Among the Giant Trees

Awake before dawn, I sleepily got in the driver’s seat & headed back to the little beach wayside in Crescent City by the lighthouse. I did manage to make it out of my overnight “hiding” spot before anyone inquired. Once it got to be daylight, I took Geb out for a walk as has become our routine in the mornings. I wanted to walk over to the lighthouse so I could take a good picture. Geb was such a little trooper! He totally walked the whole way there & back, across the rocky beach. His little paws were so wet, but he was having so much fun!

So cute!

The beach wayside was a perfect spot to work & rest that day. It was such a pretty spot, even despite the low-hanging gray clouds.

I went down to the National & State Parks Ranger Station during my lunch break. Those redwoods almost kicked my ass yesterday I figured I better get some expert advice. Come to find out, at the end of the jeep trail that I headed toward in the darkness last night, there really IS a RV park. My trusty iPhone app didn’t steer me wrong. Just the directions app that it sent me to did. The map the rangers gave me said in nice bright red letters “No RVs or Trailers” on that road. Yeah, I guess that would have been nice to know! There is another way around to get to the RV park in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park that is a nice windy paved road that is suitable for Sofia.

Returning to my little lighthouse wayside haven, I finished the afternoon. By 4pm (5pm MDT), I was more than ready to be done with my work day & tempt my fate with the redwoods again. I headed east out Hwy 199. What an incredible stretch of road. They really preserved the forest when they put in that road. I was so grateful for their foresight. Huge redwood trees standing there so close to the road that the sides of Sofia were almost brushing them as we drove slowly winding through the groves. I only had the one night to wander through the redwoods, so the ranger had recommended the Walker Road area.

Turning onto the graveled Walker Road, I quickly realized that the other section of the state park that I was in last night really wasn’t that much different than this area. Meaning, this forest park is still very wild. Even in 2012. The roads are really not developed. Signage is pretty much non-existent after the initial sign that said Walker Road. I was trusting that the ranger would not send me down a road I would have to repeat my turn-around escapade of last night! And thankfully, the roads weren’t quite as narrow.

Sofia in the Redwoods

I kept driving until I reached the Smith River. I hadn’t known there would be a river amongst those trees. I managed to find a spot to turn around & pulled over. I wanted to explore this magical place on foot. I grabed my camera & set off. Back up the road I drove in for a while and then changed roads to a smaller side road that branched off. I kept wandering off the road into the groves to see an extra big looking tree or a fallen log covered in moss that intrigued me well.

Mossy log & huckleberries

Crazy enough, the whole time I was by or walking along the road, only three cars passed by… for hours! I literally was alone out in those huge magnificent trees for hours.

I loved being amongst those trees!

Although, it was quite humbling to be just a girl wandering among those ancient giants. They felt so grand and so wise. It was very quiet in the groves, occasionally I’d hear a bird, but that was it. Not even any wind in the trees that day. I finally found a sign “Trail”. Of course it didn’t say where the trail went, but I followed it any way. It didn’t feel like I was hiking through there, no, it really was a meditative stroll, so serene and peaceful.

There was just so much to look at and take in. The trees themselves, from their height and girth, to their branches and needles, their bark with deep groves in it, some covered in mosses and lichens, some not. The forest floor is soft with sour grass, mosses and duff, hundreds of years of needles falling there, so rich and nutritious for the abundance of huge plant life there. The underbrush added to the tranquility of the forest with vine maples, rhododendrons, huckleberries, many kinds ferns, and salmon berries. I can only imagine how beautiful it would be when the rhododendrons are blooming; my next trip to the redwoods will have to be in the spring.

I saw many trees with old burn scars. Amazing how those old trees could weather such a fire & survive, but many of them did. Of course not all of them; I’m sure that’s why some were laying as logs covered in moss. I don’t know how many hundreds of years ago the fire happened, but only the rugged, huge old trees had burn scars. It made me reflect upon the difficulties in life. I guess the saying is true that says “what doesn’t kills you makes you stronger”.

I found wildlife in the underbrush as well!

As well as slugs, as I walked along I saw lots different varieties of shelf mushrooms growing on dead or dying trees.

Fascinating shelf mushroom

I was really excited when I found this incredible mushroom that was bigger than my hand spread wide! I still need to work on identifying it.

HUGE Mushroom

I also saw this parasol type mushroom that was huge as well; probably more than 10” across. I took its picture & admired it for a while, then wandered off to continue my exploration. Upon my return several hours later, it had fallen over, I’m thinking that it must have just continued to grow & had collapsed under its own weight. What a place this forest is with its giant trees and mushrooms!

Parasol Mushroom

And, finally, I found some mushrooms I could eat! Oyster mushrooms! They were way high up in a tree, but I have hunted these before and know how to coax them down from their lofty heights. I found a long stick & pushed up on their hold to the tree to break them loose. Works like a charm! The only difficulty was then finding them all in the dense underbrush, but I got them! They were delicious addition to my dinner later that night!


Walking along the trail, I found an old log that a bench had been cut into. It had a plaque in honor of Don J. Leiffer, May 31, 1925 – February 18, 1970. “Lover of Nature, People, and Life – He burned his candle at both ends… and it made a wondrous light.” That saying is inspiring to me… don’t just be busy with life, but make something wonderful out of the busyness. Further down the trail there was another plaque, “Walk wonderingly through the forest and experience the joy of discovery.” – Dorothy and Murray Leiffer Grove. I smiled when I read that as I had spent the last several hours doing exactly that!

As I wandered, I reflected on the book that inspired me to come back to the redwoods. I had visited the giant trees when I was a kid with my family, but hadn’t thought much of them since. Then several years ago, I found a book called The Wild Trees. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in nature. Its all about the first people who learned how to climb the redwood & giant sequoia trees and about the entirely different ecosystems that they found up there. Truly fascinating! Ever since reading and rereading that book I’ve wanted to come back, just to wander among these majestic trees.


Its not called “Adventure” for Nothing

A heavy fog greeted me when I woke up on Sunday. Ah, yes! Now, this was the Oregon coast I knew so well. I knew I had been spoiled the last few days of simply gorgeous weather. I had gotten up early as I planned to drive all the way from Pacific City to Crescent City, CA to the redwoods. That’s quite a stretch down the coastline. I was planning to stop at all the lighthouses & any other interesting spot along the way.

Before I left the RV park, I took Geb & Nyssa to the dunes right behind my camp site. Geb had fun playing in the grass & digging in the sand; it was adorable! Nyssa is even getting more accustomed to her harness & started looking around rather than just playing dead, so cute!

My first stop down the highway was Boiler Bay. I had gone there in high school with my Marine Biology class for tide pooling. The tide was in, but I still had a lot of fun looking at what I could see… anemones, limpets, little orange crabs, start fish, muscles, barnacles, snails, and sea urchins. I even found a whole sea urchin shell!

Boiler Bay

As I drove past Depoe Bay I saw they had a sign stating it’s the “World’s Smallest Harbor”. I stopped to take a look & beg to differ. The harbors that my sister, Beth, & I saw in Cinque Terre were definitely smaller than that! However, it is definitely a small harbor by Oregon standards.

