the first Mormon Pioneers, so the people at the tire place directed us about 5 blocks away to see the parade (which is the 2nd largest parade in the country… or was it the 3rd largest?)

One of the floats in the Pioneer Day Parade

One of the floats in the Pioneer Day Parade

The next day we finally arrived at our first official destination, and explored some caves in Lava Beds National Monument in far northern California (it’s a good thing the caves were cool, because it was too hot to hike outside):

Exploring the caves at Lava Beds National Monument, California

Exploring the caves at Lava Beds

And the next morning we explored the “Big Crack”, a faultline that split, revealing a kind of rock slot canyon (pretty cool!)

Inside the Big Crack in Lava Beds National Monument, California

Inside the Big Crack in Lava Beds

Then we headed down to Mt. Shasta, where we did two hikes, Brewer Creek (which I can’t call a trail, since we mostly followed unofficial social trails through stunning scenery)…

Views of Mt. Shasta from high above the Brewer Creek Trail, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California

Views of Mt. Shasta from high above the Brewer Creek Trail

And a real trail up to the Horse Camp and Hidden Valley (which, honestly, is beyond belief spectacular).

Shastina (L) and Mt. Shasta (R) from Hidden Valley, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California

Shastina (L) and Mt. Shasta (R) from Hidden Valley… the pictures don’t do it half justice

Being so hot, we were only too happy to find a lake we could jump into.  The one we stumbled upon (Siskyou Lake) had a simply lovely view of Mt. Shasta from it.

Mt. Shasta from Siskayou Lake, California

Mt. Shasta from Siskayou Lake

Now, the one reason we were braving the 100+ degree heat (thankfully, up on the mountain it was slightly cooler) was because one of my group members wanted to visit a church in Redding.  So we did that at the end of our first week, and enjoyed it a lot.  But what we enjoyed nearly as much was driving over to the coast and the air suddenly being cool!  Yes, I can live with 60 to 70 degree temps!

 

We hadn’t planned it, but since when we were driving right though, we stopped at Redwood National Park.

Sunset at Redwood National Park, California

Sunset at Redwood National Park

The Lady Bird Johnson Grove was a definite highlight…

Early morning at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Early morning at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove

But we also stopped at the High Bluff Overlook

Views from an overlook along the seacoast, Redwood National Park, California

Views from an overlook along the seacoast

And “The Farm that Wasn’t”, an old WWII radar station built to look like a harmless seaside farm.

Old WWII-era radar station built to look like a harmless seaside farm. Redwood National Park, California

Old WWII-era radar station built to look like a harmless seaside farm. It was in much better repair and actually looked like a farm when I last visited in 1999…

From there, it wasn’t a long drive up to the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor.  Let me say here, I think it is one of the most scenic areas of US-101 in Oregon.  Personal opinion, but the sea stacks, sea arches, blue-green ocean, towering trees, and so much more were absolutely stunning!  (And Arch Rock was pretty cool, too!)

Sea arch along the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, Oregon

Sea arch along the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

The next day, we walked Floras Beach.  This is a sand beach, fairly deserted by Oregon standards (ok, by most standards) except for the nearby Flores Lake that was filled with kite surfers.  My favorite part of the hike was a sea arch we found.

Sea Arch at Flores Beach, Oregon

Sea Arch at Floras Beach

Continuing to move north, we hit Cape Perpetua, which was another definite favorite.  The most famous thing about the Cape is Thor’s Well (a collapsed lava tube through which the sea glubs at low tide and sloshes upward at high tide), which we were able to see just after high tide (the best time to view it) in relative safety due to calm seas.

Thor's Well at Cape Perpetua, Oregon

Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua… yes, this is what it looks like in calm seas as taken by an armature photographer!

But the view from the headland above is also simply beautiful.  And: I got to see my first whale ever!

The view over Cape Perpetua, Oregon

The view over Cape Perpetua

The next day, we wandered around a bit to find the Devil’s Punchbowl.  It was well worth visiting at low tide, as we could scramble over the volcanic rock and tide pools to enter the Punchbowl through a sea arch, as well as sidle through a crack in a rock (a real cave passage) to get to the second sea arch entrance.  How cool is that?

Entering the Devil's Punchbowl at low tide, Oregon

Entering the Punchbowl at low tide

Later in the day, we came back to see the Punchbowl at high tide, when it’s full of water!

