We left with some fanfare and well wishes at 8:30ish and drove through the Sonoma countryside to the former Russian settlement called Fort Ross. Serendipitously, we were treated to a Kashaya Native American "Big Day" or Pow Wow. We got to witness dancing and culture. Another treat, the Heritage Group opened the Call House for viewing the family home of owners who lived there from 1930 to 1969. We also got a thorough opportunity to scour the Fort; it's replete with history of the Russian sea otter trade and their mingling with local natives.
Then we went on to the "Serengeti" of B Bryan Wildlife Preserve, a wildlife refuge featuring three brands of zebra, sables, other grazers and a "friendly" giraffe. The owners are dedicated to maintaining a number of threatened species. Our tour was conducted in tandem with feeding that brought the animals up close for pictures. The finale was delivering carrots to the giraffes from betwixt our lips: Kissing Giraffes! Then, a quick pizza supper (without the giraffe) and a long drive up the coast to Prairie Creek State Park, just north of Arcata. We arrived at 23:30, flopped into bags and slept soundly. Great first day!
We saw many Roosevelt Elk today: large bucks with huge racks, a small group of yearlings, and a herd of females with their young. In the morning we hiked a loop, going up Prairie Creek on the Prairie Creek Trail, through lovely Redwood forest, and returning on the Foothills Trail, stopping at Big Tree Wayside on the way. In the afternoon we hiked up Fern Canyon. This was quite fun as well as beautiful. The walls of the canyon are covered in ferns and the trail winds across the stream on planks and climbs over fallen trees.
We're on the road again. After driving through Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park on Howland Hill Rd, a dirt road through spectacular redwood forest, we stopped at Stout Memorial Grove to hike around and have lunch. The size of the trees here are truly impressive, even for someone raised in California.
The rest of day was spent working our way north along the coast to Honeyman State Park in Oregon, where we camped. We stopped a number of times in Broadman Scenic Corridor for pictures or to play on the beach.
The Crew is getting used to the routines. It's nice to see everyone pitching in to help each other, all showing concern for each other. This day started with a blast of dune buggy engines; picture wide open freshly windswept dunes with 50-100 ft peaks and valleys, interspersed with marsh grass. Well, strap on your goggles, buckle up and hang on! Drivers are trained to tear around at up to 40 mph in an open air vehicle made of roll bars and engine with 8 per car. We discovered that you acquire the added benefit of a facial skin sand dermabrasion. It was a blast!!
Next we rolled around ourselves amongst the dunes. It was dizzyingly fun. We soaked off the sand with a swim in Cleawox Lake, and had lunch.
For the afternoon we drove north of Florence to the Sea Lion Cave. Home of the Stellar Sea Lion, it's a giant sea cave carved out of rock, reached 200 feet below the roadbed via elevator: Absolutely beautiful vistas, and countless birds and sea lions.
We ended the afternoon at the Haceta Lighthouse. Built in 1892, it still aids navigation by projecting a light beam 21 miles out to sea. Now mechanized, it no longer has keepers, so their house was turned into a Bed and Breakfast. As the story goes, it has a resident Ghost named Ruby, she neglected to visit us, however, probably a good thing. Our burger dinner was topped off with s'mores and a campfire.
Again, perfect weather and all were in good spirits!
As we reach the mid point of our trip, it seems like a whirlwind of well-planned activities, and today was no exception. We packed up from Honeyman State Park with everyone hustling to be on the road by 9:00.
This involves the intricate process of loading 14 duffles on top of Big Blue (affectionate name for Dave's big blue van), rapping them with tarps (the burrito) and lashing them down. The Crew has it down and achieved the wrap in 25 min!
Our first stop was a brief survey of the Darlingtonia Botanical Preserve, where the lilies are carnivorous and feed on insects! Eerie looking lily bed.
Our next stop was the corral. We saddled and mounted up on a fine set of horses for a stroll to the beach. Once arrived, we kicked into trots, but not much posting by my reckon. It was wild!