I meandered down Otter Crest Loop, loving the rocky shoreline, and stopped to see Devil’s Punchbowl. The punchbowl was formed when the roof of two sea caves collapsed, creating an open topped cavern full of churning & foaming water with tunnels leading out to the sea.

Devil’s Punchbowl

Just north of Newport is Yaquina Head Lighthouse. It was fun to stop there & hike around a bit. I remember going there in high school with Beth one year. We stopped by on our way to Newport to buy school clothes. We had so much fun that day just the two of us. I stood in line for about 10 minutes waiting to go into the lighthouse, but the line was very long & the wait just didn’t seem worth it to me. I still had miles & miles of coastline to drive to make it to California.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Of course I couldn’t resist trying to take the “perfect” fireweed picture on my way back to Sofia!

And, I couldn’t help but laughing when I saw this sign on the walkway as well. Wildlife! Only in Oregon… LOL!

Rather than burning off, the fog kept getting worse the later in the day it got and the further south I drove. By the time I got to Newport, the fog was downright interfering with my view! The Waldport Bridge was completely hidden from site and I couldn’t get a picture of it.

Foggy Newport Bridge

Onward, stopping to take in the sites at Cape Perpetua, Devil’s Churn, & Hector Head Lighthouse, I finally arrived down at the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area. There are lots of areas to stop at, most are geared toward ATV riders. I decided to try the Siltcoos area. Not a great option to see a bunch of big dunes, but this little waterway was beautiful.

Siltcoos Waterway

I had been having so much fun throughout the day just meandering along and stopping wherever I was drawn. But now, it was getting later in the afternoon and I was still a ways away from my goal of spending the night in the Redwoods. I decided I better not stop anymore along the way, of course, except for lighthouses and a quick stop along the highway shoulder to take a pretty picture of a swampy areas & dune.

I did get detoured for a minute at the Coquille Lighthouse outside of Bandon. I walked down to the beach & found a great driftwood sculpture; I think it’s a cute little bug. There were also two little boys about 7 or 8 who were building a fort out of driftwood. “This is going to be the BEST fort ever!” one boy exclaimed to his playmate. It made me smile… They were utterly engrossed in their project, with a beautiful zest for life, so alive in that very moment. It was precious.

Driftwood Bug Sculpture

There are so many beautiful & historic bridges along the Hwy 101 route. I couldn’t help but stop again when I saw the bridge over the Rogue River outside of Gold Beach.

Wild sweet pea & Rogue River bridge

The coastline between Gold Beach & Brookings was so beautiful… I just couldn’t get enough of all the rock formations sprinkling the coastline. I watched the sun setting over these beautiful formations as I continued my journey south.

Oregon doesn’t allow you to pump your own gas. It was interesting to me that along Hwy 101 as I stopped in Newport for gas as well as Brookings, both attendants noticed I was alone & asked me about my adventures. The guy in Newport was fascinated. He said he too wanted to go to the redwoods, but didn’t have anyone to go with him. I encouraged him to just go do it by himself! In Brookings, the woman attendant I talked to also was intrigued. She said that someday she hoped to “get a wild hair” & go adventuring. Of course I encouraged her to do it… sooner rather than later! I really enjoyed my conversation with her & got out of Sofia to give her a hug as I was about to drive away. One of the last things she said, was “I hope you find what you’re looking for on this adventure.” It really made me stop & think as I continued my drive south… what is it that I am looking for out here? Adventure? To see the world? To meet new people? To experience different things? To find myself? To push myself out of my comfort zone? Maybe all of these things… it’s a question I’ve had on my mind since she asked it and I continue to reflect on it.

Just outside of Crescent City. I drove through an area of fields & along the tree line I saw a big redwood tree! It was just there, along with the other trees, seemingly nothing special. But I knew immediately that I had just seen my first redwood tree of the trip. Wahoo! I was almost there, my long fun-filled day of adventure was almost over. I couldn’t wait to find a camping spot. I was planning to eat the crab I had bought for dinner the day before & I was getting hungry!

It was twilight by the time I rolled into Crescent City. Yippee! I had made it! My mapquest directions showed that the address for Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park was right downtown Crescent City. I thought that perhaps there was a small section of redwood trees they had saved right there. But no, after driving the 12 blocks down to the beach, not seeing any redwoods (like they would be hard to miss!), finding another lighthouse, & then driving back into town, I realized that the address was actually just an administrative building, which of course, was closed for the night. I pulled out my trusty iphone again & used my RV Park finder app. Sure enough, there was an RV park in the JSRSP and it looked to be only 6 miles away. The app forwards to google maps, so I had directions to follow. I was good to go!

Crescent City is a fairly small town & pretty rural after you get off the highway. I drove by a casino that had a nice two lane road in front of it. At that point, I felt like I was still pretty much in society. Just about 1/2 mile past the casino, the road curved sharply. So sharp in fact that I had to drop my phone I was holding to view the directions & use both hands to turn the wheel! All of a sudden the road got really narrow & really curvy & promptly turned to gravel! There was no place to go but forward & up into the ever darkening mists.

I was shaking a little at this point. Felt like I wasn’t getting myself into a good situation. But what does one do at that point? Go on, I guess, there was absolutely no way to turn around there & I couldn’t imagine trying to back down those horrible curves in the dark! Then I saw that the road ahead narrowed even more. But thankfully right before that there was a “wide” spot in the road. I got out & surveyed the situation. It “looked” like it probably was wide enough to turn around. It was my only option as I was up in the middle of the woods in the pitch dark!

Was dark & scary up there!

Thank goodness for my trusty flashlight. So I left the flashlight at the widest part so I’d have something to aim for & started to turn the tires as much as possible, then backed up. Then, turn the tires the other way as much as possible and go forward. There was a ditch on the side of the road in front of me, so I found a big muddy log I could barely move, but somehow managed to manhandle it & got it positioned in the ditch just in case I went too far forward. I thought it might save me in case that happened. The last thing I needed was to end up stuck in a ditch! I ended up having to take off my bike rack after I backed it into the roots of a huge tree. Little by little I made my way out. When I was about 1/2 out, Sofia completely diagonal to the road, I got out & saw that really there was probably only about 34-35′ available. Sofia is 31′ plus about 3’ for the bike rack. Scary!! At the end I counted my pivots – 15 point turn around. Whew – I had made it!

My heart was beating super rapidly & I was shaking quite a bit from the adrenaline, as I drove slowly down the twisty road out of the forest. I would try visiting the redwoods again tomorrow. I was happy to make it out safely & back to civilization with just a minor casualty to the bike rack. I guess it just has personality now.

I still needed a place to camp for the night, and especially by this point, I really wanted a glass of wine to drink, too! I remembered the beach area with the lighthouse I found when looking for the redwoods in Crescent City just a little while earlier. Arriving there, ready to be done with my day, I saw a sign “No Overnight Parking”. Damn! This day just wouldn’t end!