High tide at the Devil's Punchbowl, Oregon

High tide at the Punchbowl. it probably sloshes more in rougher seas.

In between low tide and high tide, we walked Beverly Beach, with views toward the Yaquita Head Lighthouse.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse from south of Beverly Beach, Oregon

Yaquina Head Lighthouse from south of Beverly Beach

After that hike, we simply had to go and see the lighthouse, even though we were too late in the day for a tour (which was very nearly too small for my group, anyway).

Yaquita Head Lighthouse, Oregon

Yaquita Head Lighthouse

The next day we decided to take a break from beaches and went to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  All I can say is, I highly recommend it.  Not only can you see cheese being made on the factory floor, but there’re free samples of cheese.  Green cheese, anyone?

Factory floor at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook, Oregon

Factory floor at the Tillamook Cheese Factory

In the afternoon, we couldn’t resist seeing the churning water and jumping down the 240ft. sand dune at Cape Kiwanda.

Waves at Cape Kiwanda, Oregon

Waves at Cape Kiwanda

I think my group was tiring a bit of beach walks, but I pleaded to do one more – Cannon Beach.  So we visited Hug Point

Waterfall at Hug Point, Oregon

Waterfall at Hug Point

Arcadia Beach…

Lion Rock at Arcadia Beach, Oregon

Lion Rock at Arcadia Beach

And Cannon Beach (where I got to see my first puffin on Haystack Rock!)

Reflections approaching Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Reflections approaching Haystack Rock

And since we were there, we visited Ecola State Park and hiked the Clatsop Loop (complete with views of a lighthouse ‘way out on a seastack and a WWII era bunker).

Tillamook Head Light from the Clatsop Loop, Ecola State Park, Oregon

Tillamook Head Light (with full zoom)

The next day was our last on the coast, so we visited For Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent their winter on the Pacific Coast, and got to see a ranger shoot off a flintlock gun!

Just after a ranger shot off a flint lock gun at Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Oregon

Just after shooting off the gun…

Well, I really wanted some more mountains, so we drove inland to Mt. Hood (hey, it’s on the way east, right?)  The day we arrived was beautiful, as was the weather as we walked around Elk Meadows and headed up Gnarl Ridge.  But by the time we got to the top, the mountain was wearing clouds for a hood (pun intended).  The clouds did part for a moment just before we went down, and I can safely say this is one incredibly spectacular hike!

Mt. Hood from Gnarl Ridge, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

Mt. Hood from Gnarl Ridge

The next day was still cloudy, but we did the Old Vista Ridge Trail anyway to Owl Point.  This is a well-maintained trail (minus some windfall) kept up by volunteers – the Forest Service has been trying to forget about this hiking trail for years; the first time I tried to hike it 2010, they’d piled logs at the trail junction.  But this time, it was clear, and I’d do the trail again in a heartbeat if the weather was nice.

Mt. Hood from Owl Point, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

Mt. Hood from Owl Point

The next day’s weather was no better.  We hiked the Mazama Trail to McNeil Point, which is supposed to have a fantastic view.  I can’t vouch for that, but I can say it’s a great trail to take on a misty, rainy day – the meadows in the mist are awesome!  (Not to mention the wildflowers and waterfalls!)

Meadows in the mist en route to McNeil Point, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

Meadows in the mist en route to McNeil Point

Well, with the weather so cloudy and with us running very short on time, we thought we’d stop at Yellowstone National Park on the way home – a couple younger members of the group had been asking, so, hey, why not?!?

 

We spent a very enjoyable evening at the Upper Geyser Basin.

Castle Geyser and Beehive Geyser blow simultaneously... actually, Old Faithful was also going at that second, but I couldn't see it from this vantage point. Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Castle Geyser and Beehive Geyser blow simultaneously… actually, Old Faithful was also going at that second, but I couldn’t see it from this vantage point

And the next morning, there were several of us who just couldn’t resist a hike in Grand Teton National Park.  It turned out to be a phenomenal trail in terms of views; the Lakeshore Trail that begins from the Colter Bay Visitor Center.

Mt. Moran over Jackson Lake from the Lakeside Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Mt. Moran over Jackson Lake

After that, it was a “quick” drive down to Hobo Pool (a must if we’re going anywhere near it on our way home) before making tracks back east… but what a way to end the trip!

 

I’ll be posting about all my adventures in the upcoming weeks… stay tuned!

 

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