Seagulls on the beach at Bandon, OR

Seagulls on the beach at Bandon, OR

The final stretch of our road trip took us along the Oregon Coast from Bandon to Astoria.  Every Pacific coast beach seems unique in some way — different from its neighbors near or far away.  Part of our drive took us through the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, giving us a taste of a landscape with high, wind-sculpted dunes.

Here are some photos from our drive along Highway 101 in Oregon:

Evening arrival in Bandon, Oregon -- fog banks and gray

Evening arrival in Bandon, Oregon — fog banks and gray

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Sunrise in Bandon, OR

Sunrise in Bandon, OR

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Coquille River Lighthouse

Coquille River Lighthouse

Bandon, Oregon mural

Bandon, Oregon mural

Logging country (One day we counted 24 logging trucks during our drive)

Logging country (One day we counted 24 logging trucks during our drive)

Reedsport, Oregon

Reedsport, Oregon

Conde B McCullough Memorial Bridge north of Coos Bay

Conde B McCullough Memorial Bridge north of Coos Bay

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Landscape near Dean Elk Viewing Station in Reedsport

Landscape near Dean Elk Viewing Station in Reedsport

Queen Anne's Lace along roadside

Queen Anne’s Lace along roadside

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

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Biker at viewpoint along Hwy 101

Biker at viewpoint along Hwy 101

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Old House Dahlia Farm in the Tillamook Valley

Old House Dahlia Farm in the Tillamook Valley

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“It was coming on a rain.  The day had a two-way look, like a day will at change of the year — clouds dark and the gold air still in the road . . .  ”

— Eudora Welty, The Golden Apples

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We finally arrived at our destination, the Painted Hills of Oregon.  What an unusual and amazing wonder it is!  I was transfixed by the rounded shapes of the hills — appearing soft as if aging gently — and the pleasing color palette of the bands.  But what also surprised me was how small this special area is.  I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but the Painted Hills are not spread across a vast expanse like the Grand Canyon.    The hills are concentrated in a very small geographic space.

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Most of the areas are off limits to walking or hiking.  The surface of these hills would be easily marked by footprints.  You can see evidence of animal tracks on this hill.  Imagine how the velvety-looking surfaces would be marred if humans were allowed to wander at will.  So access is granted via five viewpoints, all except one are just short walks from the car.  My favorite was the longer Carroll Rim Trail Viewpoint, a 3/4-mile hike uphill, giving a more lofty aerial perspective.

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Interpretive signs say that the bands of color were laid down millions of years ago during periods of wet and dry climates — evidence of past times of climate change.

The surfaces are cracked like dry mud, but apparently are very absorbent.

The surfaces are cracked like dry mud, but apparently are very absorbent.

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The following photos were taken from the Painted Hills Overlook Trail.  My next two posts will show you other parts of the Painted Hills Unit.  Please do stay tuned!

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John Day River near Twickenham

John Day River near Twickenham

Our road trip to the Painted Hills of Oregon was taking longer than I expected.  Not that I was disappointed with what we were experiencing along the way, but I was hoping to photograph the Painted Hills in the low morning light.  There were no direct roads from the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument to Mitchell, the gateway of the Painted Hills Unit.  So as we were making our circuitous way along the highway, I suggested we take a shortcut through Twickenham and enter the Painted Hills through the backdoor rather than through Mitchell.

Both my husband and I have enough life experience to know that many shortcuts on a map are actually the opposite.  And this time was no exception.  Once we arrived at Twickenham and crossed the John Day River, we turned onto a gravel back road which promised to follow the river for several miles.

I thought it would be a pretty route, and I was not mistaken.  The landscape was refreshingly green along the river.

Irrigation along the John Day River

Irrigation along the John Day River

Our drive along the John Day River

Our drive along the John Day River

But soon the road went up and up, parallel to the river perhaps, but too far away to see it.  We twisted our way down the narrow gravel road, hoping not to encounter a vehicle coming towards us, because we would have been hard pressed to share the road without plunging off.  My palms began to sweat.  This section seemed to be taking longer than I expected (again).

The map showed the road turning south away from the river at about the halfway point along the “short” cut.  We saw a sign for the Priest’s Hole Recreation Area, and figured that we had reached the proper point.  George wanted to check out the river before turning away from it, so we took a break from driving so that he could cast his fishing line into the water.