Again I referenced my RV Park finder app, hoping that I wouldn’t steer me wrong again. I found a campground a few miles away at the edge of Crescent City. I drove over there, but as I drove in I didn’t see any signs for an office or registration. Nothing, except a little circle road with picnic tables that appeared to be a tent camping spot. I drove onto the circle, barely making it around the tight corner. Thankfully no one was there. I decided that was it; I had had enough. I wasn’t going any further looking for a camping spot or for the office or anything. Right there in the middle of the circle was good enough for me! I would just get up at 5am, drive away & hopefully no one would know the wiser. That plan worked!

It was about 10:30pm by the time I arrived at the circle. Exhausted, but hungry, I decided to go ahead & relax by eating my nice fresh crab for dinner & enjoying some Nehalem Bay Riesling. Every time I eat Dungeness crab, I am reminded of my Aunt Julie. For a special treat, she used to take me & my sisters to get crab. Laughing & just enjoying each other as we always did when we were together, we’d go to the beach or to a park and savor each bite of our scrumptious meal.  My meal this night was perfect to celebrate surviving such an adventure-filled day!

Dinner in remembrance of my Aunt Julie

Exploring Tillamook County, Kari-style!

I had about an hour after saying goodbye to our old home & forest before meeting my dad & Dona who had driven down to the coast to have lunch with me. After driving slowly along McDonald Road enjoying the beautiful lush scenery of cow fields and coastal range, I stopped in Nehalem to shop. There really are only a few stores in the town, pretty close to how it was when I was growing up doing my Christmas shopping there. I did, however, find a really cool old glass Japanese fishing float at an antique store. Its probably about 10” in diameter, has the old rope still on it & barnacles too! I’ve wanted one of those old floats since I was a kid & have never managed to find one on the beach, so I might as well buy one. I think it’ll look nice having a bit of the coast back in my home in Utah.

In Manzanita we got some box lunches from a deli in the same location that Blue Sky Café was when I was in high school. I worked there as a busser & a prep-cook. I loved it! Its right above the café where my dad’s old surveying & engineering office was. So many hours spent in dad’s office throughout growing up… Hanging out as a kid, then my very first job was cleaning his office, and then I finally was able to work as an assistant secretary to my aunt Julie starting when I was 14. Manzanita sure has come a long way in the past 20 years. Its always been a cute little beach town, but now its even more developed; all kinds of cute little shops & restaurants along Laneda Avenue in cedar shake buildings. Talk about charm!

We enjoy our lunch on the rocks at the end of Laneda right on the corner of Ocean Avenue. The same spot that Tiffanie & I used to sit on the rocks for hours on end. Not much else to do in that sleepy little town back then other than watch tourists. Speaking of tourists, I couldn’t believe how many people there were on the beach! It again was a perfect weather day for the beach. Not a cloud in the sky or breath of wind anywhere – absolutely magnificent! I was there in my sundress, warm, enjoying the beach. My dad asked as we waded in the still freezing cold ocean, if I could remember such a beautiful day on the beach growing up. “Never!” I replied. It really was a gift to enjoy such a day.

With Dad & Dona, in a SUNDRESS, on the Manzanita beach!

After our short stroll on the beach, it was time for me to hit the road. I had exploring to do! I decided that I wanted to explore the areas of Tillamook County that I wasn’t so familiar with. Nehalem is in north county & I’m definitely a north county gal. I barely could remember many places at all down in south county. But first, I stopped  by the Nehalem Bay Winery. Why not? I had never been before. I guess it makes sense, I moved to Portland when I was 18 & was too young to go then. Of course I had been back visiting over the years, but never had made it, so this time I did. The wine was fair, but I bought some bottles anyway, for posterity’s sake. Nice to have some wine bottles that say Nehalem Bay.

Back in Sofia, I headed south on Hwy 101. I had asked Mr. Mulcahy where he recommended that I get some fresh crab for dinner. He referred me to Kelly’s, a marina just north of Rockaway Beach. He guaranteed it was the best crab on the north Oregon coast. It was a fun experience stopping there. The crabs were live, caught earlier that day. You pick one out & they boil it right then & there. After it cooks, they show you how to clean it if you’re so inclined, which, of course I was. They showed me how to drink the “crab butter” which is all the juices that are in the shell once you open it up & also found the heart for me to eat – so yummy! Crab in my fridge, further south I drove.

Its really hard to skip a Tillamook Ice Cream cone while passing through, even though I’ve been to the Tillamook Cheese Factory for ice cream many many times.

Realize though, that it was one of the nicest days ever seen on the Oregon coast. Needless to say, the cheese factory was nothing less than a zoo! The 45 minute wait for an ice cream cone was definitely worth it as I licked my favorite flavors, Coffee Almond Fudge & Mountain Huckleberry. Yummmm!

It brought back memories of working the gate at the Tillamook County Fair as a kid, too. Each day we worked, we got a free ice cream cone. Every day I’d get the same flavors, and I’d work all 5 days as my mom organized the entire gate & ticket sales. That’s a lot of ice cream! Our church manned the gates as a fundraiser for our private Christian school.

Oh what fun I had roaming all over that fairgrounds from dawn to dark, taking tickets during my shifts and during my off hours exploring the 4H barns full of cows, horses, bunnies, and chickens, the beautiful flower displays, the grange displays, looking through all the vending booths, eating my favorite fair foods (deliciously gooey cheese blimp, onion rings, yaki soba noodles, and bratwurst with sauerkraut), wandering through the carnival, watching the horse races & the topper of it all, watching the pig-n-ford races! Maybe I’m biased, but the Tillamook County Fair really is one of the best small town fairs out there. One of these years, I’m going to make it back during fair time. I just missed it by a week this year.

I deviated from Hwy 101, as I wanted to drive the Three Capes Scenic Route. My research of the 40-mile route indicated that is the most spectacular stretches of scenery on the Oregon Coast if not the entire west coast. Sadly, I couldn’t remember ever driving the whole route. How could I be from Tillamook County & not have driven this road? Also, I wanted to try to make it to each of the light houses along the Oregon coast.  The initial part of the route is driving out along the Tillamook Bay, such a pretty scene with Garibaldi & Bay City across the bay.

Tillamook Bay

I drove down the long road out to the Bayocean spit. Bayocean used to be a town out there in the early 1920’s that eroded into the ocean. The story always fascinated me.

Sofia & the bay

The community of Cape Meares is a tiny little place. Not necessarily meant for RVs I realized as I got to the end of the main street & had to turn around in the middle of the intersection as dead end signs were all around. Little did I know it was only the beginning for me of trying to turn around in tight places!

Cape Meares has a big spruce tree that I stopped to see. It was designated in 2008 as the largest Sitka Spruce in Oregon. It stands 144 feet tall, 48 feet in circumference and 15 ½ feet in diameter, its estimated to be 750 to 800 years old.

