The Bay Area

Just to clarify for the East Coast peeps, that means the area surrounding the San Francisco Bay. When Flight and I were first dating some eleventy billion years ago he identified it as such and was flabbergasted when I ask to which bay he was referring.   Maybe it was his provincial LA upbringing where everything east of The 5 was considered “Back East,” but he incredulously replied, “THE Bay. The San Francisco Bay, of course. What other Bay Area is there?” Having spent “Four Years by THE Bay,” I fired back, “Well, the Chesapeake Bay for one….”

Apparently by living west of the Mississippi for most of my adult life (and being married to Flight) I have adopted this West Coast frame of reference and was newly reminded that I, too, need to specify Bay location. I recently had a text exchange with a friend still teaching at USNA. I mentioned we were heading to the Bay Area next and she asked that I let her know when we could hang out after we get here (meaning there).


I’ll again leave the discussion of transit from Caspar Beach to Alamo to Flight as I have nothing to add (I, um, knit and wrote some more…), save taking a few pictures as we progressed through about a dozen redwood groves. I will say it felt just wrong to be lumbering through these resting giants.


So, at last we arrived in the East Bay Area (of the San Francisco variety) welcoming the opportunity to soak in some time with family and stay put for a stretch (minus a planned short diversion to overnight at Stanford following a football game). As Flight mentioned, we’ve been going, going, going and could all use a reprieve from the frenetic pace. And access to a relatively unlimited on demand hot water supply (Northern California is officially out of drought status). And flushable toilets that don’t require consequent dumping.   You know, the basic luxuries.

Upon arrival we methodically worked through laundry and noted that undertaking is a much more sizable beast when tackling it one load at a time instead of knocking out numerous loads simultaneously at whatever Laundromat is nearest. I made the opportunity to do a no kidding assessment of where we were on the homeschool front and what needed to happen now that we had all reluctantly moved into the school year in earnest. More on that in my summary at two-months in…

A quick check-in with Flight’s sister and her family of athletes told us nothing had changed for them, meaning their frenetic schedule had slowed only nanoseconds since the departure of their oldest to eat, sleep, breathe water polo (and also go to college classes) at Pepperdine. Their younger two both anchor their respective varsity teams at College Park High School with all the practice, travel, and game time that involves. Just writing about it is exhausting. Unfortunately, Flight had two work trips scheduled during our stretch in town and they had to travel for various sporting events, so we had very small windows of opportunity to let the cousins reconnect and got something on the calendar immediately. As in our next evening in town.

We joined them for a lovely dinner (they have a great outdoor space for entertaining) and our contribution was Creamy Pumpkin Prosciutto Rigatoni, another of my favorite Fall recipes.

Our first days without Flight passed in Alamo, tackling school first and then relaxing with Grammy and Papa until the evening’s sporting event.   First, our niece rocking volleyball…


I can mostly follow volleyball. After a less than stellar performance as a swimmer my freshman year in high school, I had a good friend convince me I should try out for the volleyball team (she was a rock star setter).  Frankly, team sports weren’t big for me growing up, which means I lacked (and mostly still do) the fundamentals of every single one.  While my Mom had played varsity basketball in college, I only had a dismal appearance on the middle school team where I mostly sat the bench.  I know I’m wrong envisioning her running the court in something like what’s pictured below, especially considering it predates her court time by more than half a century, but I just can’t help myself.  Maybe that’s why I never really learned to play hoops.


Or any other traditional American team sport really.  It would appear that I inherited my Dutch-Indonesian father’s lack of interest in such activities and, as a result, didn’t quite get the basic strategies of play. At the end of high school volleyball try-outs, the last spot came down to me and another sophomore who had played the previous year and, based on my cluelessness and her relative savvy, she made the team and I did not. After a couple days’ (self) pity party, I tried out for the diving team, which worked out much better for everybody involved, most especially the volleyball team.

With some (albeit it shaky and rather dated) foundation in the rules, I truly enjoy watching volleyball. At our niece’s game I was surprised to learn of a new (to me) position that was actually introduced over a decade ago. The libero is a player who wears a contrasting jersey and is strictly defensive, meaning she or he plays only in the back row, can occasionally set the ball but only from behind the 3-meter line, and rarely serves. My sister-in-law let me know that the libero is often someone who is more vertically challenged than her or his teammates. It’s too bad that position was so long in developing, that pretty much defined where I might have fit in. Ah well…

Our niece, however, is a fantastic player no matter where she is on the court. As our girls will likely never have any height advantage to speak of, I’m not sure they will have the makings of volleyball players, but they sure enjoyed watching their cousin.

The next day the kids picked an enormous bucket’s worth of apples from Grammy and Papa’s tree and we made apple sauce in the magical Instant Pot.


Following our foraging and preserving lesson for the day, we got to see our youngest nephew playing water polo.  After scoring the his third goal of the game, his sister started the cheer, “He’s a freshman!  He’s a freshman!”, letting the opposing team know they had three years of such future beatings ahead of them.


I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a water polo match in person, but the sport is just plain dirty. There is so much nastiness that goes on under water.   Sometimes the players look not unlike gators rolling their prey.  Seriously.  Furthermore, if players are really good at it, they can have an arm or two above their heads while seeming to have no notion of how the slow death roll consuming their opponent is happening.  It was tricky to follow the refs’ calls on what constituted a foul and/or who was responsible for incurring said grievance.  All I saw was flailing, followed sometimes by whistles and occasional player ejections, sometimes not.  And, truthfully, I’m not sure watching more games would help me clue in.  Having been a diver (of the springboard/tower variety and not scuba), I have many friends who played water polo and have always questioned their sanity in playing the grueling sport. After refreshing my memory of the game’s particulars, I am still convinced that those who choose to play are phenomenal athletes, without a doubt, but also certifiable.

Maybe it was too much for Firebolt. She was consumed by her latest book and couldn’t be bothered with the game. Have we mentioned she’s a bookworm?


Having seen the team uniform for female water polo players, I’m okay with that. Flight’s parents commented on the inappropriate garb for young ladies when we saw some of the high school girls’ team players departing the pool. I thought they were making it up. Or maybe said “team uniform” was a weird California thing.  Or something. Not believing that’s really what female water polo players wear in the pool, I Googled it. I will not be responsible for images you can’t unsee, so I won’t link to what I found. However, feel free to Google it yourself, if you are so inclined.

Yikes. That’s all I have to say about that…

Next up, the Cardinal take on the Sun Devils. I will tackle (I know, terrible pun) that next…


This should be a quickie.  We’re relaxing, not doing much, not thinking a whole lot, which means mission accomplished for this week.

We arrived in Alamo mid-afternoon on Sunday after a leisurely (and again, gorgeous) drive down a little more coast, through the Anderson Valley, and then a good bit of Sonoma county.

to alamo

My dad had gone through the considerable trouble of pruning (heavily) the trees at their driveway entrance so that we could fit.  It was a precision operation despite the chainsaws – only a foot or so of slop on all sides, at least based on measurements taken previously.  It worked out perfectly though, with no scraping whatsoever, other than a slight bit of front-jacks-on-driveway due to the slope.  Couldn’t have prevented that one.  After a few orientation missteps on my part, we were comfortably leveled and plugged in in their driveway, awning out even.  Plenty of room to spare.

The kids were thrilled and ran up to greet their grandparents, followed very shortly by claiming bedrooms.

I previously mentioned that we had no plans, but that’s not entirely true – we had the Stanford home football game at the end of the week at which a school friend and I had arranged us to both camp and tailgate.  And I had a work trip to fly in the middle of the week which necessitated a commute back to Boston.  Plus we were working hard to integrate ourselves into my sister/brother-in-law’s busy family schedule so that we could get some time with them and allow the cousins some play and reacquainting time.

It turned out that the best (only, actually) time for a family dinner with them was that night, so we headed over to their house for some amazing food and hang-out time.  They’ve created one of the coolest back yards for gatherings that I’ve ever seen – it’s about a fifth the size of ours and puts it to shame.

