Let me say that this trip was made possible in part by some unofficial sponsors. First, thank you, Toyota, for making my Corolla. Only three months old but it handled the 1,685 miles - packed to the gills - like a pro. That’s more miles than it will see in the next three months. Finally got the car filthy dirty too. I’ve been waiting to rid it of that new car smell and that shiny look.

We also want to thank Safeway, a grocery chain on the west coast. Not every small town had natural grocers or farmer’s markets open on the days we were present. We ran into Safeway a few times for fresh sandwiches and sides when we just couldn’t eat another PB&J sandwich. They have fresh deli sandwiches made to order and for $1.00 more you can add a bottle of water and a piece of fresh fruit. Not as healthy but just about as fun was buying a bottle of liquor in a Safeway in California. Nothing like using your Safeway Card to score a deal on the Maker's Mark on sale for $16.99. Oh, yeah, and clean bathrooms too.

And a really big shout out (and not a shout of pain this time) to Komperdell for the terrific Contour Titanal Airshock Trekking Poles purchased before we left. Worth every dime. Compared to most outdoor gear, the price was very reasonable. Plus, we found them on sale at R.E.I. Our knees thank you too.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to every visitor center from Crescent City on up. We utililized almost every one, if only to hit the potty. These centers are run mostly by dedicated volunteers who were very helpful and friendly.


After work we drove to the Travelodge in Springfield, OR. It was even less exciting than it sounds.


Getting a little lost as we tried to leave Springfield allowed us to discover Fast Lane Coffee. Good coffee and free stickers. I love stickers. And KRVM 91.9 was the best radio station of the whole trip.


Our first stop as official vacationers was the Oregon Caves National Monument located in Cave Junction, OR. This 480 acre area includes an historic chateau, a gift shop and some hiking trails. However, the main draw is the cave tour. Our tour guide, bless her heart just three weeks into this job, said, "I'll give you the abridged version. Well, actually, the exact opposite - I'll wrap it up in a nutshell for you..." Someone get that girl a dictionary.

OK, so anyway, the discovery of the cave is credited to Elijah Davidson in 1874. But I find it hard to believe that native people who lived here for a few thousand years before Elijah never stumbled upon it. Elijah was chasing his best hunting dog who, in turn, was chasing a bear. He followed the animals into the dark cave because a good hunting dog is pretty valuable. Soon his few matches were spent. It was dark, it was cold, he was lost. The sound of a gurgling stream was his salvation. He crawled his way back on his hands and knees for three hours in the icy stream. The dog was saved too. The bear didn’t fare so well. Elijah, bitter and cold with scruffed up knees, planted a newly killed deer at the mouth of the cave and waited. When the bear emerged for his venison victuals, Elijah took his revenge. Elijah got the bear, the deer, his dog alive and credit for discovering the cave.

We didn’t have to crawl through the cave but we begged off at the 40 minute mark where you are offered the chance to leave or commit to the 50 remaining minutes of the tour. It wasn't the constant 42 degrees or the cramped spaces. We were just done with the cave. We hadn’t lost any money because our admission was covered by our National Parks Pass Besides, we were itching to get to California.

Gloppy ceiling

Staircase from the past

More gloppy ceiling

Our escape hatch through which we were escorted to daylight


So it was on to Crescent City, California, the southern most point on our trip. Our home for two nights was Curly Redwood Lodge, so named because it was constructed out of a single Curly Redwood tree. It’s less a lodge than a motel but you can call yourself whatever you like, we don’t care.

On a suggestion from Sylvia, the eyes and ears of Curly Redwood Lodge and the greater Crescent City area, we dined that night at the Beachcomber Restaurant. It was nice enough but these types of places rarely impress me. Julie really enjoyed her prime rib but my dinner was kind of blah. How they manage to rake in $19 for it still baffles me. This was our one dining splurge of the trip. The fish was decent but we’ve made much better at home. The rice pilaf was warmed over but was the only alternative to the baked potato (guaranteed to be warmed over in a restaurant). The salad bar was feeble. The condiments, however, were delicious.

I should explain that I am a condiment whore. Condiments are practically a meal for me. It's hard for me to resist tasting everything on the table that falls into the condiment genre. When the waitress brought bread, a small dish of butter packets and a small dish of sour cream came too. However, my brain completely ignored the butter packets and the sour cream was assumed to be a butter-like substance. I even joked as I smeared the butter-like stuff on my bread, "So I guess this Cool Whip goes on my bread?" Of course, once in my mouth I realized I had buttered my bread with sour cream. Perhaps I had contracted a small virus back in the cave but I just wasn’t thinking clearly. And why would the waitress bring sour cream when we hadn’t order our meals? No matter, I love sour cream so no harm done.

