Thursday, June 30, 2016

Olympic National Park - Mora, 6/23/2016

The Olympic National Park is situated in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula in the State of Washington. Highway 101 encircles the park with multiple spur roads that lead to the mountains, forest and coastal areas of the national park. The center of the park is wilderness without any roads running through it. We have two weeks in our itinerary (one week in Forks near the Pacific Coast and one week in Port Angeles on the Strait of Juan de Fuca) to visit the park.

President Theodore Roosevelt created Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909. It was designated a National Park in 1938. In 1976 the park was named an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site in 1981. There are three distinct ecosystems here: the rugged Pacific shore; the temperate rain forest; and the sub-alpine forest and wildflower meadows.

Our first foray into the park was to the Mora region along the Pacific Coast, not far from the RV park where we were staying. We parked near 2nd Beach (not a very inventive name!) and hiked the .7 mile trail to the beach. 

The well-maintained trail leads through a forest of Sitka spruce, ferns and other plants. 

The root structures of these spruce trees are so interesting...

When we reached the end of the trail at the beach, it was was strewn with large (and small) logs beyond the high tide line. 

And the beautiful, wide, sandy beach...

The sea stacks and rock formations make for picturesque views here. 

Every beach we have been on from Oregon to Washington have fresh water flowing into the ocean, from small streams to huge rivers. 

As we have traveled north along the Pacific Coast from San Diego, CA, to Washington it has been fascinating to see how the coastline changes with the weather and geologic history of the region. Each one is beautiful in its won special way. For information about the huge Olympic National Park, check it out online.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cannon Beacha RV Resort, June 15 to June 22, 2016

Rating: 4.5 on a scale of 5

Location: This RV park is in a great location, within walking distance of the lovely coastal town of Cannon Beach and the beach itself (where the famous Oregon landmark, Haystack Rock, can be found). The Lewis and Clark National and State Parks are all relatively close by as well. The historic town of Astoria is about 20 miles to the north and we also went to Cape Disappointment State Park in WA while we stayed here. While Cannon Beach is quite small, Seaside is only about 8 miles away and has everything you might need. 

Lot size: We had a full hook-up, pull through site (#87) that was a nice size; no problem parking the RV, tow dolly, and car. All of the lots here are a good size and we did not feel too close to our neighbors. The park, was, relatively full the entire time we were there as it appears to be a very popular destination and one of the nicer RV parks in the area. 

Amenities: Amenities abound here. Each site has a fire ring and nice picnic table. Cable TV and good wifi is included in the nightly rate. There is a very nice indoor swimming pool and hot tub (which we enjoyed on several occasions!)

Located in the same building as the office is a club room with pool tables, TV, lending library, etc. 

A laundry room is also there with four washers and dryers, although they were in use every time we stopped checked. (We ended up going to a laundromat as we do laundry once a week and usually have four loads.) 

Propane and fuel is also sold here with easy access for RVs. There are multiple restroom buildings located at the park (although we did not use any of them). One can be seen on the left in the photo below. 

Cost: $328/week

Management: This is a very well-run park. Our check I was quick and efficient. Everyone in the office is very helpful and are knowledgeable about local attractions. 

General Comments:  We will definitely stay here again if we are in the area in the future. 


Low Tide at Haystack Rock, 6/21/2016

It was high tide the first time we walked on Cannon Beach to see one of Oregon's landmarks, Haystack Rock. Knowing that it is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and a designated (and, therefore, protected) "Marine Garden," we wanted to visit during low tide to see the colorful tidepools and some of the birds that nest on the rock. As you can imagine, there is a sharp contrast between views of Haystock Rock at high and low tides. 

I was thrilled to be able to snap a couple of photos of tufted puffins who nest in grassy areas near the top of the rock. This is the very first time we have seen them in the wild, ever!

There are also many other birds that make Haystack their home returning to their nests for several months of the year. Below are common murres and seagulls

The tidepools are bustling with marine life that can be seen at low tide near Haystack and the surrounding rocks. 

To be honest, I have become completely fascinated with this ecosystem and love exploring these pools that teem with life. How they can survive the pounding surf and then be exposed to completely dry conditions twice a day is really pretty incredible. The high tide zone is home to limpets, barnacles and some mussels. The mid zone is predominately inhabited by mussels, who stick to one spot on a rock for their entire life. 

But the most amazing creatures to me are those in the tidepools, the low zone. Anemones attach themselves to rocks and wait for food to come to them when they are submerged. Their colorful tentacles release barbs filled with toxin to paralyze and capture prey. Anemones open when underwater and close when they are exposed to air. 