Such a blast hanging out there with them.  They’ve just sent their oldest off to Pepperdine on a water polo scholarship, and the other two kids are athletes as well, so they’ve got their hands full.  As do most of us I suppose, but it’s always interesting to compare lifestyles with them.  I’m not sure it’s so much a glimpse of our future as our kids have different interests and personalities, but all three of theirs are older than all three of ours so it’s been very helpful to be able to go to my younger sister for advice of the trailblazer sort.


The rest of the week was throttle-back time.  Firebolt helped Papa with his morning puzzles, we started a puzzle, and went to a few water polo and volleyball games.



I was fortunate enough to reconnect with a college friend in Seattle just prior to my layover there this week, and we decided to get together for a catch up session, which we manage every couple years or so.  Plus I got to stay at his house instead of our layover hotel in Tacoma (apologies Tacoma, no matter how much I try to appreciate your charms, I can never contort you into as fun a place to stay as Seattle.  Or even Tampa.  Syracuse.  Hartford.  Anyway…)  It was a glorious, mid-80s day in Seattle, I got to nap in their hammock in the back yard, we ate like royalty (oysters, fresh salmon, Pike Place-fresh veggies), and spent several hours walking around town, having a few beers, and catching up with him and his family.  Good for the soul.

Upon my return to the Bay Area and the fam, we solidified our plans for the weekend game.  Plan is now to do dawn patrol to Stanford Saturday morning, set up, tailgate, watch the game, and then spend one night there, hopefully with a stroll or bike ride around campus with Tacco and the kiddos that night.  Stanford differs from many college campuses in that the campus itself is huge and self-contained.  Students rarely leave because they don’t have to.  If things haven’t changed, Saturday is a pretty big party night on campus, and the students will have just arrived for the school year – I’m curious what the kids and I will see…

Caspar Beach Treasures

From Patrick’s Point, we headed nearly four hours south to tuck in at Caspar Beach RV Park, which is just north of Mendocino. I’ll let Flight dig into the transit because he was paying very close attention as we navigated the tiny road that wound its way along the rocky coast. I alternated between blogging and knitting, purposefully paying no attention to the steep drop-off only feet outside my window.

Aside from a few audible cues from Davista (e.g. her kicking into higher RPMs to help us descend or climb more safely) and Flight’s consequent commentary, I was blissfully unaware of the driving challenges peppering our journey’s current leg while trying to remember details from those of weeks past.   Occasionally I would glance outside to capture mental snapshots of the alluring scenery’s gradual change, but would get a little woozy every time. And thus I was repeatedly reminded that it literally serves far better for me to blindly trust in Flight’s piloting skills to keep the ginormous complex of Davista and Toad squarely on the road than to witness it first hand.

We all breathed a sigh of relief when we pulled into the RV Park, Davista included. Although the accommodations were quite tight with our neighbors, the beach just across the small access road more than made up for any feelings of confinement. As soon as we had made camp, we went across the way to explore. Ever since he found a massive stash of enormous whip-like kelp on an Oregon Beach, Keeper has been keen to play with any similar sea-ropes he finds.


Firebolt and I, however, were delighted by all the sea glass littering the beach and vowed to come back on a collection mission first thing in the morning at low tide. There was far more of this treasure than I’d seen anywhere along our journey and, believe me, I have looked.

There were some doubters in the family who didn’t think we’d get up early enough to meet low tide. I may have been one of them. Fortunately it wasn’t ludicrously early, yet despite it being earlier than most reveilles, we began our search bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to see what the ocean had left us in her retreat.


We spent two hours beach combing and returned to camp joyfully toting our spoils:

This was only part of Firebolt’s haul.

While Flight was doing this:


Our grill was not playing nicely and, with the motivation of an upcoming Stanford tailgate, that needed to be sorted ASAP.

Firebolt and I agreed we had way more fun and agreed we’d try again in the morning.

Upon seeing our gathered loot, Flight reminded me of “Glass Beach,” a place where there’s supposedly more sea glass than pebbles, but you can’t collect any. Hmmm… I vaguely remembered that Flight’s parents had spoken of this seemingly mythical land that was purported to be somewhere nearby. Upon further research, I learned that not only was Glass Beach was for real, it was located only 7.8 miles to north of our campground. My inner sea glass huntress asserted herself, “Go there, we must!”

This research also allowed me to get my facts straight. “Glass Beach” is actually a series of three beaches that boast the largest concentration of sea glass in the world. Or so say the experts at   One of the three beaches is an outcropping of MacKerricher State Park, but that ownership ends at the mean high water mark, meaning anything below that is fair game, and the other two treasure troves are without such constraints. WOO HOO!

Having been previously bitten by the sea glass-collecting bug (and clearly still infected), I’d already studied what factors go into making a particular beach a likely candidate for a good harvest. As you may imagine, plentiful sea glass is dependent on a glass source (a nearby garbage dump or close to shipping lanes – sad, but true) and enough routine (pounding) wave action to smooth the glass into a frosty image of its former self. For decades (1906 – 1967), the good people of Fort Bragg used this spot as an active garbage dumpsite. In the late ‘90s a massive clean up effort was initiated to undo much of the resulting environmental damage and the outcome is a beautiful rocky coast with only these treasures hinting at its unsavory past. Rather magnanimous of the ocean to take our transgressions and turn them into things of beauty…

But first to Mendocino!  It sits beautifully perched on cliffs gazing out to sea.


After the boys enjoyed a few hours in the surf while we girls relaxed by Davista, we caught the tail end of the afternoon sunshine in this great town, but it was later than most of the stores were open. Or maybe that’s just what I told myself in order to not even entertain the idea of dragging the family into every single one of the town’s great little shops. I would like to return to Mendocino at some point, but maybe with neither the hurrying presence of children nor the omnipresent space and weight constraints of our current living situation, so I may amble at my own leisurely pace and purchase at will.

We enjoyed dinner at Frankie’s in Mendocino and the pizza offerings were varied enough to appeal to our whole flight, even those who wholly resonate with Riley of Inside Out who believes that San Francisco RUINED pizza by defiling it with broccoli. My favorite Mendocino surprise was a mushroom ice cream at same Frankie’s. I saw the label among the freezer’s rows of flavors and had to ask what gives. Apparently I am not the first because the server gestured to a mason jar amply stocked with Candy Cap Mushrooms that was sitting on the ice cream freezer and told me “They taste like brown sugar.” Whaaaaaa? This I gotta try.


It was delectable – perfectly sweet, although not cloyingly so, and with a slight grit of either fungi (or brown sugar). I’ll be sampling more of the same when we come back sans children or Davista.

I glanced at my phone to get a time hack. Hmm… It’s nearly low tide. I was all over the area’s tidal ranges because the best collecting happens when the water’s at or around its lowest point. I thought to myself (just to clarify, because sometimes I think out loud), “We could totally make it to Glass Beach” before I offered that suggested destination to the family.

We raced the setting sun on our way and arrived to find many with the same plan. Or perhaps they were there to see the sunset, which threatened to be magnificent.


Our girls hunted in earnest while Keeper nimbly worked to get the best vantage point for a selfie with the wee crescent moon and the sunset.

I was still energized by the hunt for that morning’s plunder and thus refrained from retrieving every piece of sea glass I saw. Good thing, because I’d still be there.


When we could no longer discern pebble from frosted glass in the twilight, we trundled back to the Subaru with only a handful of new treasures among us, but thoroughly invigorated by the overall Glass Beach experience.

IMG_6132 (1).jpg

I went to bed fervently imagining what singular offerings the ocean would be working on throughout the night.

Firebolt and I headed back to Caspar Beach the next morning and were delighted yet again by our findings.


One of the best things about beaches is that they are different every day, sometimes dramatically, sometimes only just. The topography of the sand shifts in response to the ocean’s constant change and the gifts deposited at the shoreline vary equally so, which means you can’t help but be optimistic about the day’s potential cache. I knew that we had to make the most of the morning’s enterprise for today we were heading inland to park Davista in Flight’s parents’ driveway for a stretch and it would be nearly two weeks before we were back to the coast to hunt anew.