Eventually, Julie's meal arrived with a baked potato and two little side cups of stuff. Now, lest you think I am the only one who can't tell shit from shinola, Julie purposely ignored the little cup of white stuff thinking it to be additional sour cream. After the meals were eaten and we were waiting for the dishes to be cleared, I dipped my spoon into the little cup of supposed sour cream and scooped out a decadent portion. See, we don't buy much sour cream let alone full fat sour cream so I considered this a vacation treat of which I should take full advantage. Well as soon as the stuff hit my mouth I stopped cold - or should I say hot? Yeah, not sour cream. Horseradish. "What's wrong?" Julie asked. Eyes wide and beginning to water, mouth frozen in a closed "O" and stifling a laugh all at the same time I managed to mumble, "Not...sour...cream." Julie feigned concern for a moment but was clearly more distressed to learn that she missed her opportunity to slather horseradish on her prime rib. I was disappointed because

a.) the crap in my mouth was not sour cream,
b.) I had no way to rid myself of the horseradish without grossing out nearby tables, and
c.) I realized that perhaps I am turning into my mother (sorry, Ma)

Little by little I ingested the horseradish but it wasn’t pretty. The waitress came 'round again and I was still red-faced and dabbing tears. "What's wrong?" A popular question lately. "Oh, nothing, I choked."

TRAVELER’S TIP: Don’t stick unidentified substances in your mouth. Actually, this is good advice even when not traveling.


Our very first hike of vacation was taken along the Simpson-Reed Grove trail inside Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park just outside Crescent City. This trail links up with the Peterson Trail. Both are beautiful, old, quiet, and awesome. Standing amongst the Redwoods drives home the fact that we are tiny and temporary. The trees that dominate this region are among the biggest, tallest, and oldest trees in the world. Many of these trees have been growing for more than 2,000 years, with some reaching heights of more than 300 feet. Plus, they’re quite slimming so stand next to them as often as possible. This trail was well maintained and easy to traverse.

Simpson-Reed Trail giants

Julie among the Redwood rubble

Redwoods are slimming!

Moss, leaves and canopy

Julie inspects the lightening damage

Lightening damage (to the tree, not me)

We were in the market for some fresh produce to supplement our next couple of lunches but the Crescent City Saturday Farmer’s Market was a little disappointing. It was extremely tiny and we literally found only a handful of produce items. We didn’t even bother. I did walk away with a few smudge sticks, a Native American form of incense made from dried plants and herbs. Smudge is used in ritual cleansing ceremonies. Admittedly, I just like to burn incense for the smell. And a smudge stick of sagebrush and cedar is the real deal, as opposed to incense sticks of the same scent. I will be experimenting with making my own smudge since I have an abundance of sage, rosemary, and lavender. Julie noted that the smudgemonger’s prices seemed to fluctuate depending on which sticks held my interest. Oh well, I didn’t pay more than I thought was fair and it is a nice souvenir that won’t take up space.

The prices held firm at Rumiano Cheese, located in the same parking lot as the farmer’s market. They have delicious samples available, dozens of gourmet food items, wine, gifts, meats, and a vast assortment of cheeses. We picked up a couple snacks for the road. The cheddar cheese curds lasted several days in the cooler and made for a nice, squeaky treat.

Unrelated Traveler’s Tip: Don't buy your gas from Fire Ball Gas, ok? I mean, would you buy your burgers from Stumbling Cow Beef?

Luckily the tide was out so we were able to explore the tide pools that lie between the Battery Point Light and the land. We found friendly crabs. Friendly in that they didn’t pinch us. We didn’t opt for the lighthouse tour but did enjoy the dramatic views of the coastline. We also discovered an ice plant, a type of succulent native to this area. Later in the day we hiked along the windy bluffs at Point St. George, named for the St. George Reef Lighthouse which stands 6 miles off the coast. This is apparently the only offshore lighthouse you can tour if you are willing to fork over the $170.00 for the helicopter ride. The lighthouse was barely visible on this day so I’ve included a photo from the website attached to the link I’ve referenced above.

Battery Point Lighthouse. Tide is out. Time to explore.

Purple sea star

From one Cancer to another

Julie on the path to the Lighthouse

A succulant known as an Ice Plant. Just one of many varieties.

View from Battery Point

Although it is orange, it's still a "purple sea star"

Rocks and shell

Rocky coast at Point St. George

Gull relaxes at Pt. St. George

A succulant at Point St. George


The sign in front of Curly Redwood Lodge advertised free hot breakfast but the next morning we walked out of the lobby hungry. Sylvia later explained to us that the breakfast is attainable only if you drive to the Elk Valley Casino a couple of miles away. Casino for breakfast? I hate casinos. Haven’t been in many. Cuz I hate ‘em. They are seedy and smell bad and I don’t gamble so they hold no allure. But this one held at least a meager breakfast and a free $2 bet for each of us. But I’d like to note that it was seedy and it did smell bad and don’t you know there were people gambling at 6:45 a.m.? I should have pocketed the $2 for a snack later but we let it all ride and came up with bubkis.

