Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Coast Vacation 5: Shasta Caverns

Since we couldn't go to Crater Lake due to snow, we decided to give the Shasta Caverns a try. Whenever we stopped somewhere, whether a tourist spot, restaurant, or hotel, Steve would peruse the sightseeing brochures. I usually would forget about those. That's how we found out about the Caverns. Funny thing then, looking at the website and in the brochure, I couldn't find out how many steps were involved. Could we handle that many steps? I called to find out. Funny thing now, I can't remember how many steps there were exactly. 460 some odd steps. I said to Steve I didn't think we were up for it. I can walk here there and everywhere, but going up that many stairs? Both of us have been living with fall allergies, and my asthma would easily be triggered. He disagreed. He thought we could do it. We decided if we made it there in time for the noon tour, we would go for it. That meant getting checked out, finding breakfast, and driving for about a half hour by noon.

We got there just in time. I figured, if anything the little boat trip across the lake would be nice, and I was supposing there could be a way to turn back if needed. After the boat, there was a winding bus trip up the mountain. The view up there:

Lake Shasta, large marina

We learned a few things on the way. That marina off to the right is the second largest on the lake. The I-5 bridge that crossed over the lake is 300 feet tall, but most of that is underwater. It was built on top of the bridge already there before the lake was created.

I-5 bridge over Lake Shasta

Julie, our tour guide through the caverns, informed us there were two rules. Do not touch the rock, and no food or drink allowed, except water. The rock is living rock, formed by water and minerals passing over it. If we touched it, the oil from our hands would create a seal and the rock would die in that spot.
She told us all about the different formations, many more than the familiar stalactites and stalagmites. There is peanut brittle, a rock formation found on a cave floor that looks like its namesake. It is formed when water sticks around a while, so rock forms on the surface, kind of like ice. When the water recedes, the rock settles and breaks. There are soda straws, hollow and the width of a drop of water, hanging from the ceiling. There are helictites, which go every which way. When stalactites fill in next to each other they become draperies. Draperies become flowstone. The caverns website has more description in a handout for teachers here.
These draperies sparkled.
drapery cave formation
As it turned out we didn't do too badly. There were a few other people for whom the many stairs were at least as difficult as for me. The first big flight was 50 steps, and the longest 80 steps. After the 50 we were given the option of taking the shortcut back down and waiting for the group. No one took it, not even the lady with a cane who had braces of some type, or perhaps even prosthetic feet. We all wanted to see all the caves. It helped that I used my inhaler as a precaution.
The original explorers did touch the rock. It was tradition back then. They used carbon from their lamps and left their initials with their fingers.
129 year old grafitti
That's Nobember 11, 1878.
I was very happy we did it, nonetheless, I saw this with relief and a feeling of accomplishment.
exiting the cavern
Lake Shasta was particularly low. The tour company had created a road that led at least a quarter mile into the lake bed from the original shoreline. They took us down to the boat in a shuttle.
low water low water
After the caverns it was time to go home. We were ready, even if it meant an 8 hour drive.
Along the way I would snap pictures from the car. At first Steve thought that was pointless, that I couldn't get any good photos from a moving vehicle. I told him sometimes I was surprised. Sometimes it allowed me to see something my eyes didn't catch. Ah, the advantages of the digital age. If you snap enough times, something works out just right. There were a couple things I saw but did not capture that I especially liked. A couple of cow sculptures, made from scrap metal, and a dragon, also from metal, perhaps at the other end of the same ranch. Steve saw the dragon and pointed for me. At the time I was listening to Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke and marveling at the sexy voice, wondering who that was who could jump from southern to western to english to scottish accents in a breath. While the metal dragon in the book was bad and the silver dragon good, I feel sure that this metal dragon is good. More on that later. Oh wait, here are the cows. And that gave me the clue on finding the dragon. Here it is.
One thing I noticed about snapping pictures, the mountains seem to stand still while the foreground constantly changes.
view from I-5 view from I-5
If you have doubts about the walking of mountains it means you do not yet know the walking of your own self. It is not that your self does not walk, but that you do not yet know, have not made clear its walking. And those who would know their own walking must also know the walking of the blue mountains. ~Dogen, Mountains and Rivers Sutra
See the full slideshow here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coast Vacation 4: Avenue of the Giants

