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!

All Accross the PNW

It surprised me, really, as I drove along… memories kept cropping up all across the PNW. Upon reflection, I guess it makes sense; I’ve lived in an awful lot of places throughout that whole area & have traveled quite a bit throughout it, too. My 2nd day on the road started at the truck stop in Mountain Home, ID. I woke up early on Tuesday because I wanted to make it all the way to Yakima & felt like it was too far to drive just in the evening. After staying up working to get this blog set up until 2:30am that morning, I proceeded to then wake up at 5:30am & start driving. Just a little bit excited, obviously!

As I drove by the National Guard base in Mountain Home, I suddenly remembered a time I had visited there with Rich, the worst boyfriend of my life! Yuck, thinking of him was not the best way to start a morning with my eyes still blurred from lack of sleep. Although then I also remembered that if I hadn’t of dated him, I never would have moved to Idaho in the first place. And, after him, Idaho was actually a pretty good time in my life. And so, I thought instead about the last time he went to that base for his 2 week duty. I pack all his stuff into boxes & told him as soon as he got home that he had to move out. Maybe it wasn’t the most eloquent way to handle the situation, but I was young & at least I got myself out.

The Center for Birds of Prey in Boise caught my eye. I remember visiting there with my dear mentor, Kay. She was the interim hospital administrator during my last year in Council. She was the first person in my professional life that really believed in me & saw me for my potential. She was also super supportive in helping me through leaving Jason, my 1st husband. She lived in Boise, but during her year as the administrator, she had an apartment in Council as well. About 6 months after I had met her she invited me down one weekend to her home in to Boise. Looking back, she was probably trying to help me remember life outside of Council. I’m sure she saw at that time that I needed to move on with my life. We had such a fun weekend together. We went to the Center for Birds of Prey, out to a really nice restaurant for dinner, & then to the alternative movie theater. Such a nice change from small town living. Mostly what I remember about that weekend is her just sharing… about her life, all the struggles she had been through and different paths she had taken. She hadn’t had an easy time of it, yet she did it. She was so successful and so smart. She was a huge inspiration to me that I didn’t just have to stay stuck in a bad marriage in a small cow town. I could go do whatever I set my mind to. We discussed it and she advised me that in order to really be able to get to where I wanted to be I was going to have to return to college & finish my degree. Looking back now, I’m eternally grateful for her advice.

Further down I-80 are signs to Hwy 95 – lots of memories up that highway. Council is up there, about half way between Weiser & McCall. I lived there for 5 years. One of it with Rich and the other four were spent dating & married to Jason, a cattle rancher. Bits & pieces of my time with Jason flashed through my mind. There were lots of good fun times with him – riding for cows, calving season, brandings, BBQ’s, and crazy times at Wilson’s Lounge. He really was a good guy overall, its just a shame what alcohol can do. It was an interesting learning experience for me as I had never really been around alcoholism before & didn’t know anything about it. Needless to say, I learned that I don’t want alcoholism in my relationship.

I was excited to see the Snake River at Farewell Bend. My mom, dad & I stopped there on our way home from visiting Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, OR. I contemplated attending there to get my 2-year degree in Horse Training. Now that would have resulted in a quite different life, wouldn’t it?! Anyway, we stopped there. It was a huge thriving truck stop & several motels. The diner we ate in had bison burgers; it was the first time I had ever eaten bison. And so now, I’m driving along, craving a bison burger. Not really thinking about the fact that the last time I had eaten there was a little over 20 years ago! I come around the corner & see… boarded up emptiness! I couldn’t believe it. Gone were my dreams of having a bison burger that day, as well as the dreams of all those people who owned those small businesses or worked there. Wow. Even when I lived in Council the truck stop was alive & well. Then I realized how the last downturn in the economy really had hit small businesses in the small towns. Tragic.

Each spring when I lived in Council, Jason & I with a bunch of friends would get in our pickups & head down the grade from Bear, ID to the Snake River in search of the 1st buttercups of the spring. It was always such a fun trip! That grade road was exceptionally scary – one lane with few turn outs. It worked pretty well except when another rig was coming up the grade! Some springs you could find buttercups higher up on the hillside, others, we’d find the 1st all the way down in the canyon depending on what kind of spring it was. Its kind of funny; a lot of people don’t know about Hells Canyon. It is the deepest river gorge in North America & is about 10 miles across. Its pretty spectacular in its own way, of course not nearly dramatic as the cliffs of the Grand Canyon, but impressive none the less. One time my sister Beth went on a rafting trip down through Hells Canyon. We went over & visited her on the night she was camped by Oxbow Dam. It was such a fun evening seeing her in “my neck of the woods!”

I finally stopped driving that morning around 8am at a rest stop by Huntington, OR. I stepped out of Sofia & smelled the air – it was permeated by sage brush! Oh, I love the smell of wild sage brush; smelling it was always one of my favorite parts about riding for cows. I savored the moment for a bit, then climbed in & sat down ready to start my work day. I turned on my wifi without a problem, started working, & left the memories behind… just like that! (For then!) At lunch time I decided to continue on my journey rather than hanging out at the rest stop & drove to a rest stop just east of La Grande, OR. I was so happy to be driving through that area. The area between Baker City & Pendleton I think is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I love Blue Mountains & the Wallowa’s, all the trees & the lush meadows. I’ve always somewhere up there would be the most perfect spot for a cabin.

After work I got out of Sofia to do my walk around to make sure everything is secure before getting back on the road. There was an elderly gentleman on a motorcycle parked right next to me. “Where ya headed?” he asks. “I’m going to Yakima tonight”. The sky is has some pretty crazy thunderclouds around & the wind has picked up significantly. “Do you think its raining up there?” he asks. “I think its fairly likely”. And so, I hit the road & head up the Blues.

The Blues Thunderstorm

Sure enough… not only was it raining up there, but my goodness! A crazy thunderstorm, complete with lightening, high winds & buckets of rain! It is an interesting predicament to be in driving up a windy canyon in a big RV in those conditions! I was happy once I passed the summit that I left that storm behind. Whew! I had weathered my first storm! Felt great – I am gaining confidence!