Cape Meares Big Spruce

Now, I don’t really know if I believe it’s the biggest spruce tree in Oregon. There is a spruce tree that Snuffy took us too up Rector Ridge Road in Gods Valley that we always called the Big Spruce. It is a really big spruce tree too! Its just not known to the public as its way off a main road. We always loved having that secret tree way up in the woods behind our house. We’d take our friends there sometimes & show them that really big tree. I thought of visiting it on this trip, but didn’t want to risk my luck by taking Sofia up Rector Ridge. LOL!

Cape Meares view

I checked out the lighthouse (I’ll post a blog of lighthouse pictures later) & the Octopus Tree which are also in Cape Meares park. The Octopus Tree is also a massive Sitka spruce with branches like giant tentacles growing from its 50-foot base. According to historians and Tillamook tribal descendants, it was a ceremonial tree with the branches trained this way to hold cedar canoes and other ritual objects.

Octopus Tree

Driving south past Oceanside, I remembered a special lunch date I went on there once with a dear guy, Dave. Netarts, I didn’t really think was much to write home about, although they do have a nice large bay with lots of signs about clamming that interested me. Driving down the windy bumpy road, I realized that this drive was called a “scenic route” and not a “scenic byway”. It definitely was a small town back road with more slide areas than not! Cape Lookout was next and I have a hard time remembering if I have ever been there before. Finally, after a lot of slow twists and turns (there was no way to drive fast on that route!), I arrived in Cape Kiwanda.

I hadn’t realized how excited I would be too see the dunes of Cape Kiwanda! I couldn’t wait to find a spot to park Sofia & get down to the beach! The fog was starting to roll in off the ocean by this point, as is typical when it’s a hot day in the Willamette Valley. The beach here was packed as well with trucks all over the beach. Pacific City is one of the few places you can still drive on the beach.

Cape Kiwanda beach

They launch dory boats from the beach there. I went out one time with our friends, the Coons, when I was about 13. I thought it would be a fun day fishing out in the ocean; I had never been on a boat in the ocean before. It was fun driving down to the beach & riding the boat as it crashed through the breakers on the way out. However, the minute we slowed down & started fishing, I was over the edge absolutely seasick! What a horrible day! All day long, I lay snuggled up in the bow slowly eating red grapes – the only thing in the lunch that I could possibly imagine eating only to promptly throw it back up. Yuck!

Thank goodness I have better memories of Cape Kiwanda as well. I remember field trips there in grade school, all us kids racing to the top of the big sand dune, then rolling & sliding all the way down. Also, checking out all creatures in the great tide pools at the base of the sandstone cliffs.

Climbing up the smaller part of the sand dune & walking out past the fence towards the ocean is the “Natural Area”. A “dangerous area” as the sign points out, but definitely the most spectacular. Looking down on the ocean pounding into the sandstone cliffs is quite a site to see.

Cliffs & Pacific

Those cliffs hold a special place in my heart. It was my eighth grade initiation party at the end of my seventh grade year. We were all supposed to be over on the big sand dune playing capture the flag. LOL! Monty & I never did play capture the flag that day. Instead we found a natural cave area under a forest of beach pines there on the cliffs. What a romantic spot it was to make out with the waves crashing below and gulls serenading us. Its pretty hard to top a time and a place like that when you’re in 7th grade.

I left the cliffs wanting to climb all the way to the top of the big dune. And so I climbed, up and up and up. Stopping along the way to look around, laughing that everyone climbing kept stopping & doing the same. There is no easy way to climb up a 500’ dune!

Made it to the top!

View to the north

I ran, laughing, all the way down the dune! Oh, what FUN!! Totally makes you feel young & alive running down a sand dune!

The sun was setting as I walked the beach back up to Pacific City. What a fantastic day I had enjoyed, exploring Tillamook County just the way I wanted to.

Cape Kiwanda sunset

I planned to stop in quickly for a beer and a cup of chowder at the Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City before driving further south before finding a spot to camp for the night. As I was nearing the restaurant, I saw an old friend from Spokane sitting there! Dave & Wendy live in the Portland area now & had come down for the day with their kids. I hadn’t seen them in years. They invited me to have dinner with them and the restaurant was able to accommodate the extra person. It was so great catching up with them! After dinner, I managed to snag the very last RV spot at the local RV park; the parking angel my friend Alisa gave me was definitely on overtime that night!

The day turned out exactly as it should have. What an incredible day!!!

Our House in the Big Woods

One of our favorite stories growing up were the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Little House in the Big Woods series. The first time we heard the story was during our nightly ritual when mom would read books to my sisters & me before bed. We loved it! Probably one of the reasons we liked that story so much is that we lived in a house out in the big woods, too! We lived 5 miles outside of Nehalem, at town at that time of 250 people. The sign today says 271. Huge population increase over the last 30 years!

My sister, Angie, & I were sharing a room back then & we had a big king sized mattress on the floor. Our whole family would gather in there while mom would read. Angie & I tucked in bed, Beth curled up with dad. Sometimes, dad would tell us stories that he would make up as well. Every story he told would start “Once upon a time… now have you EVER heard a story that starts once upon a time?” And we would giggle & giggle! We didn’t have TV the whole time when I was growing up, so story time each evening was our entertainment.

I loved growing up out in the woods. We lived on 4 ½ acres, but were surrounded by miles & miles of forests… my sisters & I divvied up the forests closest to the house, each getting our “own” forest. We had “houses” out in the forests – the walls were huge fallen trees so aged and rotten they were mother logs now for ferns, huckleberry bushes, and other trees. There were also lots of huge stumps we’d climb & clamber to the top, then make forts up there. One old log was so decayed it was barely more than a mound with lots of smaller trees growing out of it; it was the barn for all my stick ponies one summer. We played & played in those woods for hours.

We also had a menagerie of animals… cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, cows, turkeys, and goats over the years. And most importantly, I had a pony named Shasta when I was young and a horse named Rayah when I was older. Oh the adventures I had with both of them, riding the land all around our house, as well as heading up Gods Valley Road, the main logging road, that was about ¼ mile down the driveway from our house. I could ride all day up there & never see another person. Just me & my horse adventuring; it was awesome!

All of these memories and more of growing up were swirling through my head as I headed up Hwy 53 that morning. I was actually driving slowly… savoring each twist & turn of the road. I finally got to the big bend in the road that overlooked the upper Mohler Valley. The Nehalem River running through it, Porter’s dairy farm on the right side of the river & Woodard’s on the left, Onion Peak, the rounded mountain, & Sugarloaf, the triangle one, behind. Gods Valley Road is at the far end of the valley. As I was growing up, we always appreciated the view of this valley heading home each time, and I still do.

Upper Mohler Valley

Upper Mohler Valley

I turned up Gods Valley Road & then onto Storm Drive. Of course I had to stop & take a picture of the street sign! I decided to stop first at Snuffy’s for some coffee before continuing up the hill to our old home. Snuffy always had coffee on Saturday morning around 9am. There were many mornings my dad & I would go down & have coffee with him. It was a nice way to start the weekend. He’s pretty much like my grandpa, being that he lived so close to us. He always tells the story about when he was clearing land with his Cat when I was really young, probably about 4 or so. Every time he would start his Cat he would wait to move it until he saw my little head appear in the grasses.