We hunted high and low…

However, I have since realized I need to appropriately manage my (and Firebolt’s) expectations for such future excursions. Because Caspar Beach is just down the coast from Fort Bragg’s previous three main dumpsites, it, too, serves as quite the repository for sea glass, yet because it doesn’t get nearly the foot traffic of enthusiasts the collection possibilities are far greater for the folks who do make the trek. Bidding the beach a reverent adieu, Firebolt and I returned hand-in-hand treasuring our time together.

Although not wanting to relinquish our time just the two of us quite yet, we were aware that there was work to be done, and so we paused only a few moments to admire someone’s sand mermaid craftsmanship on our way back to Davista.


We had intended to help pack up camp, but the others had nearly completed getting us ready for departure in our absence. This was our welcoming committee.


A subsequent quick survey of the nearly buttoned up site begged the wry observation, “Clearly they made good time because WoodSprite was overseeing the Getting Underway Checklist“.  And, if the expression I captured above is any indication, I believe she knows it too.

Firebolt and I added our efforts and we were soon on the road to The Bay Area, basking in our treasured time together beach combing and eager to celebrate visiting with Flight’s extended family…


Drivin’ and Cryin’ (The Mendocino Coast)

California’s iconic Highway 1 is, unfortunately, closed in a few places along its most scenic stretch between Monterey and Morro Bay.  Last year’s abundant rains, though sorely needed in the severely drought-stricken West, led to massive landslides along the coast, one of which not only buried Highway 1, but essentially changed the shape of the coastline.  After some deliberation, the powers that be decided not to dig it back out, but to re-build the highway over/around it.  This project, however, won’t be complete until 2018, which is inconvenient for us (and it’s all about us!), but at least forced us to choose our coastal drives and rugged oceanfront campgrounds wisely.

The stretch through Oregon was one such drive.  The other was the drive from Patrick Point to Caspar, near Mendocino.  Much of that stretch pulls away from the ocean at a section of coastline known as the Lost Coast due to its (the coastline’s) almost complete inaccessibility.  Highway 1’s northern end/start, however, is at its intersection with Highway 101 at Leggett, near the southern end of the Lost Coast, and the section of Highway 1 between there and Muir Beach just north of San Francisco runs a close second to its south-of-San Francisco stretch for spectacular coastal views.  Here’s our route.

North Coast

I’m going to zoom in on that little stretch of Hwy 1 between 101 and the coast.  It’s about 20 miles, give or take a few.  We’ve done quite a bit of driving this trip, and spent the better part of the first month and a half between 6,000’ and 8,000’ in the Rockies, cresting multiple passes and snaking along with river after river through various canyons.  None of it came remotely close to that 20 miles for sheer driving brutality.

Hwy 1

We’re doing quite a bit of talking about geography with the kids on this trip, and one of the things I’ve been trying to get them to notice is the general difference between the East Coast and the West Coast.  Specifically, most of the East Coast is flat for miles inland.  Generally you have a flat, narrow barrier island made of sand, then 10-20 miles of lagoon or marshland.  On the West Coast you have the Coast Range (technically the Coast Ranges) stretching most of the way from CA to WA and plunging directly into the ocean.  Though not especially high in most places (although it does reach over 8,000’ in CA), it’s very rugged.  It makes for great scenery, but also tough driving, particularly if you happen to be, oh, just for example, driving 30+ feet of rickety motorhome near its max weight and towing 15 or so feet of car and bikes behind you.

You’ll often see the yellow signs giving a recommended speed for a portion of road that’s quite a bit lower than the speed limit.  Completely unofficially, I tend to ignore those when I’m in a normal car.  They should not ever be ignored in Davista.  On this particular segment there were multiple recommended 15 mph zones, and even a 10 mph zone for a hairpin curve that I don’t think I could’ve negotiated at 15 or even 13.  Narrow, very steep, and insanely curvy – the entire way.  Near the end, where we were almost at the ocean, I smelled our hot brakes for the first time this trip; I intend it to be the last, as it was extremely uncomfortable.

The next day at Caspar Beach I struck up a conversation with our neighbor, who had clearly been RVing for years and was driving a much smaller rig.  He was headed north (the way we’d come), but wasn’t intending to take Highway 1 across the Coast Range.  When I told him we just had and it was tricky but we managed it just fine, his eyes widened as he looked behind me at Davista / Toad and exclaimed “IN THAT?!?”  Our conversation petered out shortly thereafter, and upon further reflection, it’s possible I should’ve replaced “we managed it just fine” with “we dodged a bullet and are lucky to be here.”

At any rate, disaster successfully averted, we arrived at Caspar Beach in the afternoon, and found it a very cool little beach campground.  As most of the coastline up there is rocky cliff, the vast majority of the beaches are small, hemmed In by rocks, and formed by a river or stream’s meetup with the ocean.  That’s exactly what Caspar is, with the campground on one side of the small road and along the stream, and the beach on the other.  Here’s an aerial shot.


The campground has a little store with kayak, surfboard, and diving gear rentals – evidently all three of those get a lot of play on Caspar Beach, and it’s an especially good spot to dive for abalone.  While there we saw several divers cleaning their catches for cooking that evening, presumably.

The further south we go, the more swim-friendly the beaches get, and so we wasted no time getting swimsuits on and checking out the water.  We found it to be still a bit chilly for full-immersion swimming and not wavy enough for Boogie Boarding, but low tide exposed an enormous shell, critter, and bullwhip-sized kelp hunting area that kept the kids interested until nearly dark.


The next day was a weekend and therefore a no-school-all-play day, so we headed back to the beach, this time with kayaks in tow.  I had wanted to see how they did in small waves for quite some time and this seemed the perfect opportunity to find out – 1-2’ surf breaking gently over shallow sand seemed about as benign as we could hope to find, conditions-wise.

Unfortunately the Firefly (Keeper’s preferred single kayak) met us with a familiar hissing sound upon its inflation.  Suspecting a re-rupture of the hole we had repaired back in Grand Teton, we were surprised to find that patch intact and a new hole along the seam right next to it.  Not promising at all — that seam goes all the way around.  Momentarily undeterred, however, I talked Keeper into going tandem with me in the Sea Eagle, which is technically a single kayak, but can easily handle our combined weight.  Plus it’s self-bailing, which I figured would be a good feature in the surf.

I discovered quickly and to my surprise that Keeper and I had very different ideas about what constitutes fun when maneuvering among waves on/in something that floats.  After pushing quickly through the surf line, checking things out a bit, and getting used to the handling of the kayak, I turned back toward the breaking waves, only to have Keeper inform me, more than once, that he was “very uncomfortable” with my intentions.  It took his telling me a few times, with increasing urgency, for me to realize that he really meant it.  Unpacking it a bit later (after discovering, incidentally, that an inflatable kayak is a terrible thing to ride a wave in and essentially wants to either swap ends or turn sideways to the wave and then invert – fortunately we were in two feet of water so none of that mattered much), he told me that his last two attempts at Boogie Boarding had ended in him grinding his forehead into the sandy bottom due to the nose of the board being too far forward and digging in.  Furthermore he informed me that he was “two seconds from passing out and drowning” each time this happened, as he hadn’t had a chance to take a breath prior to going under.

Huh.  This may put a damper on my master plan to get him to learn to surf with me this trip.  We may need to revisit.

In the afternoon we drove down to Mendocino to grab some dinner and take a stroll there, but not before seeing a group of decidedly beachy-looking 30 or maybe 40-somethings hanging out in low chairs with towels and a snack-filled mini table on our beach, a couple bottles into a cooler of wine, with one of them diligently shucking fresh oysters and passing them out to the group.  It looked like they were getting ready to build a fire in order to press well into the evening.  So cool.  And so very California.

Mendocino is pretty much picture perfect, and has been deliberately preserved as such.  The picture below is from a bit too much of a distance to get the full effect, but it sits compactly on that spit of land jutting into the ocean and is as walkable as it is picturesque.  We opted for some pizza in a restaurant that had been converted from someone’s house, and we ate up in their loft, where they still had couches and toys for the kids to play with.  There was also gelato – bonus!