That night we spent the evening in Eureka. Oh, wait, how could I not mention the Sky Trail at the last stop? I thought I'd be OK, but once I got in that bucket held by a wire, I got a little scared. Steve said, "Why'd you wait till now to say something?" He wasn't too thrilled himself about it. My photo taking in the little tram made him nervous. Me too, to tell the truth. Once at the top, the view was worth it.

The best views we had from our hotel were in Bandon, and here.

We also had our best meal in Eureka. A gritty-quick google search unearthed Avalon. Their website doesn't even list a closing time; I wasn't sure we could get in. I called, got an enthusiastic yes. We shared a specialty appetizer pizza with local gourmet cheeses and I had roasted vegetables and mushrooms fresh from the farmer's market. There were homemade beet chips. Step aside, Terra Chips. Steve enjoyed his steak with potatoes. We shared a bottle of wine, I drank most of it as it went down so easy, a fine pinot noir from Merry Edwards. Because I was feeling it, I joked to the waiter that it was going down like juice. Steve was embarrassed at my gauche comment, but when the waiter came back he told us about wineries selling specialty juices. See, I wasn't feeling it that much...I still remember that after a month. I opined to Steve that a vacation had to have at least one exceptional dining experience, and then realized how lucky I am that I can have that. Oh, and the creme brulee. Oh wow. The candied sugar crust on top was over an eighth of an inch thick, and the creme unlike any I'd had before. (For those readers that can't afford the fine restaurants, just go for the dessert. Go for the creme brulee.)

We noticed at least two small buildings in Eureka with this style of architecture.

Eureka coffee house

This place roasted their own coffee, and it was good. (Steve had the coffee, I had the chai.) From the free postcard I learned this is an award winning building designed by Joel Miroclio.

OK, on to more redwoods.

We already had the brochure for Avenue of the Giants, but of course we stopped to see the sign at the beginning.

Entering the Avenue of the Giants

We had several stops on this 30 mile stretch of road. First, the Immortal Tree. She survived lightning, loggers, forest fire, flood, and tourists. I have noticed when hugging or touching such trees among trees, they have different feels to them. After all she'd been through she is still friendly. She is stronger than us mere quick-living humans. Maybe it's all in my head, but the baby tree in front of her had a lighter quicker energy.

Immortal Tree

When we first got to the redwoods the day before, I hugged a tree at the trail's beginning fork. The energy felt prickly to me, grumpy, I thought maybe too many people still buzzing with human world sparks came along and disturbed her. Later along that same trail, another tree felt more comforting and welcoming. I think that was the one where Steve took the photo of me.

When I hug a tree, it takes me several moments to get into their space rather than my flitty quick moving (compared to them) energy. I feel my thoughts slow down, I think of the time they've lived through, and slow myself down accordingly. Sometimes I can't. Sometimes, especially when I first start doing this, I can't find my breath. The tree's space and time is too breathtaking. If I allow myself some time to embrace the bigness, I get a better feeling for the majesty coursing through this great living being's cells.

Since this vacation, I've been pausing to connect more often to certain trees while I'm walking in the neighborhood.

The next stop, or rather a pause, a rolling stop, the Drive Thru Tree. Actually this was the second one we drove through, but the first photo to turn out.

Shrine Drive-thru tree

Finally, the One Log House:

inside one log house

After the Avenue, we drove back on Hwy 101 to Eureka, and from there over to Redding. No view from the hotel, just a place to sleep. The beds were the best, Red Lion. The road through Six Rivers National Forest was as winding as a passenger could wish for, and a driver would not.