It was off to the Damnation Creek Trail to work off that lumberjack breakfast of one piece of French toast and an egg. The trail starts at Highway 101 and descends 1,000 ft. over more than two miles to the ocean. This was played out on several switchbacks. The forest here seemed bigger and older and grander than one we explored yesterday. About .7 miles into the trail stood a sign that indicated the remainder of the trail was "steep and trecherous." Good, we thought. Should make for a peaceful hike. I think the California Parks folks are trying to cover their butts and make it clear that this trail is challenging. Without a doubt, the trail is steep. But it wasn’t until we reached the last 15-20 feet that I fretted. And for people who aren’t bothered by heights, none of the trail is "trecherous." This last fraction of trail consisted of narrow, wet stone "steps" carved into the hillside about 15 feet off the ground. A fall onto the rocks below probably wouldn’t kill you but you could easily break any nubmer of bones. Besides, I just hate heights. I just take it one grueling step at a time, blaspheme repeatedly, cringe, and get through it.

The beach was isolated, rocky, not terribly inviting. But we recognized the tide pool potential. We clamoured over some rocks and climbed through a natural rock arch and continued exploring. We encountered a very bad smell of dead sea life and a deserted beach ball signed by recent highscool grads.

Tiny fungi

Along the trail

Growth and more growth

Light filters through the canopy


Once back in the car, our California adventure came to a close. We began our leisurely drive up Highway 101 through Oregon. In Brookings we discovered Dutch Bros. Coffee, a west coast chain. Still had terrible luck scoring 8 oz. lattes but at least Dutch Bros was consistently drinkable. Things are slow in Brookings what with that 25 mile an hour speed limit. You’ll have plenty of time to look for roadside coffee when you get stuck behind some guy in his old YO. Somewhere in time he had lost his TO and his TA so now he drove a YO. "Yo, pick up the pace. I have to be to work on the 5th!"

That night we stayed in a fabulous cabin in Alfred A. Loeb State Park. Our cabin, just 50 yards from the Chetco River, was spotless and comfortable. Abandoned firewood at the site proved too green for adequate burning that night but we burned enough to notice its particular perfume. We read later that the whole area is covered in Myrtlewood trees which have a smell similar to eucalyptus or camphor. After a delicious dinner of salmon, rice and zucchini, we walked down to the river to cast stones (we were out of aspersions).

Coffee makes the monk happy

Alfred A. Loeb State Park cabin

View of the Chetco River from the cabin porch

Good eats at the cabin.

Chillin' at the cabin.


The next morning we took an early hike along the River View Trail to get the blood flowing. It was an easy .75 mile each way. This trail eventually converged with the Redwood Nature Trail, the northern most redwood grove in the U.S. (the world?) The first one hundred yards or so of the Redwood Nature Trail is right out of Lord of The Rings. It was like being in the Hobbit’s Shire. Pictures don’t do it justice. It was lush and green, with a waterfall. Too early for any other humans to bother us. Perfect.

Fern map.

Fern spread

Babbling brook.

Watch your head.

Deep forest

Oh, how sweet. Forest love. Ew.

Where are the Hobbits?


Later we decided on Myers Creek Beach in the Pistol River State Park between Brookings and Gold Beach as our tide pool of the day. It wasn’t our first choice but it turned out to be one the best tide pool choices we've made. We discovered creatures for the first time, like the six-rayed sea star (Leptastarias hexactis), some of which were no bigger than my thumbnail. This also was the first place where we had spotted some particular predation in action. We saw a small crab caught in the clutches of a sea anemone and a large, black mussel in the grip of a purple sea star. We knew these creatures fed on these other creatures but had never seen it happen. And how slow does a crab have to be to get caught by a sea anemone? As for sea stars, they pry open the shells of the mussels (which are bivalves - I knew you were wondering), invert their stomachs into said creature and feed off the soft tissue. You know, if given the choice between inverting my stomach into a bivalve and the Elk Valley Casino, I’d have to think about it.

What am I, some kinda beach mannequin?

Check the nooks and crannies.

Cave wall art

Seastar makes lunch out of mussel.

Orange is the new black

Stars hide among it all

Big beach cockroach?

Six rayed sea star

A small chiton hangs with the seastars and other creatures. He's the armor covered thing in the center.

Anemone eats crab. Hard to see but true. That crab was D-E-D, man. I checked.

Very tiny seastar

Hiding crab