I know that Tacco has previously written about her semi-obsession with sea glass collecting.  Well, when I told her that Fort Bragg, which is a few miles north of Caspar, has a famous “Glass Beach,” she chalked that into our “absolutely must visit” column.  Not deterred by my telling her that the actual collection of glass there was prohibited, she read more extensively about it and learned that there are actually several “glass beaches” in Fort Bragg and only the officially named one prohibits collecting – so off we went after dinner, in a race with the sunset.


We turned out not to be the only ones with that idea, but it didn’t matter at all – there’s such an abundance of sea glass there, you could collect as much from a square yard or two as we’d collected on all the other beaches on which we’d searched, combined.  We now have several bags of multicolored sea glass awaiting Tacco’s deft crafting hands.  I’m eager to see what she comes up with.

Tomorrow we leave for my parents’ house in Alamo (SF Bay Area), which we’re all really looking forward to.  Primarily because we get to see them and my sister’s family, of course.  But it’s more than that – I think there’s an element of “taking a breath” that we all need.   We’ve been going going going since we started, with our average stay someplace being about 3 days.  Only in Park City did we stay longer than a week, and we packed our schedule quite full there too.  The plan in Alamo is to park in my parents’ driveway and stay awhile.  The girls have, for weeks, been asking “how many days until we get to see Grammy and Papa?” even though they’re quite capable of counting for themselves, and have expressed their intentions to immediately set up camp in one of their bedrooms, in order to sleep in a “real bed” for awhile.  Keeper has similarly talked about having an actual bedroom with his “own space” to stretch out in.  We need to pay attention when they say such things, it strikes me.  Actually I could’ve stopped that sentence at “we need to pay attention.”  Seems solid and overarching.

I’ll be flying a trip for work while the rest stay behind, but even that sounds to me like a throttling back for a bit rather than an imposition.  We have no plans, or at least very few, and evidently that’s something we could all use a little dose of.



What was Patrick’s Point?

I’m usually leery of places that involve enormous cliffs and are named for people as it makes me think some tragedy must have befallen said namesake. Fortunately, Patrick’s Point was named for either the scout who discovered it (Patrick Beegan) or a homesteader who planted the area’s first apple trees (Patrick McLaughlin), depending on your source. Regardless of which Patrick it was, he picked out a beautiful place – and we were fortunate enough to find it (mostly) not shrouded in fog.

We arrived and set up camp in about three minutes (as Flight mentioned we didn’t even have to disconnect the Toad from Davista) with the press of a few buttons. Our kids popped out to explore our site while Flight set up one of the hammocks in a small grove of nearby trees. He later triple dog dared Keeper to sleep out all night. Okay, he didn’t (actually, Flight’s recollection below is dead on), but Keeper did sleep in the hammock.


All night.

In bear country, he’ll have you know. For his perseverance (and I hope he’ll offer a blog post about the experience) he stands a little taller today and that’s pretty cool to see.

We enjoyed an easy dinner of pumpkin ravioli in brown butter sage sauce and finished it off with some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Yes – FALL! The girls and I mixed up the dough using a (gasp) hand-mixer (I do miss my KitchenAid mixer at times, but alas, we had neither room nor weight for such a luxury…) and we baked a dozen of those heavenly cookies.


The remainder of the dough we froze. I don’t know who the brilliant woman was who came up with the concept of icebox cookies, but I have definitely put it to good use. I have prolonged many batches of various cookies by parceling out the actual baked goods and tossing them in the oven as desired. It serves our family (and my waistline) far better to bake the three-dozen cookies over a period of weeks so none of us feel compelled to eat them all at once (= damage control at its best).

I crawled into bed feeling as though we had much more room to luxuriously stretch and wished we could stay a few more days. Alas, no. Time, tide, formation, eclipses, and California State Park campsite reservations wait for no one, so shove off we must.

The next morning we made pumpkin pancakes to celebrate Fall’s arrival in earnest. After Keeper and I made the batter, we let it sit while we went to hunt for agates down at the beach. It was a perfectly beautiful morning.


Ever on the hunt, I kept my eye out for sea glass treasures, but to no avail. Maybe there’s a reason it’s called Agate Beach and not Sea Glass Beach, but I wasn’t particularly successful in locating those gems either. At least I don’t think so. Frankly, I have no idea as my gemology skills are nearly as lacking as my California geographical ones.


Are there any agates in the above picture? Anyone?  Maybe it would help if it were in better focus.  Sigh…

The kids picked up several treasures from the beach, although I suggested we only keep the ones in which no one had lived.

I thoroughly enjoyed being on the beach as the sun stretched her rays to kiss each tiny pebble. Whatever Patrick’s Point was, I think I get it now, making a most auspicious start to our six-week exploration of the California coast.

Everything Pumpkin-Flavored (except Redwoods)

Happy Autumn!

These pictures are from our jaunt up to New England last October and beautifully captured the  season’s brilliant colors.  I love everything about Fall, especially shellacked decorative gourds.

Totally kidding (about the last part).

We only use real ones (even when we’re not in a house on wheels), and ideally those that we grow – or that I pick out at the store all by myself.


Many may appreciate Spring for being the season ripe with possibility (and it is), but I prefer the transitory phase of Autumn. I welcome this seasonal change as a time to reflect (kinda what this whole journey is about), take stock of my numerous blessings, enjoy plenty of hearty meals (I now have many such InstantPot miracles on tap), and savor the last of the garden’s fresh goodies (in previous years we have enjoyed caprese salad made from our garden tomatoes all the way until the Army-Navy game) while preserving as much of the rest as possible before hunkering down for winter.

Truth be told, I do enjoy sampling the season’s newest pumpkin-flavored snackety snacks. There are so many different ways to enjoy the flavor, which really isn’t the bland taste of the gourd itself as Keeper noted upon recently sampling some, but more so how well it can serve as a delivery mechanism for sugar, cream, and butter (and the traditional warming spices of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, of course). I appreciate that the stores seem to be marketing directly to me this time of year with all the different ways pumpkin can be packaged.   On our most recent trip to Trader Joe’s I purchased several cans of organic pumpkin in anticipation of the first day of Fall, as that’s the critical ingredient for many of my favorite seasonal recipes, the most notable of which is for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Based on a Mrs. Fields’ recipe, the dough can support 1.5 cups (combined) of anything you want to add: nuts, seeds, white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, unsweetened dried coconut, dried blueberries (Trader Joe’s are the best – far better cooked than raisins), chocolate chips, or (gag) raisins.  Although, why you’d want to ruin perfectly good cookies with cooked raisins or waste perfectly good raisins by baking them in cookies is beyond me. Sort of a purist in this regard, I prefer this taste of autumn solely enveloping Ghirardelli bittersweet chips, which truly results in a divine combination.  We’ll be making some of those tasty morsels as soon as we can manage it.

I’ll share a few more of our favorite Fall recipes as we make them, but let’s get back to the intent of this particular blog…

We made our way south from the Flarp-covered Oregon coast to be entirely underwhelmed by the campground that, despite being named Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, had not a single stately redwood in view – at least none near the campsite where we were parked. This was as close as we got…


After wedging ourselves snugly into a spot (seriously, it was so tight we couldn’t even put our awning out for fear of damaging it or some non-redwood trees), we busted out the Instant Pot for a near-instant pot of hearty goodness (no kidding, we went from pulling frozen chicken thighs out of the freezer to white chicken chili in about 40 minutes) and spent the night.

And one night only.

Being married to a “Best Campsite” seeker has its pros and cons. Sometimes it takes longer than expected to discover said idyllic locations, but the search far more often than not pays off. Once a not-the-best campsite has been identified, however, especially if we’ve already reserved and/or are currently occupying it, the fervent search begins anew. I am pleased to be the beneficiary of such ardent quests, even though I may sometimes mock the process.

Flight’s efforts came through yet again. After a quick brekkie, we pulled chocks a day early and relocated to a much roomier Patrick’s Point State Park by way of the Redwood National Park, where we got our Redwood fix at last. I was still energized by our descent from the Cascade Mountain ridgeline where we were flanked by immense old growth trees, but I couldn’t wait to get a new energetic hit by being among the Redwoods.