Six Rivers National Forest

See the full slideshow here.

One more day before our fabulous coast tour was over.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Coast Vacation 3: Trees of Mystery

Steve saw the redwoods years ago with his first wife. They went camping. He knew that our first stop should be the National Park Service in Crescent City. This was Wednesday, October 3rd, and on that Friday we planned to drive to Crater Lake. The forest ranger told us the Crater Lake rim drive was closed due to snow. Uh-oh. Steve knew of a trail through a grove of trees that led to a river. The park ranger told us how to get to Stout Grove. This was an amazing first view of the redwoods for me.

redwood first view

When I began seeing trees growing on trees, it finally sunk in that I was seeing trees unlike any I'd seen before.

mama holding baby redwood

See the Stout Grove slideshow here.

Some years back we spent a weekend on the Washington coast, and went to the Hoh Rain Forest. I learned then (that carefree weekend before 9/11/01) that those old growth trees have a life and afterlife of thousands of years. After they fall, baby trees and other plants grow on the tree's carcass. The roots grow down around the trunk and reach into the ground. The mother tree eventually decomposes completely, and often there will be a line of full-grown trees along the line of her trunk, a cozy hollow tree-root cave under each of their trunks.

We saw something similar with the redwoods; many plants and baby trees grew on or alongside the fallen trunks. I noticed though that there were no root caves. Instead, smaller trees grew right next to living trees, on living trees, alongside dead trunks. I wondered about their roots, how deep they went. Later on during our trip, I learned that redwoods indeed have a short tap root. They reach for the sun, so a tree could grow from a burl straight out from another tree's trunk, and then curve upward to reach toward the sunlight. The tree growing on tree seemed to have no roots at all.

From the Stout Grove we drove to Trees of Mystery.
The candelabra tree is an amazing example of baby trees growing on another living tree. We saw other examples like this, but none with the audio tours at Trees of Mystery that sounded like old elementary school teaching films.
Candelabra tree
The light in the forest was too dim for my photo of the Cathedral Tree. That was a popular spot for people to get married, the Brotherhood Tree had some little wooden mementos as well.

Brotherhood Tree

Considering we so often saw baby trees growing next to old trees, I don't think the Cathedral Tree is all that mysterious. At some point there was an old tree with baby trees growing around it. Eventually the old tree died and decayed, and the rim of small trees was left. Or so it seems to me, I could be wrong.

Here's the smaller baby cathedral:

baby cathedral tree

You can see the full slideshow here. Included is a gallery of Bunyan legend carvings, and if we pushed the button on the sound boxes, we heard the tales of Paul Bunyan and his logging adventures.

The one I remembered from my childhood grade school reading was not mentioned. One time Paul Bunyan had a real hankering for some flapjacks, but how could they fry them? Somehow he had a giant frying pan. All the little people strapped slabs of lard under their feet, and they skated around the fry pan so Paul Bunyan could have his flapjacks.

Steve wanted some of Sourdough Sam's soup.

They had a great map at Trees of Mystery. Steve was disturbed, and so was I, that this original piece of art wasn't more protected. The owners don't seem to know what they have.

Slideshow of the map here. Steve took most of the map photos. A detail below:
bear near Seattle

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coast Vacation 2: Safari and Prehistoric Gardens

Many of the bridges on the Oregon coastal highway have the same graceful arches and gateways.

Yaquina Bay Bridge, Newport

They were part of a big project and designed by the same man, Conde McCullough. I loved the feeling of entering the gates of heaven.

bridge gates in Newport

That was the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport. We also travelled over the Rogue River, the Isaac Lee Patterson, and the Coos Bay bridges. I may be missing some. When we crossed the state line into California, the bridges definitely lacked that magic.