Priest's Hole Recreation Area along the John Day River

Priest’s Hole Recreation Area along the John Day River

It was a beautiful spot.  Very peaceful.  It would have been great fun to join some of the parties drifting along in their rafts.  I enjoyed strolling around, taking photographs, and checking out the plants.  George was happy to have his fishing pole in his hands.

John Day River

John Day River

George's fishing pole

George’s fishing pole

Rafters on the river

Rafters on the river

Pebbly beach

Pebbly beach

Volcanic rock, the origins of much of this area

Volcanic rock, the origins of much of this area

I have no idea what this plant is.

I have no idea what this plant is.

Mysterious growths on these leaves; they looked like beads on a necklace.

Mysterious growths on these leaves; they looked like beads on a necklace.

Fishing

Fishing

This area also gave us some tantalizing glimpses of colorful hills.  Were these the “painted” hills?  Were we finally getting close to our destination?

Landscape near Priest's Hole Recreation Area

Landscape near Priest’s Hole Recreation Area

Tantalizing glimpse of painted hills

Tantalizing glimpse of painted hills

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Pinkish hill in the distance

Pinkish hill in the distance

After a relaxing break, we got back on the road and kept watch for the entrance to the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  We were still on the gravel road, but the ride was now smoother and the vistas more open.  We saw more colorful hills in the distance.  We were getting close.

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Approaching the Painted Hills of Oregon

Approaching the Painted Hills of Oregon

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I had no regrets about how long the trip was taking because every moment was an adventure.  And the rewards continued with the Painted Hills.

 

 

Self-portrait in side view mirror

Self-portrait in side view mirror

I would like to embody an attitude of adventuresome-ness.  With the right attitude, I think that anyone can become an explorer of the world.  For me, adventures at home and farther afield feed many other parts of my being.  They give me opportunities to make photographs, provide subjects for future paintings, and fill my heart and soul.

As with most people I know, life is very busy right now.  I simply do not have enough time to spend on all the things that I enjoy.  But these days I am determined to work some short road trips into my life.  Things seem to have conspired to make this a possibility.  I am still working a three-quarter of full-time position, and I have to work every other weekend, but every two weeks I also get four days off in a row.  I recently bought a new car which makes driving pure pleasure, and I am so grateful to have economical and dependable wheels.  I am now old enough for my very own “senior” National Parks pass, a lifetime gateway to our natural world.  And I have a great companion in my husband — he is easygoing and does not mind frequent stops for photographing — and he helps with driving.  So I am well set just now to take advantage of the privilege of adventuresome road trips.

We traveled along this scenic byway to the Painted Hills of Oregon.

We traveled along this scenic byway to the Painted Hills of Oregon.

I can think of a long list of relatively short-distance road trips that I would like to make.  For example, I would like to explore and document in photos the five National Scenic Byways and 22 State Scenic Byways in my home state of Washington.  I would like to travel around the Selkirk Loop in Canada, just north of Washington State.  The list can grow even longer when I consider the many places outside the state.

During my most recent stint of days off work, my husband and I drove to the Painted Hills of Oregon.  It was very much a journey of discovery that took us to a part of Oregon that neither of us had ever driven before.  In fact, nobody I knew has ever been there.

I had seen a few photos of the Painted Hills, and knew they would make great photographs, especially in the low morning and evening light.  But the weather forecast was for clouds, showers, and possibly even some thunderstorms.  It would be a long drive (over 7 hours according to Mapquest) and I didn’t want to feel like the trip was a bust if I couldn’t photograph.  But in the end, I decided that I would never do anything if I waited for the whims of the weather — and we decided to go.

I’m so glad we did.

No matter that it took us 15 hours (15 hours!!!) to arrive at our destination with stops for fishing (George), photographing (me), construction delays (it took 1 hour to go 5 miles in the middle of the night on I-5 due to construction — aargh), and a shortcut on the map that turned out not to be “short” with the slow driving on a curving, gravel road, but which was picturesque nonetheless.

