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Misty Mornings in Harris Beach State Park, Oregon


I knew about the fog but I didn’t really KNOW about the fog.  Being an English person I pride myself and my nation on our national past time of talking about the weather.  In England the weather is generally damp and Heathrow grey with a splattering of sunshine at odd times of the year that excites the nation into a skin baring frenzy.  Occasionally we have fog too, but nothing beats the fog I witnessed over the 4 days spent at Harris Beach State Park. You always knew it was on it’s way even when the sky was a bold and cloudless blue.

Harris Beach

Harris Beach

And when it came it was just splendid, rearranging the view before your eyes, erasing some of the green rocky islands and creating a blinding whiteness and movement in the sky that was just dazzling, swirling around the handful of people brave enough to be in the water and making the crashing waves rising up the beach appear to be coming out of the void.

And then 20 minutes later the huge rocks jutting out the misty landscape start to re-appear again sometimes slowly and sometimes fast.  These small islands are home of all sorts of life including harbor seals who hang out on the rocks placing bets on how long it will take the fog to hurry away to the next beach.  There are other beachs too, drive about 4 miles up the road there are some really deserted beaches full of driftwood where you can roam to your hearts desire jumping from one beach to the next.

Harris Beach View

Harris Beach View

The campground here is great too.  We just about squeezed in with a booking on July 4th so it was max’ed out, but the sites were all roomy with hot showers and even an iceman delivering ice each evening.  There are also lots of trails, albeit short to keep you entertained and the hard packed sand on the beach proved a great running track.

The Oregon coast is a place that I shall come back too as I know I have just tasted a little of the wildness that is on offer and no doubt coming back at different times of the year would bring an altogether different experience.

How to Get There

2 miles north of Brookings of highway 101

Where to Stay

You can’t beat Harris Beach Campground

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Humility in Humboldt Redwoods SP, California


The Avenue of the Giants off Highway 101 in Humboldt State Park is a ride not to miss if you can.  These tall, gnarly trees look beautiful from every angle whether standing or lying on the forest floor, roots on display to the world in a fantastic twisty show of earth, ferns and organic matter.  The road trails through the most stunning forest of redwoods you are ever likely to see along the side of the Eel River.  You will see open alluvial plains and meadows but it still a road so there is the hum of traffic .

Rockefeller Forest is the largest remaining old growth redwood forest in the world which is less than 17,000 acres with one of my top runs of my trip along the Bull Creek Flats South trail straight from the Albee Campground about a 11 mile round trip through a mesmerizing landscape of chunky trees that will hopefully outlive all of us.   The bumpy, narrow Mattole Road leading to the campground follows the flat through five miles of old growth and is one of the world’s best redwood drives. The largest trees in the park are found here; of the world’s ten tallest trees, three are on Bull Creek Flats, although their exact location is a secret.

Not only so you get to see some of the tallest in the world but you are also very close to the “Lost Coast”.

The Lost Coast was one of few areas along the California coast that the highways people thought they ought to leave alone and not build a road through it, subsequently it is a wild piece of coastline with a few access roads and lots of hiking trials.  The most famous is the Lost Coast Coastal Trail which is about 64 miles with camping and water along the way.  Unfortunately the amount of wild fires in the area made this a less than desirable hike for us!  You don’t have to hike all of this and can break it down into smaller hikes of course.  There are also mountain biking trails which are due to be ready by autumn 2008 too.

How to get there

This is 45 miles south of Eureka and 20 miles north of Garberville off of Highway 101.

Where to Stay

We loved No.33 in Albee Campground.  This campground is much more remote than the others in the park and has tonnes of trails straight from the campground.  This site looks out across a meadow which has a little apple orchard in it – a favourite of the local black bears in late season.

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Into the trees – Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP, California


Sequoia

Sequoia

Trees hold a supernatural quality for me and the sequoia’s did nothing for my childish daydreams of magic forests carpeted in ferns and inhabited by goblins.  In the case of the sequoia’s the goblins do not have to be very small as some of the trees are as big as my old flat in England (but that’s not saying much).  This is really two national parks joined together by some national forest so sometimes it gets confusing as to what area you are in.   This park hosts Mt. Whitney which at14,496.811 feet is the tallest mountain in the “lower 48” states however, you cannot really see the mountain from the entrance to the park on the west side.  You can see it and access it from 0.7 mile (17.1 km) trail from Whitney Portal, 13 miles (21 km) west of the town of Lone Pine which has the great Diaz Lake Campground with about 200 sites including space for large RV’s down by the riverside.  It’s cheap at $10 a night and looks out at the eastside of the NP.   However, we were more interested in camping in the park and discovered that getting to Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP by vehicle was a little tricky as there are no roads running though the park.  If you are in the east side of the mountains then you have to drive around the park to get into the westerly entrance.   But getting there is worth it to see what little remains of these majestic groves of Sequoia trees and access to Kings Canyon.

