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In August 1996 we spent a couple of weeks in Oregon. The ostensible purpose of the trip was for Vance to teach classes at the Oregon State University / ELI Summer Technology Seminars, but as a family, we enjoyed the drive up through the Shasta parks region, a couple of days free in the environs of Eugene, and the drive back down the coast of Oregon and Northern California. If you want to know what I did professionally, look at Vance's part of the home page under Teacher Training. If you want to know what we as a family did, read on.
We took Highway 5, the quick way, up. We stopped off in Chico on the way to overnight at the residence of my step-brother Darrell and his charming wife, Kay. The Chico Stevenses and we didn't have a lot of time together, but we optimized it with a trip to the local Sierra Nevada microbrewery for a meal of better-than-pub food and a cornucopia sampler tray of their dozen brews, and I went for a very early morning walkabout in the local park with Darrell before he had to scoot off to chambers. This had ramifications next morning when Bobbi left her alarm set for 5:00, but that's all best forgotten. At least it gave me time for an early morning jog in the hills around Eugene.
We continued on to Oregon and were in Eugene that evening, where friend and colleague Deborah Healey put us up in a house she and Steve had just acquired but hadn't quite moved into yet. I told Deborah her house was like a luxurious Bulgarian resort. I don't have an account here of the "luxurious" Bulgarian resort we stayed in on the Black Sea on these California home pages, so readers will have to understand that a luxurious Bulgarian resort has more amenities than the local population would hope for but. well, there is a lack of creature comforts in a house not quite moved in to, though Deborah went out of her way to provide whatever came to mind, endearing herself to the family in the process. When traveling, one can do MUCH worse than a luxurious Bulgarian resort, so Deborah's house served just fine for the duration of our visit.
This was not a period of rest for Vance, which was why he was not amused when Bobbi's alarm went off at 5:00 the one morning in Eugene he would not have to get up at that time anyway and drive up to Corvallis for the seminars, having got to bed each night at two in the morning, having spent as many waking moments as possible preparing for the classes. This had been going on since two weeks before the event, to the point where Vance was doing well to get himself to the microbreweries in the evening (with so many friends in Eugene, social life was itself demanding). But while Dad was working, the family took the car and went shopping, drove up to Portland and browsed the largest bookstore in the USA, and explored Eugene and its attractive surroundings, quaint covered bridges et quoi pas (French for whatnot?).
Click on the items below to learn more about what we did with out leisure days in Oregon.
Before starting out, we stopped off at G.I.Joe's and bought a tent (having learned something from our redwood misadventure which you can read about elsewhere here). We then proceeded to the Oregon coast at Florence and headed south from there. Actually, we veered north briefly to Seal Rock which we didn't pay to visit, since it was swarming with more tourists than seals, and it seemed to be a pretty crass exploitation by private interests of what should rightfully be a national natural heritage. We can see swarms of seals in California, and I've dived with seals off Baha California. In these settings, seals are part of the environment, the fauna associated with a natural setting. The commercial flavor of Seal Rock (follow the billboards, pass through the souvenir shop, belly up to the turnstile) was a turn-off. Seal Rock would be better presented in a National Park ambience.
Next in view was the Oregon Dunes. Though Deborah had made us aware of possible walks in the environs, we were impatient to move on and didn't linger long here. Still the dunes were impressive, though the ocean, in the chill typical of the Pacific northwest, was uninviting. As Deborah had said, "Oregonians don't go to the beach, they go to the coast." On this visit to the coast, we didn't go to the beach either, but pressed on past the dunes to the more rugged coastline to the south. We stopped at Bandon where the rocky monoliths just off shore gave the area a haunting beauty that lured us from our car for a short walk.
Except for a pause to observe a herd of elk grazing in a meadow off the roadside near Coos Bay, the drive out of Oregon was at times beautiful but otherwise tedious and uneventful. (Rogue River seemed an area worth exploring, but unfortunately, not on this reconnaissance trip.) But getting into northern California just before sundown, we found ourselves in redwood preserves, so we got a campsite in a county park near Crescent City with towering trees and leafy ferns all around. The campsites were angled into the forest in such a way that it was easy to ignore the proximity of others. After dinner, Dad was so tired that he fell asleep in the tent before the first ghost story was told.
In the morning we were able to use the California hiking book to find walks we could make in the area and on our way south. We drove just a few miles to the Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park entrance where the ranger gave us pointers on how to visit the oldest redwoods there on foot and drive through the heart of the park on a dirt road all the way back to Crescent City without having to pay to enter the park itself. Continuing south, we paused at a couple of stands of ancient trees in Redwood National Park and made a side trip to the coast to walk in a place called Fern Canyon that the hiking book promised had a high beauty to time ratio. It did, though we were reaching the point of diminishing returns on beauty, and diminishing time in terms of having to be at work the next morning.
We had a picnic lunch at the seaside park opposite Fern Canyon before pushing off back to Highway 101 south. We stopped for expresso in Eureka near the boutiques in the old town on the harbor and savored the oddly neo-hippie atmosphere of the square around the fountain with its "gypsy" fortune teller and strolling musician students from nearby UC-Humbolt (the rest of the town was a grid of tacky shops and service stations along the busy highway). Cutting inland on 101, the redwoods resumed. There was road parallel to 101 called Avenue of the Giants which we drove for an hour or so through Humbolt Redwood Forest, and before turning off on the mountain road to the coast at Fort Bragg, we succumbed to a desire of Bobbi's to drive through a tree (cost us $3.00 and threatened my surfboard on top of the car).
The coast at Fort Bragg was wildly beautiful, and stayed so south to the artist's colony at Mendocino headland, which we reached just in time to find a patch of rocky shoreline on which to stand and watch the sun sink into the ocean. We had enough light to enjoy the scenery a little further to Albion before we headed inland into another redwood forest on 128 back to 101. The tall trees flitted by in our headlight beams, but we were just hours from home and resolved to return to see the place at better vantage later. We stopped for dinner at a microbrewery in Healdsburg where I had a final sampler while we all enjoyed dinner, and Bobbi took the wheel and got us home over the Golden Gate in time for a short nap before work in the morning.
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