Snuffy'S Cat

Snuffy’S Cat

I’d climb up & stand right beside his seat, hang on to the cage in the back, & ride there as long as he’d let me while he bulldozed roads & cleared brush. I loved it! He says I’d just sing the whole day long. Sometimes he’s make me get off the Cat if he had to do something a little scary. I remember being so disappointed that I couldn’t ride during the “really good” stuff! Snuffy hasn’t been on his Cat in years… but he still has it out back.

Old gauges

Old gauges

Snuffy was so happy to see me when I arrived! Last fall he broke his leg while getting 4 cord of wood & actually drove himself out with his broken leg! I seriously can’t believe that he was still out there getting firewood, he’s got to be in his mid-80’s at least. Obviously the broken leg has slowed him down, a lot. He’s doing OK all things considered. He’s not quite as sharp as he was before; I think that’s just a normal part of the aging process. His wife died a few years ago, so he’s just there by himself, although he does have a caretaker staying with him as well. He was still just as chatty as always though, which made me happy. He doesn’t, however, drink coffee any longer, which works for me, because I don’t either! I definitely would have made an exception to have a cup with him, though. And so, we just chatted. Talked about times when I was growing up there & caught him up a bit on what I’m doing now. He couldn’t believe I was driving that “big rig” all over alone. He got quite a chuckle out of that. 🙂

After our visit I walked up the trail through the forest we made years ago from his place to ours, passing by some of the old roads Snuffy & I cleared with the Cat that I used to ride my pony on.

Trails I used to ride...

Trails I used to ride…

And then, there I was, at our property line. I wandered down the driveway & saw our old home. Its changed a bit over the years with new owners changing the yard some, the color of the house & doing a bit of remodeling. But all in all, its still pretty much the same.

Home where I grew up

The home where I grew up…

I knocked on the door & introduced myself & asked if I could wander around in the forest for a bit. I thought I should do that, even though I could have just wandered in the back way through the forests & she would never have known that I was there. I saw the Hemlock tree I used to climb, it was my favorite climbing tree & I’d climb so high I felt like I was at the complete top.

I also saw the big Cedar tree… we loved having a huge cedar tree on our property!

Our Big Cedar Tree

Our Big Cedar Tree

I don’t know how big around it is, but its much older than any of the other trees in the area.

The Cedar tree even still has the sign we put on it “Bearing Tree Do Not Cut”.

Close to the Cedar tree is a big Spruce tree that I always loved too… I love those big trees in those forests.

Spruce Tree

Spruce Tree

Wandering through the forest I found these cute little cup fungi. I remember playing with these when I was a kid, little faerie cups.

Cup Fungi

Cup Fungi

As I wandered slowly down the driveway on my way out, I stopped by the blueberry patch & helped myself to a few handfuls of the biggest most delicious blueberries ever! The tiny bushes my mom planted are now easily 8’ tall and as happy as ever. It was surreal to have gone back & seen our old home, I’m glad I had the opportunity just to wander through the forests alone as I had done so many times growing up. What a magical place.

Neah-Kah-Nie Sunset

It was a race against the sun that I knew I could win! That windy highway between Cannon Beach & Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain had nothing on me. Its funny, even after all these years, I knew those corners like the back of my hand. Driving through the forest, I realized that all the trees & bushes looked the same as I remembered. Once I thought about it, forests change pretty slowly, so of course they still looked the same.

I flew by Hug Point & really wished I had time to stop. It was always a favorite beach of mine. I think the first time I ever went there was with my aunt Julie. It has caves, tidepools, and an early stagecoach road carved into the sandstone. It is just a perfect little beach. Then there was the Arch Cape tunnel. My dad was the engineer who redesigned the tunnel several years ago. I always think of my dad as I pass through tunnels, but especially this one. Shortly down the road I passed by Short Sands remembering many times there with the Garry family. The walk through the forest to the beautiful little beach is such a pretty one. There was the one & only time I ever tried surfing. WAY too cold, even with a wet suit, for me to even begin to enjoy!

And finally, I rounded the bend & there I was, just in time for sunset…in Tillamook County & on Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain! Neah-Kah-Nie is quite scenic. The original road & its many turnouts that were built by the depression era work crews in the 1930’s. The road follows an old Indian trail that linked the Tillamook & Clatsop tribes. It is carved into the side of a cliff about 700’ above sea level. It is the highest roadbed above an ocean view on the Oregon coast. The view on a clear day, which this one was, you can see for miles & miles down the coastline.

View from Neah-Kah-Nie

I couldn’t pull over in just any turnout. It had to be “the” turnout. The one by the big rock. I’ve watched so many sunsets from that point. I’ve also been there plenty of times at night. Its known as a romantic little make-out spot. 🙂 There’s a little ledge area you can climb up the rock to from the parking area. Its the perfect spot to snuggle up with someone to stay warm on a cool coastal night.

The “best” turnout on the mountain

The sunset was spectacular; exactly what I was hoping for…

Sunset & Sofia

I had a huge smile on my face driving down from Neah-Kah-Nie towards Manzanita, Nehalem & Wheeler (the towns are all 2 miles apart). I did the total tourist thing & stopped to get a picture of the Nehalem sign; or maybe that isn’t really a tourist thing, maybe it’s a “I used to live here” thing. 🙂

I could see changes to the towns as I drove through… different businesses, new buildings, etc. All the things that one would expect as time goes by. Some things, though, were still the same. Bunk House coffee was still there. Tiffanie & I spent hours there in high school working on homework & just hanging out.

I parked Sofia at my dad’s house in Wheeler that night. My kitties had fun roaming around his lovely back yard while I enjoyed a beer. I went to bed fairly early as I was planning to get up early to have coffee with Snuffy (my neighbor “grandpa” while I was growing up). I was also super excited to see our home & property where I grew up!

What the Festival, Friends & Family

My favorite thing about What the Festival was hanging out with my friends & getting to know some of the Utah tribe better. There were quite a few there from the Utah: Alisa, Kim, Marwan, Melissa, Wendy, Sugarboy, Bo, Lauren, SteveO & Craig.  I had the pleasure of camping & sharing Sofia with one of my best friends, Alisa. As mentioned in my last post, this festival was pretty low-key for me. I was in bed by 10pm on Friday and 11pm on Saturday. Never done that before at a festival! LOL! The day times were fun, though, hanging out with friends, swimming in the shark-infested river (the festival map showed sharks in the river & it was off limits – we went swimming anyway!), and browsing through vendor wares.

My friend, Dirk, came & found me on Friday night. Then we kept running into each other all over the festival, which is always fun. I also managed to find my friend, Evan, whom I had met a few weeks earlier at Sonic Bloom; he’s from LA & had ridden his motorcycle up to the festival. It was so fun to catch up & chat with him; we always have the best conversations. And finally, my dear almost-sister, Simone, was at the festival! Our families grew up together back in Tillamook County. I was the oldest & she was the youngest of all eight of the Larson/Kujak kids. We hadn’t seen each other in years & managed to find each other briefly. She invited me to spend the night at her place when I pass through Bend, OR in a few weeks heading home so that we can actually have some time to sit down & catch up. I’m definitely looking forward to that.