The largest tree (in terms of volume) in the world is General Sherman which is located in this park and is a site to behold, but it is hard to really get the scale of these giants of the forest as you stand there staring up into the sky at them.   I can’t help but feel sadness too that we have hacked down so much of our old growth forests although there is still alot of campaigning with Campaign for Old Growth amongst others.

Due to the relative remoteness of the park it is easy to get away from the few people that are there who are mostly looking at the more famous trees on short hikes or driving through the park.

View into Kings Canyon

View into Kings Canyon

A beautiful trail for hiking or running is the Ridge trail, this was one of our top runs as it gently undulates up and down on single track and some forestry road.  Another stunning trail which you can get on direct from the Azalea Campground which was our favourite camping spot, is the Sunset Meadow trail but be ready for alot of downhill and then uphill.

How to get there

Nearest airport is Fresno

To enter Sequoia Park: From highways 65 or 99, go east on Highway 198 to the park entrance.

To enter Kings Canyon National Park:From Highway 99, go east on Highway 180 to the park entrance.

The main park road, the Generals Highway, connects these two entrances.

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Big Bend, Terlingua, Texas and Mountain-biking


We all have pre-conceptions about a place especially as a foreigner in a distant land, but arriving into the US from Mexico and finding ourselves in the beautiful far flung outpost of Terlingua, West Texas I had most of my pre-conceptions thrown out of the window. Driving to Big Bend national Park was the order of the day to escape the not so pretty Presidio, Texas. A great place to cross the border back into the US from the Ojinaga, Mexico border crossing (Toll road most of the way from Chihuahua City) due to the Loma Paloma RV Park 6 miles from the border, but that’s about it. Terlingua on the other hand is a place you want to hang your hat for at least half the year as many of the current residents do.

Terlingua

On your way to Big Bend National Park you might find yourselves like we did parking up at one of the RV parks outside Big Bend but if you are in this area then make the trip along the road and follow the signs to spend a little time in the not so ghostly ghost town of Terlingua whose name is a twisted version of Tres Lenguas or three languages (tongues) that were spoken by the locals of the village back in the 1800’s.

This is an old mercury mining town close to the romantic and dangerous Rio Grande, established in the late 1800’s and situated in Chihuahua desert surrounded by Chisos mountains and huge cavernous skies. With the closure of the mines in the 1940’s the town was abandoned of it’s workers which by 1905 was over 1,000 mostly Mexican miners. The miners lived on the eastern side of the town and I was told that the stone structures they built are the ones that are more complete. The old graveyard is still there with the local historians working through the graves trying to identify them. The simple yet beautiful naturalistic buildings that were left behind have been slowly rebuilt by the people that have been attracted to this area. Through the 60’s new blood arrived in the town and with the establishment in 1967 of the first Annual Terlingua Chili-cook off this became a town for partying and was christened the “Chili Capitol of the World” by the Chili Appreciation Society. Today there is a mix of people who like to enjoy the great outdoors with river rafting, hiking, biking of all kinds and to hang out in the porch of the old Starlight Theatre to play blues and enjoy the cool evenings under the stars. But there is enough going on here for those who still like the occasional party and I hear from the locals that any excuse to dress up in fancy dress is jumped at.

Another resident explained in her words, “When I came to Terlingua I realised that rather than talk about yourself you talk about each other, so I adjusted”.

This has some benefits and some downsides but when strolling down the road peering at the unfeasibly large pair of great horned owls planning their evenings activities and being checked out by the local coyote I was stopped by the judges wife who handed me the local newsletter. In May there were three benefits for local people who found themselves in a state misfortune of some kind either through illness or just plain old bad luck. In Terlingua people rally round and do what they can to help and they are proud of it.