We made the strategic decision to start our road trip at 10 o’clock at night because 1) my husband tends to stay up late anyway, 2) I thought it was no loss to travel the familiar (and boring because we have done it so frequently) I-5 drive down to Portland and I-84 stretch along the Columbia River in the dark of night, and 3) I could sleep while George drove and take over when he got tired, and vice versa.  In spite of little restful sleep, my body seemed to come awake during the daylight hours — and the lightening of the skies began around 4 a.m. in these days leading up to the summer solstice.  So by the time the sun started to rise in the morning, we were on a quiet stretch of U.S. Hwy. 97 in Oregon.  And I was waking up to some awesome landscape.

Sunrise off of US Hwy 97 in Oregon

Sunrise off of US Hwy 97 in Oregon

The day’s sights just kept on giving.  I will need the weekend to upload my photos, edit and caption them, and select the best to share with you in next week’s blog posts.  I hope you stay tuned.  The Painted Hills had not been on my radar for all the decades I have lived in the Pacific Northwest, and my expectations were exceeded.  They are located in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and once again I felt privileged to have access to an incredible place set aside by the national government for all to enjoy.

With the longer-than-expected driving time, we missed the low morning light on the Painted Hills.  And our road trip did include rain, but we were lucky to visit the Painted Hills before the rain hit.  The skies were filled with dramatic clouds and thankfully we avoided the intense mid-day light that washes out the colors of the landscape.  It seemed fitting that we were blessed with the huge arch of a rainbow over the Columbia River on our way home.  Glorious sunrise.  A beauty-filled day.  Color-rich rainbow at day’s end.  As close to perfection as we could have wished.

Driving home on Oregon Hwy 26

Driving home on Oregon Hwy 26

Rainbow over the Columbia River

Rainbow over the Columbia River

Road Trips and the Mind

August 3, 2014

“Carried along on the hum of the motor and the countryside passing by, the journey itself flows through you and clears your head.  Ideas one held on to without any reason depart; others, however, are readjusted and settle like pebbles at the bottom of a stream.  There’s no need to interfere; the road does that work for you.  One would like to think that it stretches out like this, dispensing its good offices, not just to the ends of India but even further, until death.”
— Nicolas Bouvier, The Way of the World

Nearing sunset on Hwy 101, Olympic Peninsula

Nearing sunset on Hwy 101, Olympic Peninsula

This has been a vacation-less summer for me, and I’ve been craving a getaway.  This weekend my husband and I took a daytrip to a few ocean beaches on the Olympic Peninsula.  We drove from sun up to sun down — a long day — but relaxing in the way Bouvier describes in the quote above, the miles stringing along with free-flowing thoughts and impressions.  The day was a tonic.

We explored two beaches I had never been to before near La Push on the Pacific coast and Rialto Beach where I had taken my niece last year.  Our summer weather has been hot and sunny lately, but interestingly, a fog bank had settled right where the water met the land, and it stayed cool and gray on the beaches.  We could barely make out the silhouettes of sea stacks off shore.  Still, being by the ocean was restorative — the fresh smells of salt and wet sand, the rhythmic crashing of the waves.

First Beach in LaPush with fog-enshrouded sea stacks

First Beach in LaPush with fog-enshrouded sea stacks

Jetty at First Beach

Jetty at First Beach

Through the "eye" of driftwood

Through the “eye” of driftwood

Watching the waves

Watching the waves

Mile+ path down to Second Beach included stairs down the bluff

Mile+ path down to Second Beach included stairs down the bluff

Fog at Second Beach

Fog at Second Beach

Surf fishing at Second Beach

Surf fishing at Second Beach

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Second Beach

Second Beach

Sand sculpture

Sand sculpture

Pebbly shore at Rialto Beach

Pebbly shore at Rialto Beach

The sun never made it out

The sun never made it out

Stacked beach rocks, Rialto Beach

Stacked beach rocks, Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach

Seagull

Seagull

Seagull

Seagull

 

 

GPS driving app vs. the paper map

GPS driving app vs. the paper map

I prepared for our California road trip by getting maps from AAA and printing some driving directions off of Mapquest.com.  My husband brought his phone.

Typically on a road trip, I am the navigator and my husband is the driver.  Inevitably, we argue at least once about the proper course, which lane he should be in, when he should start slowing down for an upcoming exit, etc.  After missing a turn in San Francisco, my husband turned on his smart phone and fired up the app with directions given in voice commands.  He wanted to show me how effective this new technology is and take the stress of navigating strange roads from me.  (I also noticed that he had no problem following the voice commands of the pleasant, well modulated, non-judgmental voice of the virtual female whereas he sometimes bristles taking directions from me!)