We stopped by the Hiouchi Ranger Station to acquire our Junior Rangers’ latest quest books before we took a walk through The Grove. These incredible beings have been around for centuries. I loved this display at the Ranger Station showing when various events had happened throughout the life of this particular Redwood until it was cut down only decades ago.


I had thought that one of the Redwood’s most impressive engineering feats was its ability to move any requisite water from its roots to the far-reaching branches hundreds of feet above, but have since learned from Junior Ranger Firebolt (and other sources) that while the inner bark provides such a water-movement mechanism, the tree doesn’t exclusively rely on this method. Instead, Redwoods appear to have the capability to absorb water from the local environment – AND can transpire as much as 500 gallons in a day. Because they depend on living in a moist habitat, they are capable of contributing to their surrounding microclimate’s moisture content or drawing from it as necessary. Whoa!


If that wasn’t cool enough, I noticed they also tend to grow in rings around the remains of another tree. I had assumed such a growth pattern was due to the close range in which the tiny pinecones (only just larger than my thumbnail!) were dropped and then reseeded. Not so. Apparently they can clone themselves. And, as it would also appear, so can Flight. If you have seen any pictures of WoodSprite, you may have noted that, despite my having grown, incubated, and given birth to that child I seem to have contributed no genetic material to her existence. Except maybe her sass, which does seem to be a dominant trait prevalent both throughout my own family tree and having manifested in all three of our children.   So maybe the maternity test can wait…

But I digress…

Sorry, where was I? So these “faery rings” of newer trees (these were my exact thoughts upon seeing them, but learned that’s actually a valid term) that spring up surrounding an old tree are actually little clones that take advantage of the well established parent’s root system to get a leg up on the growth chart. Pretty amazing – who knew?

We parked Davista at the Ranger Station and popped across the highway (in the Suburu) to go for a walk among these colossal beings in The Grove. I had vague recollections of previously seeing these giants almost 20 years ago and wasn’t sure what I would take away from our next encounter. Sure, they were big, that much stuck with me, yet now with a few more years of being in my own body, some more traumatic than others, I was much more deeply awed by their presence. I repeatedly felt as though I should genuflect as I made my through this sanctuary. Resisting that urge, I instead let the others in our gaggle move on ahead and engaged in some qigong, surrounded by ring of Redwoods. Before I could take my shoes off to better connect with The Grove, I was “Hey Momma”-ed again. Ah, well, at least I got some decent pictures…

One of the Junior Ranger challenges was to draw a “nursery log,” the term assigned to one of the downed behemoths whose decomposition fuels the growth of other forest flora. In addition to various fungi and countless fiddlehead ferns, redwood sorrel sprouts up from all nursery logs:


And it’s edible. With a tangy lemon-flavor, it perfectly complemented the fish Flight caught. No wait, that hasn’t happened yet. Much to Keeper’s delight, I didn’t learn that redwood sorrel was edible until I am now writing about it or I’d have sampled some in the forest straight from the source.

Savoring the energy of the place, WoodSprite and I fell behind the rest of our crew. Really, you can’t rush sharing qi with a colossal being.


Unprompted, “Hey Momma, I’m giving the tree some qi…”  That’s definitely my girl.

We took a wrong turn and ended up down by the water where we enjoyed a few minutes along side the rambling Smith River.


When we returned to the gang, the path took us between two downed soldiers. For some reason fallen trees always seem indecently exposed, no matter how long it’s been since they tumbled. Massive root complexes that no light of day should touch are disgracefully on display and most certainly should not be. I’m always torn between wanting to stare or avert my eyes. I had to take this panoramic photo so you could ride that fence with me:

These two soldiers fell in opposite directions, which means they would have occupied the same space. ???

I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out exactly how that happened.

Okay, one last fascinating Redwood tidbit before we retire to Patrick’s Point… Contrary to the deep network I had imagined rooting these giants in place, I learned their root system relies more on breadth than depth for stability, meaning their roots rarely dive deeper than eight feet below the surface. So manifesting great strength, yet with enough flexibility to withstand powerful winds, they epitomize the elegant yin-yang duality of the Dao.


I left The Grove feeling a tumble of frail human emotions, but mostly awestruck by these glorious beings and eager to return for my next Redwood energy fix.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night

I have a very early memory of my grandmother singing that song repeatedly on one of our first trips camping in the California woods, and though it stuck with me, I hadn’t heard it again.  So it surprised me when Kurt Cobain did his tortured version on MTV just prior to his death.  I doubt she knew how dark it is.  Or maybe she did; she was full of surprises…  Regardless though, there’s inevitably a point during any drive through California evergreens when I hear her singing “in the pines, in the pines…”

Though it was a shame to leave the Oregon coast so quickly, particularly since our “bad” weather gave way to sun and mid-70s for our departure, we had several wickets to meet in California, so set off for the Redwoods via highway 101, which remains the route closest to the coast all the way until Hwy 1 splits off from it in Northern California.  The southern half of the Oregon coast becomes Dunes country rather than Rugged Rocky Shoreline country, which pushes the road a bit inland and blocks the view of the water, but it’s still a nice drive.  Here’s what we did:


Our destination was a campground in the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  The whole “Redwoods” area is a little jumbled and difficult to get one’s head around, as not only are there both National and State Parks that stretch down California’s northern coast and share the Redwoods moniker, but it’s not entirely clear whether you’re in one or the other, as they seem to share jurisdiction in several places.  When entering, you see signs that say something like “Entering Redwood State and National Parks.”  Complicating things further, there are multiple semi-famous redwood groves all the way down the coast to the San Francisco area that may or may not be in State or National Parks.  So I guess the net result of all this is that it’s tough to know whether you’re in the “right” redwoods.  We, it turns out, were destined to camp not in the right redwoods.

Quick backtrack – we had rejiggered our plans in order to get to my parents’ house in the Bay Area a bit earlier and get a little time on the Northern California coast.  This required canceling the reservations I’d made months prior at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State (and National?  I dunno) Park campground, which are in high demand.  Though we’d now be staying in the area midweek, there was very little available to swap into on short notice, but the Del Norte Coast campground was wide open.  That should have been an obvious red flag, but sometimes it’s tempting to think that you’re just so cunning and savvy, you’re able to find the hidden gems that no one else knows about.

Or maybe that’s just me.  Anyway, here was our campsite.


Keeper had been fretting a bit about being off the grid yet again, and indeed that’s where we found ourselves, with the trifecta of neither cell coverage, nor wi-fi, nor campsite hookups (i.e. water / electricity).  It was a bit of a tortuous drive down into the valley in which this campground sits, and the other thing we noticed quite quickly about it was the peculiar disappearance of the redwoods as we descended.  There are none in the picture, and in fact I don’t think there were any in the campground either.  Odd choice, if you’re the guy deciding where to put the campgrounds.  And then of course the size.  This picture was the no-kidding, we’re now set up shot, not a picture taken in the process of shoehorning ourselves into the much roomier final campsite.  We couldn’t even open the awning.

Though I had been taking my best “hey kids, check out all these cool things about this campground!” tone, I pulled Tacco aside privately after about an hour of silver lining hunting and suggested we leave in the morning.  “This spot sucks” were my actual words I think.  To my great relief, I didn’t have to spend any time convincing her.  Here were the kids after we told them we’d be leaving early.


But I need to shift gears abruptly here, because the truth is that the two days we spent in the Redwoods were actually some of our best yet, and that’s not something I toss off casually.

Most of it comes down to the Redwoods themselves.  I grew up in California, went to college on a campus on which redwoods grow, had seen a few of the groves of the larger ones in years past, and in fact discovered recently that my parents have a redwood growing basically in their driveway.  Yet somehow seeing them this time floored me.