KosmicCare“What do you do around here for fun”? Well there is the biking for starts. If you like road-biking then this is a dream location, the roads are undulating enough to give you a serious workout and they are quiet. If you like motor-biking then…ditto – the road from Presido to Terlingua is an absolute must. From the ghost town itself there are back roads and some sweet single track for mountain-bikers in the Lajitas and Contraband trail system. To get the low-down pop along to incredibly helpful and just plain old nice people at Desert Sports they will tell more than you need to know to get out there to ride. In fact these guys are the hosts of the Mas o Menos 100k race on every winter, a race that takes 4 days through rugged terrain. During the winter when the river is high then these are the people to go to for your river trip as they offer smaller trips finding the less busy spots along the rivers.

The locals, the people that live here now are not all from Texas let alone West Texas are interesting, engaging, open and very community minded. Now I say this with only having spent a few days in the area but having to leave was actually very hard. I found myself pondering whether I too could own a little piece of dry scrub and an old ruin that I could call home. As one delightful resident said to me, “You either get this place or you don’t,” and I definitely got it.

How to Get there

Driving – Highway 170 west of Big Bend

Where to Stay

We lucked out and stayed with some very kind locals and had the ultimate Terlingua experience but you can still have fun staying in the Ghost town at La Posada Milagro or camping at any of the RV campgrounds.

– Big Bend Motor Inn RV Campground, Junction TX 118 and FM 170 at Big Bend Motor Inn with full hookups & pull throughs. 800-848-BEND

– Terlingua Ranch Lodge RV Park And Campground, Full hook ups and tent camping. Swimming pool. Located 16 miles east of TX Highway 118, turn off approximately 12 miles north of junction FM 170 and TX 118. 432-371-2416

– Study Butte RV Park, Electricity, flush toilets and showers. TX Highway 118, Study Butte south of junction TX 118 and FM 170. 432-371-2468

– BJ’s RV Park, Full hook-ups, showers, laundry. FM 170, 5 miles east of junction TX 118 and FM 170, near Terlingua Ghostown. 432-371-2259

Places to eat

For a small place this is packed with fantastic places to eat. Try the Phat Cafe for $10 lunch in Asian fusion cusine or the filmic outdoor cafe called Kathy’s Cosmic Cowgirl for breakfast, Starlight Theater for dinner (check out Mondays for the two for one burger that can’t be missed especially with live music to boot) and for the late evening fun try The Boathouse or La Kiva, a bar built in a cave.

Other Stuff

Check out the documentary that was made of the town interviewing the locals- 24 hours in Terlingua

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Moab, Utah, USA


 

Boy oh boy where do I start with this funky little town. Moab, pop. 4779 is nestled in the heart of Utah on the Colorado Plateau and is a far cry from most people’s mental image of a Mormon city. The town is a geological mecca in the heart of canyon country, with most visitors coming here for purely hedonistic reasons. There are still the usual laws around alcohol with the state controlling the sale of liquor and beer with over 3.2% alcohol content but that’s just the way it is in Utah. Moab has a dramatic desert landscape where jutting red rock cliffs tower above the Colorado River. It is considered to have some of the world’s best mountain biking trails with oodles of divine and scary terrain but even a novice can experience the wonders of slick-rock in playgrounds such as Barlett Wash but the most popular one which is not for the fainthearted is Slickrock trail which put Moab in the map for the mountain-biking enthusiasts.

Mountain-biking is just one way to enjoy the landscape – the other is off road vehicles. If you wander down main street late afternoon you will see the most fantastic selection Map of Moabof jacked-up mud caked jeeps just returned from the one of the many off-road trails on offer to test your vehicle to the limit. And if you’re not into any of that scary stuff then you have all the national parks to explore. Utah is known as the National Park capital of the US. The scenery offers everything from wind-carved arches in Arches National Park just 2 miles from Moab to massive stone walls molded by the Colorado and Green rivers. Other parks nearby are Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Castle Valley, Fisher Towers, Capitol Reef, Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Trails of the Ancients to name a few.

And of you are still looking for more entertainment there are endless festivals and happenings to check out. Watch this space for a review of the annual pumpkin throwing festival on Oct 27th. pumkin_poster_2007.gif

There are motels and campgrounds galore to suit budget and comfort needs. We are staying in Slickrock Campground having done a little too much primitive camping the last couple of months – hot showers and internet were a necessity. And to really get the Moab vibe, tune into KZMU radio which has some pretty diverse and cool shows to listen to.

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