Of all the festivals to be sick during, I’m glad it happened to be this one. The ONLY reason is that the music line-up really wasn’t my cup of tea. I did find someone serving tea, by the way & enjoyed a few cups chatting with them. This girl had a much different style than Kevin from Photosynthesis, but I still enjoyed it & got even more inspired to figure out a way to bring a teahouse to Utah festivals.

Back to the music, so anyway, the only set I really wanted to hear out of the entire musical line-up was Phutureprimative. I’ve already seen him play several times over the past year, but I love his music! So I was bound & determined to make it to his set that started at 8:30pm on Saturday night. The problem was that someone had somehow stabbed themselves in the throat around 7pm that night. I had become friends with the security guard & heard the whole story from him on Sunday. Anyway, they shut down the festival gates. Our RV camping area was outside of the main festival entrance, which worked for the most part. It was about 1/3 of a mile walk into the festival from the camping area, but it wasn’t too bad as it was along the beautiful White River. However, since they shut down the gate, camping outside the festival boundary all of a sudden became a problem!

The White River

I guess I don’t do very well when people tell me “no” I can’t do something. LOL! Whenever that happens, I immediately start trying to figure out a way around it. Usually it works. 🙂 I knew that Dirk was over visiting some of his friends at the Seattle crew camp a short distance from Sofia. So I wandered over there. “The gate is shut down & I really want to get in to see Phutureprimative’s set”, I say, “Do you know any other way in?” Of course he does! LOL! He tells me that since he does security, he always tries to find the holes in security of other events. He found that there is no security on the back (hill) side of the festival. So he agrees to take me & a few others renegading over the back hillside into the festival. It’s a good thing I was at least feeling mostly better. It was a lot of up! We also had to climb over something like 6 barbwire fences, but we ended up stepping into the field just as Phutureprimative took the stage! Dirk totally made my festival by getting me there for that set! I enjoyed dancing every minute of it & it was fun sneaking into the festival as well!

Its kind of crazy how things change in life & how that affects your outlook on things. Phutureprimative has a song where the words go something like this… “It doesn’t feel the same without you…” Last year at Lighting in a Bottle, I heard that song for the first time & started crying. Aaron & I were separated at that time & I was missing him terribly. The festival I was at then really didn’t feel the same without him. And yet, here I was, a year and two months later, hearing the same song again. It did make me thing about Aaron. It still doesn’t feel the same without him, but damn it; it feels a hell of a lot better than being with him! I’m so happy to have FINALLY gotten to the point of really being done with that relationship. Why it took us a year & a half to break-up I haven’t quite figured out yet. I am glad, though, that despite everything we went through, we are still friends. That feels nice. But what I’m loving now is how good it feels to be free & to just be me! I really feel like I am embracing my true self & really coming into being the person I am to be.

Sunrises are almost always my favorite part of a festival or party. I love the sunrise sets that are played & really connect with that style of music. I decided since I was going to bed early both nights to get up early on Sunday morning & enjoy the sunrise. It was beautiful! Not too many people were out & about. I went to the Hookah Lounge area on top of the bluff & watched a devil creating bubble art. I chatted with him as well. He’s a fire performer who also makes bubbles when fire isn’t allowed at an event. It was so beautiful to watch these huge bubbles glisten & sparkle for a moment in the pre-sunrise glow. Its therapeutic to just sit back, relax & enjoy something so temporary as a bubble & be captivated in its simplistic beauty.

A devil & his bubbles

After bubbles, I went over & found Alisa. I was super happy to find her as she is the champagne queen. Festival sunrise just isn’t complete without champagne, a different kind of bubble! I had brought a treat to share with her, some preserved wild hibiscus flowers that my friend, Merb, had given me. The flowers were a fantastic treat in the champagne! We toasted our friendship as we celebrated the beginning of a beautiful new day.

Champagne Sunrise!

Its always a little hard to return to work after a festival. Especially since it was my 3rd weekend in a row of festivals! I did get a glimpse of a dream of living the life of the true festival circuit… just going from festival to festival, seemingly without a care in the world. However I do realize that that is truly a romantic notion. There are cares in the world. Rent to pay, food to buy, technology to pay for, gas to put in Sofia, etc. And, so, back to work I went on Monday. It really wasn’t bad, its just changing your mindset from fun festival life to default world life. I am, however, so grateful that I have a wonderful career that allows me to embark on such an adventure such as this. I always keep that in mind if I’m ever tempted; I must stay responsible so I can continue living the life I live & enjoying this adventure that I’m on. It’s a pretty good motivation strategy!

Monday evening I spent in Camas, WA with one of my best friends from high school, Tiffanie & her family. She has two teenage daughters; one will be a senior next year & the other a junior. My goodness how time flies! I remember when those two girls were born. I remember when Tiffanie & David got married in my apartment for that matter! J It was fun to catch up with them & also chat with the girls. Ginny was so excited about what I was doing – working remotely & traveling on my adventure. I hope I inspired her to continue to reach for her dreams, no matter what they are or how crazy they might seem.

During my lunch break on Tuesday I drove from Camas to Wilsonville, OR to take Sofia in to get her air conditioner replaced. In & out, new air conditioner, check! Just in time for burning man. J While I was there I saw an advertisement that they also do generator tune-ups. I realized that I better get that done before burning man as well. So I scheduled an appointment back in Utah during the week I’m at home before I leave for burning man to have that done. Aaron & I don’t have good luck with generators at festivals. We killed one after our 1st Element 11. So we took it back & got a new one for burning man that 1st year. We killed it too out there. So we took it back & got another one that we took to burning man last year. Again, killed it. Damn that desert is hard on generators! Our friends had rented an RV during our 1st year & their generator went out mid-way through the burn. I do not want Sofia’s generator to go out at the burn this year! And, so, preemptive move – going to get the generator tuned. *fingers crossed* that it works the whole week!

Tuesday & Wednesday nights I spend at my Dad & Dona’s. I loved every minute of visiting with them! We went to dinner with Dona’s parents on Tuesday night & my Grandpa Larson on Wednesday. Dad came home for a long lunch on Wednesday as well as came home early on Thursday so we could have a glass of wine together & visit more before I left. I even got to sing the “Daddy’s home, daddy’s home, YAY, daddy’s home” song to him when he got home from work. He said he hadn’t heard that song in years! We used to sing it each night when he got home as we would race downstairs to the garage & give him a big welcome home hug.

As I get older or maybe its because I live so far away from my family, but I really am appreciating seeing them & spending time with them whenever I can. Our visits are fun as well as real and heart-to-heart. I feel so blessed with the family I have, they’re so supportive & love me even though I haven’t lived my life according to any set of “typical” rules. All in all, I think they really enjoyed having me & my kitties parked right outside their townhome. We even took Geb for a walk around the neighborhood together. It was so adorable!! And it was funny, I felt like a college kid coming home with bags of laundry to do at the parent’s house. They were so sweet & had anticipated that I would need to do laundry. 🙂 I feel very blessed to have the family that I do.