I read that something like 95% of the old growth redwoods had been logged before we collectively decided they needed some protection, so most of what you would see outside of the dedicated groves are relatively young.  And they’re pretty trees, without a doubt.  But when you see the huge ones, the 1,500+ year old ones, it’s… well, I shouldn’t speak for anyone else, so I’ll just say that it affected me profoundly.  It’s almost like the previously described difference between a partial and a total solar eclipse.  We saw the first ones upon climbing into the Redwood State/National Park initially on the way to the marginal campground, and I couldn’t quite process what I was seeing.  The size just doesn’t seem right.

Then on the next day, after leaving our tiny campsite at Del Norte, we visited and hiked through the Stout Grove, right across from the Jedediah Smith SP campground, where our original reservations had been.  There’s a reason that place fills up early.

Hiking through that grove gave me a similar feeling to what I experienced in some of the more active geothermal areas in Yellowstone – a sense that there’s “stuff going on” around you and underneath you (and here, above you).  Almost as if it’s humming with an energy you can only intuit, rather than sense.  So hard to describe, but it’s one of the few places where for most of the hike, we all hiked alone, and silently.



I’ll leave the futile attempts to describe it alone there, and just add that afterwards I asked Tacco whether she could ever get used to that scenery, and without hesitation she echoed the “not even a little” that I was thinking when I asked.


Our enthusiastic Junior Rangers (the girls – despite what we’d heard before, that program is designed for younger kids, and not the “up to 14!” that they advertise) jumped immediately into their assigned tasks and were able to bag another ranger badge.

After our hike and while parked at the Ranger Station, I was able to get some internet coverage and search for our campground for the evening, since we’d abandoned our redwood-free Redwoods site.  We opted for Patrick’s Point State Park, just north of Eureka, and we’re so glad we did.  Not only is the scenery stunning as usual, but the park is enormous, as are the campsites.


The site was so large that we didn’t even need to disconnect the Outback to get in.  What’s more, we couldn’t even see our closest neighbors, and across the road we had a clifftop path with multiple viewpoints looking down at the Pacific and expansive, empty Agate Beach to the north.

Keeper has been struggling with lack of personal space more than most, and he was thrilled to discover a small area of our campsite that was cleared of trees, but covered with them – essentially a cave made out of tree cover.  I offered to set up the hammock there for him to hang out in, and he saw my “hang out” and raised me a “I’ll spend the night there!”  I try to take every opportunity to encourage attempts of his to step out of his comfort zone, so I gave him everything he needed (sleeping bag, blanket, pillow, lantern, phone, charger) and cut him loose.  He asked for his knife as well, given that we were technically still in bear country.  We had a brief conversation about the mechanics involved in fending off a bear encounter with a knife, but I quickly noted there was no productive end-game to that conversation, and as long as he didn’t open the blade in his sleep it wouldn’t hurt.

Upon getting him set up and saying good night, I returned inside and wagged “a half hour, tops” to Tacco.  It was pitch dark out there, with lots of critters creeping around.  I was proud of him just to have tried.  Wouldn’t you know it though, he spent the whole night out there!  I love it.

In the morning we decided that a hike down to Agate Beach for some treasure (or at least agate) hunting would be a far better use of our time than any homeschool endeavors would, so we headed down right at sunrise, and had the entire beach to ourselves.  This is what it’s all about!



No Seals at Seal Rocks…

Nor driftwood at Driftwood Beach, Flight informed me. Misnomers abound on the Oregon Coast, yet any of the state’s advisory notes are extremely polite in their recommendations:


Apparently in Oregon you get three warnings that the highway grade is changing – very Canadian, I thought.

Sorry, let me back up…


Despite being saddened by departing Bend, the four-hour trek to the ocean had my heart soaring. While still on the desert side of the Cascades the haze from the fire was still fairly pronounced, but it cleared as soon as we crested the pass. Within a short number of miles the flora transitioned from high altitude piney clusters to being thick with the richly moist underbrush accompanying even taller old growth trees. It was reminiscent of Washington Park in Anacortes and truly felt like going home.

We made our way to the coast in some less than optimal weather (it was raining sideways), but as Keeper observed, “My body was made for this.” Our kids continued to remind us they were born in the Pacific Northwest and assured us they needed only shells to face the treacherous weather. Perhaps it’s because we’ve often quoted REI’s tag line, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing…”, but whatever the reason I’m glad to see they’ve taken the sentiment to heart.

However, after a brief stretch on the beach in the gusting winds and accompanying stinging sand, we all cried uncle and returned to the campsite for dinner, praying the next day would welcome better weather.

And it did. Sort of – at least there were some sun breaks.  Good to dust off some Pacific NW vocabulary.  After we enjoyed a quick bite to eat, we went back to the beach for lessons in marine biology and coastal engineering. There would be plenty of time for math and reading while at the Laundromat…


One of the first things that stood out as we picked our way down to the waterline was how yesterday’s raging wind had carved the beach into small aerodynamic sand ridges behind anything larger than a Perler bead.


For those of you who don’t have elementary school aged girls, Perler beads are these plastic bitty pieces you form into shapes on a template before using an iron to melt them all together. For the record, they are almost as irritating to step on as Legos.  Trust me, no further research is needed.

While Flight led the marine biology lab, primarily with WoodSprite:


I ran a coastal engineering lab on erosion, and oversaw an ocean engineering bridge building enterprise (okay, that endeavor was pretty much Firebolt’s solo effort). There was a freshwater (I hope) run off that came down under PCH and made for the ocean. I dismissed my initial concerns about the water’s source and asked the older kids (WoodSprite was still with Flight looking at sea anemones, which I still have to look at written out in order to say properly) about their observations of the “river’s flow” and how it was carving its path.


There was a sizable slab of rock over which the water rushed in some places and not at all in others. After our initial observations Keeper plopped a large mass of sand on the slab where there was no water flowing and I first tasked Keeper (while Firebolt built her bridge) to redirect the flow to erode this newly deposited land mass. While Keeper built a drip castle on the river’s edge, I deposited a new sand mass and asked Firebolt to do the same. Using only locally available rocks (design specification), they each handily accomplished their missions. And undid their work when complete. I love that we’re raising ecologically mindful engineers.

It was still pretty early in the day when we loaded up the Suburu with our accrued dirty laundry and headed to into bustling Waldport (population at last count 2,163). While Flight and I snagged five machines to start our laundering, each of the kids broke out their math workbooks and completed their requisite exercises. During one of our runs out to the car to collect yet another laundry bag, we noticed there was a locksmith shop literally next door. This was most fortuitous as we were down to only one set of RV keys (one had gone on walk about during our recent river float – !!!) and needed to make another set. Perfect – two birds, only one confined trip in the Suburu.

Laundry cleaned, folded, and returned to the Suburu and now the proud owners of three new sets of Davista keys, we popped around the corner for a restorative lunch at Grand Central Pizza. I was happy to see so many of Bend’s best offerings on tap and hope to see Atlas’ huckleberry cider become more readily available.


ADMIN complete, we headed south along the coast to conduct Varsity Marine Biology classes. Flight was happy to pry various marine creatures from their places of residence to show them to the kids (and I was happy just to visually document the observations), after which he returned them to their homes.

Until a squall schooled us in earnest.

Fortunately we were on the way back to the car and not still straddling tide pools. Flight gathered wee WoodSprite under his shell and I ducked into a shallow cave with Keeper and Firebolt. They had identified our temporary sanctuary and made enough room for me to shelter as well – such kind children.


Flight’s recollection (below) is only partially correct, for we three who were well ensconced in the natural alcove avoided the brunt of the pelting rain. WoodSprite also faired well in Flight’s rain shadow. Flight, less so.

In only minutes the squall passed and we extricated ourselves from our hollow and our exploration was maybe more subdued, although only just because shortly thereafter I was “Hey, Momma”-ed again by WoodSprite.

I have to admit I love driftwood, especially enormous trees that have floated only heaven knows how long or far. I was blown away by this enormous piece of driftwood (perhaps it had abandoned its post at Driftwood Beach?), especially all the designs and colors.


No kidding, I want some jewelry that looks like this, although probably a little smaller.

Some of us (Flight) were more damp than others, so we called it a day and retreated to Davista’s dry warmth to fill our bellies with a hearty meal. A most productive ADMIN (and heavy STEM) day, crazy rain squalls notwithstanding.