Once safely back, we lunched on their deck and then we left the Pacific eastbound to the vicinity of Triangle Lake. Tucked along the forested steam was a natural rock slab which is a popular water slide. Lots of locals to cheer us on, the Crew gave a spectacular show. Started off tentatively with an inflatable float, but by the end, groups of five were going down holding hands. Only one bathing suit was filleted open, no one caught the full moon.
We ate a quick fast food supper in Eugene, home of the University of Oregon Ducks, then pressed southward to the Valley of the Rouge State Park. Although some were tired, we all felt fulfilled. It was just a lot of dang fun!
We awoke early in a nice campsite on the edge of the Rogue River and raced off to the Oregon Caves National Monument. Our notion was to be the early birds for a guided tour. We made it, indeed, and were treated to a 90 minute underground tour. It is quite an impressive cavern, a cool 44 degrees Fahrenheit, with beautiful lighting and a very enthusiastic guide.
Then, back to camp for lunch and on to a Zipline adventure with two very entertaining guides. Ah, there's nothing like swinging in the breeze to ramp up the adrenalin.
Our dinner was highlighted by ice-cream sundaes for desert, but a tree fell on the campsite's power line and disabled all but one restroom. Alas, no heated showers. We all went to sleep thinking about Friday the thirteenth!
Today we are left Valley of the Rogue Campground, but not before we catch some rapids. Maybe a dip in the Rogue River (~60 degrees) will make up for the lack of showers.
Today we left Valley of the Rogue Campground. We arrived all packed up at Orange Torpedo, ready to get geared up with wet suits and helmets, shuttled to the put in and charge off in orange inflatable kayaks. For 12 glorious miles we were challenged by as high as Class 2+ haystacks, some spinning eddies, interspersed with lazy paddling. Our guides were as entertaining as they were competent. A few of the Crew dumped over, but recovered rapidly. Lunch was served on the river's edge and no one was left wanting.
We returned in great spirits around 5 PM. This was truly exhausting for some, so we handed out pillows and blankets for the 3 hr drive through the Klamath Valley back to California and our next one night campsite at Lava Bed National Monument. On the way south we stopped in Medford for a hearty picnic dinner of fried chicken and coleslaw. By the time we found our campsite, all were eager for a good night sleep.
We awoke to the still and cool of a desert morning. Quickly packing up, we headed for the caves in Lava Beds Park. We explored Skull Cave, Valentine Cave, and Golden Dome Cave. Skull Cave was kind of boring but the other two were full of interesting features. After leaving Lava Beds we headed for Lassen National Park. But before we got there we stopped for a short hike out to Burney Falls, where the water comes over the top and through the walls quite spectacularly.
We started the day with a leisurely breakfast of beloved monkey bread, and then we began our exploration of the splendor of the Mount Lassen vicinity.
Lassen was formerly an active volcano, so naturally we drove to Bumpas Hell for a 1.5 mile hike to view the residual geothermal eruptions. Not unlike Yellowstone, there were mud pools, steam mixed with hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell) and pools of strangely colored very hot water. The access to these areas is gained over a platform of stairs and walkways. Warning signs alert you to the danger of breaking through a fragile crust into scalding material just below the cooled surface if you venture off the platforms. Apparently, that was the fate of the discoverer Bumpas, hence the name. What a lesson in geology!
Our hike to the edge of the crater was filled with an ongoing snow ball fight amongst the Crew. At first it was hard to make any progress what with the flying snowballs. At the top, overlooking a gorgeous panorama, we happened upon 4G signals and all had an opportunity to touch base with family/Dads for Father's Day. Following the view of Hell, we stopped for lunch at a beautifully pristine crater lake (brutally cold) and topped off the afternoon with a short hike to Summit. Our final gourmet dinner was followed by a contemplative and quiet campfire. The realization that our extraordinary journey was coming to a close had kind of set in.
Our wrap up Monday morning began with a Waffle Fest provided by Dave and dressed with an assortment of toppings accumulated along the way. All of us were efficiently packed up as intended and we dallied for one final game of Kube, girls vs the boys. Then into the buggies, locked and loaded, and on our way home.