The ochre sea stars (orange and red/purple) have no eyes or brains. During high tide they search for crabs, snails, barnacles, and mussels by moving around on the rocks. They enclose their prey with their bodies, digesting the meat and discarding the shells. 

Sea stacks, like Haystack Rock, along the Oregon coast are basalt and were created 10-17 million years ago by volcanic activity in the area. Not only is the wildlife interesting here, but the rock formations themselves are fun to explore as well. 

Climbing on the rocks here is sticky prohibited to protect the fragile ecosystem. HRAP (the Haystack Rock Awareness Program) is an educational wildlife effort that provides information and volunteers during low tide. Individuals are available to respond to questions during that time and are very knowledgeable about the wildlife here.

If you are in the area, check the tide tables and be sure to visit at low tide. For additional information about the program, check it out online. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cape Disappointment State Park, 6/20/2016

Located in Ilwaco, WA, this state park is part of the Lewis and Clark National Park. We wanted to check out the two lighthouses located on this southernmost tip of the state Washington, where the Columbia River enters the Pacific Ocean

First we headed to the northern part of the park to hike the Lighthouse Keepers Loop Trail to the North Head Lighthouse. An overlook at the beginning of the trail provides fantastic views of the beach north of the North Jetty of the Columbia River that was built in the early 1900s. 

The North Head Lighthouse (1898) was constructed to aid ships in navigating the fierce currents of the Columbia River. Situated on a bluff 130' above the water, there are dramatic views of the Pacific from here. 

The residences of the head keeper and assistant keepers of the lighthouse are well maintained and can be reserved as a vacation rental (which is pretty darn cool). 

There is a gift shop next to the residences with unique lighthouse themed items for sale.

Our next stop was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. This is one of the two Visitor Centers that is jointly managed by the National Park Service and State of Washington. 

Cormorants nest on steep cliffs here where they build nests of seaweed and guano (rid excrement). Brandt's cormorants fly in flocks of several hundred creating a living net as they dive to capture food (fish). 

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (1851) is visible from here on a promontory that extends out to the ocean on the north side of the Columbia River.

There is a $5 fee (charged by the state) to enter the Lewis and Clark Exhibit. Because we had our dog with us, John enjoyed the outside while a did I quick pass through the displays. This is a very well-done exhibit that chronicles the journey of the Corps of Discovery commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and led by Lewis and Clark from 1804 to 1806

Below is a list of the permanent members of the expedition.

The expedition carried a library of reference books and Lewis and Clark created a remarkable documentary record of the Native Americans they encountered as well as the flora and fauna. In addition to Lewis and Clark, four other members of the party kept journals. It was the first overland journey to arrive in the Pacific Northwest and their experiences and discoveries were captured in great detail. 

There is a second section of the Interpretive Center with displays about the six lighthouses in the region (two located at the Park). 

Also on display is the fresnel lens used at the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from 1856 to 1898. Today, both of the lighthouses are fully automated

Additional exhibits tell of the role the US Coast Guard has played over the years in the region where ships encounter treacherous currents when crossing the Columbia Bar to enter the Columbia River. 

Even today, licensed pilots guide each ship through the area to assure their safety. The National Motorboat Lifeboat School, the center of excellence for heavy weather boat operations, is located here and trains individuals from around the world. The US Coast Guard base is manned by 50 active duty and 25 reserve personnel and are available 365 days a year to respond to distress calls, enforce laws and treaties, work for Homeland Security and many other missions of the lower Columbia River.

We hiked the 1.2 mile Cape Disappointment Trail to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (dogs are permitted on the trail).

There is a beautiful cove that can be see from the trail (we did not make the steep hike down to the beach, though!) 

From the trail we also got a clear view of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and the many cormorants on the rocks below.  

The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is 53' tall and is situated 220' above the sea at the entrance to the Columbia River

US Coast Guard personnel were on duty standing watch over the Columbia Bar. They track and communicate weather conditions and can request rescue operations when necessary. The channel runs between the two jetties that were built in the late 1880s. 

We enjoyed our trek through the temperate rain forest here. And our ever-curious doggy, Sadie, had to check out an abandoned structure located near the lighthouse.

Be sure not to miss this interesting state park. The Lewis and Clark exhibit is fantastic. And, it is the only place on the West Coast where two lighthouses are located so close together (only 2 miles apart). There is also a large campground here (60 full hook up sites for RVs; 30 with electric/water; and another 140 primitive sites for tents. For additional information about the park, check them out online. 

A Discovery Pass is required to enter the park ($10/one day; $30/annual pass issued by the state of Washington).