The next morning threatened to be a beautiful day.


As had become our habit during our short time on the Oregon coast, we meandered down to Seal Rocks Beach to check it out. Not only was the “river” we’d observed two days before carving out a totally different path to the ocean (meaning we could have a different Coastal Engineering Lab EVERY DAY were we to stay longer), much of its transit was being covered by “Flarp,” the sea foamish substance cloaking the shoreline. Frankly I’m not sure Flarp is a proper noun, but it looks like it should be. Perhaps verbifying too might soon follow, but considering it’s one of Keeper’s words, I’ll let him further explain its origin and verbify away if he opts to do so.


As Flight explained, we did look it up and learned the copious amount of sea foam is mostly comprised of the by products of algae decomposition, sped along by the recent storms’ tumultuous churning in the surf zone, whereby it also trapped air in its pseudo-surfactant composition and came to resemble very dirty soap bubbles.

Sweet, a chemistry lesson too!


Regardless of how cool the scientific mechanism is behind generating its existence, Flarp is just plain gross when you get up close to it. Organic, okay maybe, murky and filthy looking, absolutely.  However, from a macro perspective, it is pretty cool just to sit and watch how it moves along the beach. Looking a lot like a malleable blanket of coffee-colored fiberglass insulation, yet more mercurial, it seemed to slither over the top of the water and travel its own path, indifferent to the water’s periodic motion beneath. It was truly mesmerizing.


Flight rallied us out of our respective trances to get on with the plan of the day. We mobilized the family to explore one more beach, this one with the intention of collecting sea glass. Just over a year ago, I went to visit a dear friend in Newport, RI, and we were strolling along a nearby beach where there was a modest amount of this treasure presenting itself at low tide. I’m embarrassed to admit my hamstrings were a little sore for my stooping so often during the arduous hunt, but I didn’t care.

I had been bitten by the sea glass-collecting bug.

Big time.

So much so that on the Monday morning after I returned home, I shanghaied the family into crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to meet low tide just before 0700. We spent a couple hours combing the beach and I was in heaven. They must love me, at least enough to tolerate these expeditions, although truly I didn’t give them much of a choice.

Since hitting the Oregon coast, I have been reviewing on line recommendations for somewhere nearby to find sea glass hoards just awaiting my discovery. I was pleased to learn there was such a treasure trove just north of Newport. WOO HOO!   We’re going to Otter Rock!


The beauty of the morning had been swallowed up by more swollen storm clouds, but our shells were donned more to stop the wind than any rain. We got to Otter Point but couldn’t find our way to the beach that was mentioned. Bummer. Instead we checked out the Devil’s Punchbowl Arch, sporting a wicked cocktail that had its own special ingredient – FLARP!



We popped down some very steep stairs to reach a different beach and let the kids run out some energy.

I liked seeing what the storm had done to the sand:

A little bummed I hadn’t found THE beach, we returned to the car and Flight humored me by trying to locate it. Good man. We turned down a side road and saw another stairway, presumably to THE beach. This looked promising! At the top of the stairs, this guarded the descent:


Oops. Sorry urchins, anemones, and starfish. I swear we didn’t know.

A little chagrinned (and hungry), we abandoned our quest (mine really) and sped to Rogue Brewery for dinner. Although I enjoyed my Fruit Salad Cider, the highlight beverage (for me) was Keeper’s Root Beer. After dining, we bought several of Rogue’s sodas to ration out along our journey: the requisite Root Beer (of course), Honey Orange, and Citrus Cucumber.  And so we returned to Davista, sans ocean-aged rubbish, but happily short on fridge space.

We chanced one last trip to the Seal Rocks beach to see what the Flarp had done in our absence.


Flight and Keeper taunted the incoming tide with this stunt.


Flight emerged Flarp-free, Keeper not so much.

Looks like we’ll need another laundry day when we get to the Redwoods…

Ocian in View! O! the Joy…


Coast to coast at last, though it may be a stretch to call the Chesapeake one of the coasts, and an even bigger stretch to lead off with a Lewis & Clark expedition quote.  But it was pretty cool to see the Pacific again through the windshield.

We headed northwest from Bend into what appeared to be a new and thicker blanket of forest fire smoke.  It was smoky enough this time that we could actually smell it, and the mountains on either side of us weren’t visible.  Still though, it was a gorgeous drive, which speaks volumes about that area.


This was the first time we returned to sea level(ish) in several weeks, and I was struck once again by how little the Davista/Toad beast enjoys grades, whether ascending them or descending.  Though driving in general has become much easier, with respect to total attention required, than when I wrote my first semi-panicked post about it, this does not hold true for going up and down.  I’ve become acutely aware of any elevation change in a road and try to roll considerations thereof into my planning, though sometimes there’s very little choice.  Steep downhills are the most nerve-wracking I think.  Steep and long downhills even more so.  Though climbing steeply is a grind, it doesn’t feel dangerous, just slow.  Going down anything more than about 6% of grade, however, will push us into 2nd gear and 4500+ RPM in order to maintain a reasonable speed without using excessive brakes (which would, of course, be worse).  I’ve read that this is fine and the preferred technique to tackling hills, but when I start pushing 5000 RPM it just doesn’t feel right.  I figure something is taking up all that strain I’m feeling, whether it’s the transmission, the engine, or something else.  Maybe I’m just not used to it.

At any rate, we crossed the Cascades and descended all the way into the Willamette Valley, and thereafter the short (but steep) Coastal Range to the Pacific.  It was interesting to watch the vegetation change as we crossed quickly from the “dry” side of the state to the “wet” side.

The weather wasn’t the best, but we had expected that.  Pretty much from San Francisco north to Canada they were expecting a few days straight of cooler temperatures and rain.  Sorely needed in the fire-scorched Pacific Northwest, but not ideal for our Oregon Coast excursion.  On the other hand, we were due for some rain – we’ve had very little on our trip — and what better region than the Pacific Northwest to experience some?

Due to previously mentioned time constraints and some dawdling in Park City, we’d had to distill our Oregon Coast time to one site from three, and we opted for Seal Rock, just south of Newport and north of Yachats (go ahead, try to pronounce that.  WRONG!) and Cape Perpetua.  We’re in a somewhat old school private RV park rather than a State or National Park, but there’s wi-fi and the view is stunning, with the beach right across the street.  “The street” in this case is Highway 101, but out here it’s pretty easy to cross, unlike, say, at Cahuenga Pass in LA.


Our first order of business upon setting up was to throw on some rain shells and head down to dip our feet into the Pacific, high winds and sideways rain be damned.  Woodsprite wouldn’t even put on sweats (but quickly regretted her obstinacy).

The next few days were quite different than all that had come before, and as such marked well the beginning of the “coastal” part of our journey as opposed to the “mountain” part which we’d just finished.


One of the things I had been looking forward to for quite some time was taking Keeper salmon fishing, and hopefully filling an ice chest or two with the fresh pink/orange stuff, not to mention having it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for several weeks.  I’d planned out our Oregon Coast stops based at least partially on river mouths, reasoning that late September would be just about right for the salmon to be heading in from the ocean, netting us a high probability of a decent catch from the shore.

There are several flaws in that reasoning, the most significant of which being this is me we’re talking about, and evidently I reek of salmon repellent.  Also lessening our odds, though, was the fact that our time constraints limited us to one river (the Alsea, which is ok for salmon but not a front-runner, I learned afterwards).  And lessening them further were the tide / time of day considerations and our non-willingness to rent a boat to get where the salmon were.  Somewhere in the recesses of my imagination I had once upon a time pictured our going out in the kayaks to salmon fish, but seeing the environment in which we’d be fishing disabused me of that nonsense almost instantly.  Not saying that every river mouth is like the Columbia in Astoria, but there’s a reason there’s a Coast Guard station there and that they’re so busy rescuing people.  The Alsea is like the Columbia in miniature, but not too miniature.  Huge Northern Pacific waves meeting a large, shallow river mouth with shifting sand bars and currents plus high winds and 13 or so feet of tidal shift = no chance whatsoever we would be blowing up the inflatables to brave it.  Plus it was supposed to rain.  Nahhh.