After the aquarium we drove on to Bandon, Oregon. I should say Steve drove on to Bandon. He's a swell guy. We got there too late for the sunset.

view from Bandon Inn hotel

Our first stop after Bandon the next morning: the West Coast Game Park.
On the one hand I was in awe for seeing such animals so close...


I actually petted a rare white Bengal tiger cub. The caretaker fed him by holding her arm up with a bottle. The cub hugged her arm, following her along the platform, allowing us to pet his back as he went by. He was so quick, just a blur on the ground.

I petted the white bengal tiger cub

...on the other hand I wondered what my vegan friends would have to say about cages and conditions. The caretakers seemed to love their animals, but the animals seemed tired of being a show. This chimp was so unhappy.


The petting zoo herd was quite friendly. Too friendly, if you had food, and shy of petting if you didn't. I didn't have food, having met a mom cleaning up her kid in the bathroom.
petting zoo herd

First we saw the foxes.

white fox

When the camera came out, they often moved too quickly for a photo. This lynx just wouldn't let me.

desert lynx desert lynx

This lynx only just tolerated petting when the caretaker brought it out. Steve declined petting, but took my photo.

But this white skunk absolutely loved petting, making pleasure noises like a cat. She's fat and happy.
white skunk

Steve especially liked this primitive deer. It was about 3 feet tall. He took this photo:

See the complete slideshow here.

We continued on down Highway 101.

While we found the game park via travel brochures in the cafe in Bandon, I'd planned many of our destinations with the help of Roadside America. Our next stop, the Prehistoric Gardens.

Today I just watched a Science Channel show that asked whether T. Rex deserved its nasty reputation, or was a scavenger that hunted carcasses. Interesting thought. Large olfactory cavity, tiny arms, round rather than steak-knife-like teeth...seemed convincing to me.

Tyranosaurus rex

The animals seemed to be in their element:

Trachodon behind Steve

See the full slideshow here.

On we went to Crescent City.

Coast Vacation: Oregon Coast Aquarium

The first week of October I went on vacation with Steve. Ever since I haven't been able to recover the habit of writing regularly, and as stuff piles up, the harder I find it to pick something and just start.

So here I go, I'll just start.

Finally, Steve has some time off, his well-deserved sabbatical. Krissy and I claimed our time. Lucky for us, Steve makes enough moolah to treat to separate vacations. We both were thinking of Canada as we'd both never been there, and the honey that he is, he was willing to go to Canada twice. I quickly realized that I knew more of what I wanted to do here than I do there, starting with the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. Krissy and Steve are now enjoying their vacation in Washington State, relaxing in a house on Otter Lake. Steve said before we left that he was relieved we weren't going to Canada after all, what with their dollar equaling our dollar.

We got a late start on Sunday the 30th, so just checked into our hotel and had dinner and a few drinks. Steve's bed was awful. This was an aging Shiloh Inn. The next morning we found breakfast in the old part of Newport. We're late risers when we have a choice, so it was after noon, and I noticed the taverns we walked past were filled. For the leathery-faced fisherfolk, this was happy hour, their work day already done. A few boozily giggled around a sidewalk bench, greeting us as we walked by, but saying something like, "You need to gain some weight," when we were past. I don't know if she spoke to our backs or to her buds.

Numerous murals covered the sides of the wharf's buildings.

mural in old Newport

We thought about visiting the Undersea Gardens, the Wax Works, and Ripley's Believe It Or Not, but after our late breakfast, we needed the rest of the afternoon for the big attraction. Something for some other vacation....

Steve knew just where to show me the loud sea lions. He doesn't like them so much. They eat otters.

sea lions

There's no telling the lions that these piers aren't for them.

The Coast Aquarium should be a destination place no matter where you live. I know there are other big aquariums in the U.S. but I don't think Oregon's beauty can be rivaled. I wonder how many of them have an underwater tunnel that puts sharks swimming above and below you.

shark tank

For some reason I have a fondness for starfish:

school of fish with starfish

Enjoy the rest of the Newport Aquarium slideshow here.