Thursday evening I spent with Beckie. It was so fun, as we were out and about in Beaverton, we’d tell people, “we went to kindergarten & high school together.” Beckie is the only one I still am in contact with from kindergarten and she was one of my best friends in high school as well. Grade school & junior high I went to Tillamook Christian School and had not remained in contact with her, but we found each other & became fast friends again my sophomore year once I finally returned to the public school. I’m so happy that we’ve remained close friends all these years. We went to a fantastic restaurant in downtown Beaverton (Beaverton has come a long way from when I lived there while attending Portland State right out of high school). She had actually just gone to our 20th high school reunion the weekend before when I was at What the Festival. I felt a little bad abandoning her by not going to the reunion & going to the festival instead, but what is one to do? I opted for the festival & am glad I did. Although, it would have been nice to see people from my class, at least there is FB & therefore I am able to still be somewhat connected with my classmates. After dinner we enjoyed a good local Oregon micro-brew on her lovely deck. She & her husband purchased a home a few years ago & have been remolding it & updating the yard since. It really looks amazing all the work they have put into it.

Lunchtime on Friday consisted of grocery shopping & driving out to the east side of the coastal range. I was getting VERY excited to drive over the mountains & get to the beach! I didn’t want to get hung up in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic trying to get out of the city. Friday afternoon I spent working outside an abandoned building in a rundown town off the highway. Not the most scenic spots, but workable. Finally, 4pm rolled around & I was on my way! Butterflies of excitement were in my tummy as I drove over the all too familiar highway. This was my old stomping grounds; I was heading back to the coast, where I grew up!

I had plans to meet Mr. Mulcahy, my English teacher & Journalism advisor, in Cannon Beach for dinner that night. We connected a few months ago via FB & enjoyed corresponding together & catching up on what’s been happening in each other’s lives for the past 20 years. I’ve always respected & admired Mr. Mulcahy so much. I feel that he was my very first mentor in my life, really encouraging me & believing in me. I’ve been blessed with several mentors; each of them important in shaping me into the person I am today. I am so grateful for each one.

Since I had started the drive to the coast on my lunch break, I actually arrived with about 1 ½ hours before I was to meet him. So I decided to visit Ecola State Park, just north of Cannon Beach. I never really spent much time there as a kid for some reason, but it was fun to go now. The evening was absolutely perfect.

Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park

The weather on the coast is never really warm, but this evening, it was. I was in just a sundress wandering around the bluff, climbing through the beach grass & taking pictures of the spectacular view. What a beautiful “welcome home to the coast” it was.

Happy to be back at the beach!

Dinner with Mr. Mulcahy went way too quickly as time always does when you’re thoroughly enjoying yourself. He’s a collector, as am I. Actually, maybe more so. Since he’s retired, he’s likes to spend some time each day on the beach. He uses a metal detector & scavenges all sorts of treasures from the beach. He also reminded me about clamming, as he was telling me about razor clamming right there on the beach in Cannon Beach. For some reason, one must only clam during months that end with “r”. March/April/May/June/July/August are not right. I am determined to make it back to the coast one of these days in the proper month so that I can go clamming! I remember going clamming with my dad & sisters when I was a kid. We would go down to the end of Toll Road in Bayside Gardens & proceed to get entirely covered in bay mud & soaking wet. We’d be so cold, but would be so proud of our buckets of clams we’d bring home to mom. Clam fritters, clam chowder…mmmmm…

Leaving dinner, I stopped quickly by the beach & took some pictures of Haystack Rock. How can one go to Cannon Beach & not take pictures of Haystack Rock?

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

It felt so good to be back on the coast… but I was set on making it to Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain for sunset!

Photosynthesis, Sol Duc, & being sick

Hard to believe two weeks have gone by since I’ve written… I left off arriving at Photosynthesis. Wow! What an incredible festival. Of all the festivals I’ve been to, its been my favorite thus far. Its located on land owned by the Makah Tribe. Perhaps its the mists, perhaps its the ocean, perhaps its the land itself… I don’t know, but I loved it there. I felt a deep connection with that magical place. And then to put an amazing festival on top of it?! 🙂 I was in heaven.

At so many festivals there is so much music that I don’t really love. Sometimes I find myself wandering around just waiting for sunrise when my favorite style of music most often is played. Not here… There were two “main” stages and a chill dome. I have to say that even the two main stages had pretty great music throughout the whole festival. And then there was the H’art Center. What a beautiful place it was; a smaller dome where you had to take your shoes off. It had carpeting throughout and art on the walls. Attached to it was an elegant teahouse where Kevin served tea throughout the night.

Kevin serving tea

I asked him a lot of questions & learned about tea service from him. It was so fascinating… and then I realized that Salt Lake doesn’t have a tea house at its festivals. And so, my thought is that I should create a teahouse to bring to our festivals… I think it would be a wonderful addition!

The music at the H’art Center was fantastic all night long, each night of the festival! Sometimes it was pretty upbeat & people were dancing. Other times it was super mellow & people were simply sitting & meditating. It was such a lovely space… and the people I met there were all so amazing! I went to the festival knowing just a few people (Dirk who had told me about the festival when I met him last year at Esthetic Evolution, Morgan & Lacey – longtime friends from Spokane, & Amanda from Salt Lake). By the end of the festival, I knew so many people & I felt completely at home with the Northwest crew!

Another highlight from the festival was the sunset on Sunday night… I ran into my friend, Dirk, as he was heading out to a rock perch to watch the sunset. We rounded up quite a few friends along the way as we passed by the beach party where people were still happily dancing to techno right on the beach. The weather had been quite misty & overcast most of the festival… Friday night particularly it misted quite heavily. But, true to the PNW, it didn’t really seem to rain, it just misted a lot. Sunday afternoon however, the clouds broke & the sun came out. There were still just enough clouds to make a spectacular sunset. The perfect ending to an idyllic weekend…

Picture perfect

Monday morning came, I watched out my window as I worked as the festival being dismantled. It truly amazed me how quickly things came down! The domes were down, vendors & campers packed, & pretty much everyone was out of there by Monday evening. My plan had been to leave Monday after work & drive to a state park a few hours away. However, after running into my friend Dirk at the festival, he said he & a bunch of the crew that helped put on the festival were interested in going camping with me & they thought we should find some hot springs to camp at. I thought, camping with a bunch of new friends at a hot springs… yes, please! They weren’t quite ready to leave Monday evening, so we planned to camp out on Tuesday.

I decided to move my RV closer to where everyone else was staying in some cabins. So, I got in & started backing out exactly in the same pattern as I got into my spot. Wouldn’t you know, the ground now was softer! All of a sudden, I was seriously stuck in the sand!!

Definitely stuck!