Well, I can see the benefits of using the smart phone.  You don’t have the clutter of paper maps and printed directions, if you make a “wrong” turn it automatically finds a way to get you back on track (without yelling), and if you come up with a new destination at the last minute, you can easily key that in on the spot.  I think it is extremely helpful when you are driving the streets of a strange city and you lose track of north, south, east and west and are totally unfamiliar with the layout.

Inasmuch as these devices do get you to your final destination, you arrive without a good sense of where you are physically situated.  I would miss knowing that.  I feel more grounded with a picture in my mind that plots me in place.

Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker in Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas speak about navigating with maps vs. using the new digital tools:  “Most people don’t use paper maps anymore.  Instead, they use digital data services — their smart phones, GPS devices that issue voice commands, or various versions of MapQuest and Google maps that generate specific directions.  The problem with these technologies is that though they help get you where you’re going, that’s all they do.  With a proper map, you take charge; with these other means, you take orders and don’t learn your way around, any more than you learn math using a calculator.  A map shows countless possible routes; a computer-generated itinerary shows one.  Using the new navigational aids, you remain dependent, and your trajectory requires obedience to the technology — some GPS devices literally dictate voice commands you are meant to obey.  When you navigate with a paper map, tracing your own route rather than having it issued as a line, a list, or a set of commands, you incrementally learn the lay of the land. . . . The map is then no longer on paper in front of you but inside you. . .”

“A great map should stir up wonder and curiosity, prompt revelation, and deepen orientation.  It should make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.”

Solnit revisited this theme from an earlier book, Hollow City:  The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism.  She sees the possibility of encounter and participation as one of the primary virtues of city life, where your smaller private spaces “force” you to go out into the shared amenities — parks, libraries, streets, cafes, plazas, transit, etc.  Sharing experiences builds community.  She says, “And this brings us to the most pernicious effect of the new technology:  its hostility to public life.  The rhetoric of the new technology constantly celebrates liberation from the need to leave the house, or if we do leave the house, to learn to navigate, to ask strangers for directions or other acts of connection made obsolete by GPS and cell phones . . .”

Traveling and tourism, though, still require getting out into the world.  Solnit says, ” . . . tourism is still about public life: about walking around, encountering the unknown, feeling the textures that make places distinctive.”  My husband says that one of his most favorite things to do on a trip is talk with people, and I saw that on this trip — from the surfers on the Santa Cruz beaches, to the docents at the monarch butterfly groves, and the two ladies painting outdoors in the Baylands Nature Reserve, etc. — these encounters make his journeys worthwhile.  He would say that the time saved by using his smart phone to navigate gives him more time out of the car with people.  That makes sense, too.

“Listen!  you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.”
— Matthew Arnold, from “Dover Beach”

Sea stack at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Sea stacks at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

“The seashore is a most advantageous point from which to comprehend the world.  The waves forever rolling to the land are so far traveled coming home and leaving again.”
— Henry David Thoreau

The next morning, we stopped at two more beaches before completing our road trip to Olympic National Park:  Ruby Beach and Kalaloch Beach.  Ruby Beach was less wild than Rialto Beach, and Kalaloch Beach seemed tamer still.  I loved seeing how different the beach landscapes were from one another.

Ruby Beach in the morning

Ruby Beach in the morning

You could walk for miles.

You could walk for miles.

Sea stacks and tidepools

Sea stacks and tidepools, Ruby Beach

Caves in the cliffs, giant logs

Caves in the cliffs, giant logs

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

“To me the sea is a continual miracle:  The fishes that swim — the rocks — the motion of the waves — the ships, with men in them.  What stranger miracles are there?”
— Walt Whitman

The tidepools around the barnacle-covered rocks teemed with anemones and star fish.  The waves carved artistic patterns in the pebble-strewn sand.  So much to see and explore!

Anemones

Anemones

Brilliantly colored star fish

Brilliantly colored star fish

Beach art in the sand

Beach art in the sand

Lovely pattern in the sand

Lovely pattern in the sand

Ruby beach

Ruby Beach

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Piles of driftwood, Kalaloch Beach

Piles of driftwood, Kalaloch Beach

Walking along Kalalocj Beach

Walking along Kalaloch Beach