Still though, we awoke dutifully on day 2 at 5:30AM after buying our (semi-exorbitant) 3-day fishing license and some “can’t miss” lures, bundled up, and drove down to what looked like a decent spot to do some casting.  It was actually really cool.  The rain let up right as we arrived and turned into more of “showery” thing, with most of the showers missing us.  We were even treated to a rainbow at sunrise and a single lightning bolt that struck near enough to us to get our undivided attention, but no more followed it.


It became clear pretty quickly that any salmon we were going to catch would have to be lost or at least unintelligent, as we weren’t able to get the lures too far off shore, and we could see in the considerable distance where all the boats were fishing (and presumably where the salmon were).  Keeper lost a bit of his enthusiasm when he realized this was going to be yet another fishing-with-no-fish excursion with Dad, but to his credit he kept his spirits up and we fished for at least an hour before heading back to the women-folk and homeschool time.  We even did it again on day 3, with the same result.  Decided to sleep in on day 4 though.  Mmmmm, warm.

A quick note on 3-day fishing licenses, at least in Oregon (and California I would presume).  They are not economical.  I forget the exact price, but I did, without thinking, blurt out “no, I said a 3-day pass, not annual” when I was told the price.  Oops.  After being assured by the woman behind the counter that the price was in fact correct, I made some quip about how I was far (FAR!) better off going to the local grocery store and buying a salmon there.  She chuckled dutifully and offered that that wasn’t true if we caught 3 or 4 of them (with the implication that this was a simple matter).  Clearly she doesn’t know me.

The weather, despite the overall wetness and chilliness, actually cooperated with us far better than we expected throughout our Oregon time.  It seemed to rain all night every night, but the days would bring a decent amount of sun in between the random showers.  We were able to see quite a bit of that part of the coast, which is spectacular by any measure.  Our beach at Seal Rocks morphed with the tides from a wide, shallow tide pool wonderland with waves crashing in the distance, to a roiling maelstrom of sea foam that we could only watch from the path above.  Something none of us had ever seen was a sort of brownish sea foam that didn’t dissipate at all, and in fact collected on many of the surfaces there and in the various gyres that formed based on the all the rocks / reefs.  We looked it up (because in 2017 you don’t have to “wonder” anything) and discovered that it’s associated with rough seas and is composed of ground up seaweed/kelp and other organic material.  One of the kids decided it should be called “flarp,” so that name stuck.  Here’s some flarp.


This was the first time the girls were really able to see no-kidding tide pools with anemones, urchins, sea stars, and the like.  Keeper had seen several, and Firebolt had seen a few on vacation, but she’d been too young for them to make an impression.  Plus these were far more dramatic.  We spent several hours over the few days engaged in tide pool exploration.

Cape Perpetua, a few miles to the south, took the “rugged Oregon coast” thing and upped it several notches.  We scrambled on the tide pool strewn rocks next to the ocean where there’s a feature called “Thor’s Well” and another called “Devil’s Churn.”  You get the idea I think.  Waves were running about 15-20’ as well, so it was a little intense with the three kids wanting to go in different directions.  Hilarity ensued when I managed to get splashed pretty heavily by a wave while trying to demonstrate to the kids where the safe and less safe places to stand were; I was in a “safe” place.  My seawater-soaked jeans quickly became a non-factor, however, when we all got caught in a downpour and tried, unsuccessfully, to huddle downwind of a small ridge.  The kids took it in stride, though, and we chalked it up to “adventure.”

The last night we spent up in Newport, where Keeper (OK, it was me, but he definitely helped) dragged us to the Rogue brewery.  Keeper had tried Rogue’s root beer at a restaurant recently, and had declared it the best soda he’s ever had.  He’s not a soda guy and doesn’t particularly like sweet drinks, but this is evidently solid stuff – heavy on the “root” and light on the sugar.  We’d promised him he could buy a few bottles there as it’s almost impossible to find elsewhere.  I had a sampler flight with my dinner, as I’m inclined to do when I visit a brewery.  I like Rogue.  They’re not my favorite by any stretch, but there’s very little beer they make that I dislike.  The dinner was solid and Pacific Northwest-y too, with some Dungeness crab thrown in there for good measure.  Between all that, the rain outside, and the chill in the air, it felt very home-ish, and even Keeper expressed that sentiment, which surprised me a bit.  He seems energized in this environment, and I find that encouraging.


Tomorrow we head further down the coast into California and the Redwoods.  The last time I was there we blew through the area; I’m looking forward to spending some time there this go around.

By the way, if it wasn’t completely clear, we caught no salmon, and presumably won’t this trip.  At some point someone’s going to have to teach my son how to fish…

One Last Day in Paradise…

Our last day in Bend came too soon, but we made the most of it. Since we’d already done a riverside hike, we opted to check out the volcanic terrain as well. Although it was hazy due to all the fires raging north of us, the surreal landscape was spectacular nonetheless.


Having several Minecraft aficionados in the family, we noted that this particular trail could easily have been the inspiration for that particular computer game. The kids loved scrambling all over the angular rocks peppered with crevices of unknown depth. Because my sense of balance isn’t always trustworthy, being in close proximity to such places tends to make me a little uncomfortable. Watching our son rocket across them was no more enjoyable, but I heeded Flight’s observation from our previous hike and let him go. I was pleased to see that when my mother’s intuition really objected to his intended path, Flight, too, weighed in as a voice of reason discouraging any foolhardy leaps of faith.

Firebolt was a trooper. In a rush to pack up and get on the trail, I didn’t do my standard clearing turn to make sure no one’s fingers were near the hatchback before I shut it. Fortunately her hand was on the boundary of where the hatch meets the frame and only got pinched. While that was certainly uncomfortable enough, I am very thankful it wasn’t more serious. Firebolt totally rallied and was an enthusiastic hiker regardless of her throbbing finger(s).


I am vaguely concerned that we may be raising a society of narcissists. WoodSprite often loves to strike a pose and say, “Hey, Momma, can you take a picture of me?” and as soon as I move my iPhone from picture taking position, she asks, “Can I see it?” This hike alone provided me ample opportunity to make this observation.

We wove our way through the woods thick with solid lava flow and came first to a bitty lake.


After thirty minutes of mad scrambling over the lakefront’s rocks, pausing only to launch larger and larger boulders into the water to observe the ripples move out (physics lab complete), we moved on to the larger body of water on the trail, Lake Sparks.


Tarrying to match WoodSprite’s shorter strides, we rounded the last patch of trees and came upon this view:


Flight was helping Firebolt to ascend this sizable pile of rocks and Keeper was clambering across the crest. When they were nearly to the top, I asked Flight how the going was because WoodSprite really wanted to join everyone at the summit. Of course she did. I dug in past my vertigo-based apprehension and committed to climbing as well.


The views from above were stunning, but it made me quite woozy to sit atop the ridge line. I solidly grounded my lower limb proprioceptors and distracted myself by taking pictures. This vertigo business blows.


After a beautiful hike, we headed into town to sample yet another delicious dinner at 10 Barrel.


Flight and I are of like foodie mind and, in order to enjoy more items from any menu, we confer then tend share whatever we order. We opted to split the Moroccan Grilled Shrimp, Wild Alaskan Salmon Wraps, and the pizza of the day (one celebrating the local squash harvest partnered with goat cheese). This was one of our favorite meals thus far as the flavors highlighted were beautifully partnered. If you don’t believe me, check out their menu here. And, as you may imagine at one of the best brew pubs in town, the beverages were pretty rock star too.

I crawled into bed that night a little bummed we wouldn’t be staying in Bend for a few more years days. Because we’d already sacrificed precious Oregon time for a longer though certainly not regrettable stretch in Park City, we had to move on in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I am eager to see the Oregon coast, I just don’t want to move free of Bend’s grasp just yet. So, in case I haven’t been clear, aside from the tricky commute for Flight, Bend hits all of my wickets to lavishly feed my soul for the foreseeable future.