It was mostly a grassy field, but in this section, there were some grass/sand spots. I don’t know how I managed to pass over it to begin with, but I certainly couldn’t pass over it on the way out. So I went & found Dirk who found a guy with a backhoe who tried unsuccessfully to pull me out. I really do have a very big & heavy rig! After that failed, I decided to call roadside assistance. That’s what I have that service for, right?! Well, Neah Bay is awfully far away from anywhere… it took my insurance a good 45 minutes to locate a tow truck driver willing to come rescue me. He drove 4.5 hours each way – all the way from Olympia! While we were waiting for the tow truck, a local guy & his friend were bound & determined to get me out. I tried to tell them they didn’t have to, but I think they were just up for the challenge. They dug out the tires & tried with a Nissan Pathfinder (really?!) to pull me out. With that little rig, of course, they didn’t get me out! Anyway, the tow truck driver finally arrived around 11:30pm & just like that, pulled me out! The best thing about roadside assistance is that it didn’t even cost me anything! Of course, I gave him a big hug & thanked him for driving all that way to rescue me.

There were two sweet girls who had gotten abandoned there who were trying to make their way back home to the Portland area. Since Dirk was head of security there, they ended up talking to him. He said he might be able to help them out & came & asked me if I would give them a ride back to Portland since he knew I was heading there after our camping trip. Not a problem, I replied. It’ll be nice to have some company on the drive. And so, Mandy & Jess joined our crew. I worked on Tuesday at the festival site while everyone finished up with breakdown. Once we were ready to go, we all went to the beach for a photo-op. What a fun group of people!

Photosynthesis friends!

We decided to go to Sol Duc Hot Springs in the Olympic National Park. I absolutely love the lushness & grandeur of the trees in the forests there. Soaking in the hot springs after a long festival weekend was a perfect next step! Nice way to just relax & enjoy the evening. After our soak we went back to camp & had a big barbeque – corn & steaks – pretty hard to go wrong with that!

Wednesday morning I woke up & did NOT feel good. I was so confused! Had the hot springs brought out toxins but I hadn’t drunk enough water the day before to flush them out? Was I hung over? I only had two glasses of wine the night before; I didn’t feel hung over. But I was definitely sick! Every time I tried lifting my head I had a splitting headache. I was chilled, but my friends kept telling me I was burning up. I emailed into work that I was sick. I felt terrible! How can I be on this adventure where I was supposed to be responsible by working & then write in sick? But I was really sick… I took some Ibuprofen & went back to sleep for several hours. Finally it was past time to leave our camp site. Everyone wanted to go back to the hot springs for another soak.

I knew I needed to drive to Portland that evening, but was kind of procrastinating on the drive & thought maybe another soak might help me feel better. But, it really didn’t. After about 45 minutes, I knew I had had enough. I got out & my skin was uber sensitive. So, I rounded up Mandy, Jess, & Tommy (who decided to tag along for the ride) & we headed south. None of them had ever driven an RV before, so I ended up driving from 5:30 – 11:30pm. What a horribly long drive when I was feeling down right sick! I was very grateful for Mandy staying awake & keeping me company along that long drive home. We finally got to Jess’s house & I just crashed in bed. Totally exhausted!

Waking up on Thursday, I felt way sicker than I had the day before! I couldn’t believe it. I had to email in again to work that I was out sick again & was planning to go to urgent care. My VP, thankfully, was completely understanding & told me just to take care of myself & not worry about work. I was so sick, though, I couldn’t quite rally to make it to urgent care yet. As I lay there in agony, I thought back to see if I had ever felt this bad before. All of a sudden I remembered having a kidney infection about 10 years ago. I remembered thinking at that time that I never wanted one again. All of a sudden I knew that’s what I had & I really did need to go to urgent care. So I managed to get myself out of bed & drove myself to urgent care. It was quite bad I realized when I couldn’t really see too well. At least urgent care was only ½ mile away!

A fever of 102.9 & a kidney infection. Nope, that was not on my trip plan! Oh well, what does one do? Deal with it, I guess. I got some antibiotics from Walgreens & took Tylenol & Advil on the advice of the urgent care doctor in Newburg, OR. I knew I just needed to sleep so my body could start to heal itself. I tried going to a local state park, but they were full. So then I decided to drive closer to the airport because I had to pick-up my friend, Alisa, from the airport the next day. I made it to one RV park by Janzen Beach only to find out it was full, too! Really?! Of all the days to be driving aimlessly around, this was not a good one. My RV Park Finder app on my phone saved the day & I found a park about 5 miles away. As I backed into my spot (like a pro!), I was so happy to just be done doing stuff for the day so I could go back to bed. I slept most of the afternoon & evening.

Finally around 8pm I felt a little better. I knew that I needed to do laundry as I was headed to What the Festival the next day & all of my stuff was completely sandy from Neah Bay & spruce needly from the Olympics. I had never really been in an RV park before. They’re quite the places! This one had swimming pools, hot tubs, a pond & gazebo, laundry facility, & an activities director with activities going on all the time, goodness, I had no idea RV parks were like that! The problem with all of that is that I was on one end of the park & the laundry was clear on the other. I knew I didn’t have enough energy to walk & carry my 3 laundry bags (they’re small, but somewhat heavy nonetheless). So I decided to strap them with my bike tie-downs to my bike rack & ride my bike down. Seemed like a great idea. Although, they did NOT want to stay on the bike rack! I went over a speed bump causing my headache to split and my laundry to fall all over the road. 😦 I struggled to get it all back together & took off again for the laundry room. Only to get there to realize that I had forgotten my laundry detergent and the facility did not have a quarter machine!

So I left my laundry, mustered up some energy & rode my bike all the way back across the park to the office. Bought some quarters & then went to get my detergent. The detergent & dryer sheets wouldn’t fit in my purse, so I moved all my stuff (water, phone, detergent, sheets) to my shoulder bag & took off on my bike again back to the laundry room. Only to get there to realize that I had forgotten my roll of quarters in my purse! Oh my gosh, that about did me in. (Did I mention I was still really sick & obviously not thinking clearly at all?) I was already exhausted again & I hadn’t even gotten started with my laundry! So as I got on my bike to head back to Sofia for the 3rd time, I realized that there was a laundry RV parking spot. Score! I rode up & drove Sofia down to the laundry, did my laundry & drove back up to my spot. It was dark by that time, obviously, but I backed right into my spot feeling very proud of myself not only for getting my laundry done, but for backing in the dark just about perfectly! 🙂

Friday I woke up still horribly sick! Still with the same splitting headache each time I attempted to lift my head from the pillow. I was so sad. I thought the antibiotics would magically work super quick & heal me in time to go to the festival later that day! LOL! I tried getting up & working, but it was really making me nauseous & my head hurt even worse, so I emailed in sick again. I had emailed my VP after I was at Urgent Care the day before to let her know that I wasn’t imagining I was sick; I really was. She then & also Friday morning still was so supportive, telling me to just take my time & get well. I’m so grateful for her understanding. During what should have been my lunch break, I managed to rally & drove to the airport to pick up Alisa. I was still so sick; she immediately was an angel & offered to drive. Thank goodness! I went back to bed & slept for the next 2 ½ hours as she drove to the festival. And so, arriving at What the Festival, I knew that it would no doubt be a very low-key festival for me. For me, it was still about healing time.