Thursday, February 29, 2024

Amblin' on the Wilson River Trail

Ski trips and some truly bad weather in mid-January put hiking on hold for a couple of weeks.  When the rain and wind finally let up, I was itching to get my outdoor fix.  With sunshine finally in the forecast, I texted my buddy Catherine and invited her to join me.

Beautiful, mossy coastal forest

With higher gas prices, these days I'm all about visiting trails closer to home.  For a quick drive without the metro area traffic, the Oregon coast range has become my go-to hiking place.  The nearby Gales Creek trail was today's destination.  However, when Catherine and I pulled into the trailhead parking area, we were disappointed to see orange tape strung across the trail.  With our first choice closed for construction, I decided to try for University Falls, whose trailhead was directly across the highway.  However, this trailhead is also used as a staging area for ATV users, and on this Saturday we found it swarming with all types of motorized recreation vehicles.  Needless to say we beat a hasty retreat!  

Loved the light on the trees

Okay, option number three?  I decided to drive a bit further down the highway to my standby coast range hike - the section of the Wilson River Trail between Jones Creek and Footbridge Trailhead.  Upon our arrival at the Jones Creek Trailhead, we both breathed a sign of relief to find it very much open.  Yahoo - finally time to hike!

The Wilson River is an unusual green-blue color

The Wilson River Trail is a 20.6 mile linear path that mostly follows the Oregon Coast Range's Wilson River.  Several trailheads along its route make for easy access to hike a short portion of the overall trail.  The scenery is amazing - thick forests of huge, mossy trees; large patches of ferns; steep, rugged canyons; and the lovely, blue-green waters of the Wilson River.

Huge, mossy tree on the riverbank

From the parking lot, Catherine and I first ambled down to the nearby banks of the mighty Wilson.  Recent heavy rainfall had it running fast and furious.  Then we meandered through some nice riverside picnic areas, until encountering a trail detour through the closed Jones Creek campground.  Although this detour was a bit annoying (an extra mile of out of direction travel) the thick, green mossy forest it crossed was especially lovely.

Views from our wonderful lunch spot

Once back on the main trail, Catherine and I passed by the Tillamook Forest Learning Center, which was closed for the season.  At least the bridge between the trail and the center was still open.  We walked upon the huge suspension bridge spanning the Wilson River and enjoyed the views anyway.

Raging rapids

Then our trail dived back into the forest, and although still following the river, it was perched high above the water on top of tall bluffs.  Thick trees allowed only a handful of unobstructed views of the mighty Wilson.  Several crude fisherman's paths dropped steeply down to the banks, but most of them looked precarious enough to keep us on the main trail.

To our delight, two kayakers paddled by

We spied a handful of fisherman scattered upon the Wilson's banks all trying for steelhead, an oceangoing trout that is supposed to be good eating.

The men put on a show as they shot the rapids

Catherine and I covered a good 2 miles before the high bluffs flattened out and we could access the river without clambering down a steep bank.  I spied a lovely flat area adjacent to the water with a wide patch of moss-covered rocks, and suggested we take a lunch break there.

Kayakers conferring

Oh it was divine!  We reclined on the moss-padded rocks and pulled out our lunch bags.  The river burbled through a small set of rapids, its waters churning bright blue.  A large stand of alder trees towered over the river, their bare white branches providing a nice contrast.  The sun streaming down from the sky warmed our bodies.  My friend and I happily soaked up as much solar energy as we could.


As we were happily sunbathing on the riverbank, enjoying our lunch, I thought the day couldn't get any better.  But it did!  Catherine spotted a pair of kayakers paddling upriver.  Excited, I grabbed my camera hoping for some action shots.  I wasn't disappointed - the men floated down to our lunch spot, and seeing us on the banks, looped around the rapids a couple of times.  Much photography ensued!

Scouting his next line

I really wish I could've gotten the men's contact information, but the sound of the rushing water was so loud, there was no way they could've heard me (or me them).  So we waved and I clicked my shutter as fast as possible.  Maybe if by some off chance, these guys see this blog post (hah!) they will contact me.  I'd be happy to share some images!

More photos of the lovely Wilson River

Watching those kayakers was definitely the day's highlight.  After the men finally disappeared downriver, Catherine and I packed up our lunch remains and continued further down the trail.  When I've hiked this section in the past, the Footbridge Trailhead was usually the turnaround point, but today we were both feeling a bit tired.  Neither of us had hiked very much lately, and eight miles round-trip seemed like a lot.  So we decided to cut our trip short and make Wilson River Falls the day's destination.

Water crossing at Wilson River Falls

Our trail diverged from the riverside and began climbing up a steep switchback.  A tall cliff rose above the track.  We came upon a wide creek flowing across the trail.  High above, Wilson River Falls cascaded from a rocky ledge.  Full of runoff from the month's frequent rainstorms, it tumbled mightily down the steep cliff face.  So beautiful!

Wilson River Falls, flowing high above the trail

After an enjoyable few minutes watching white water tumble down the slope high above, Catherine and I did an about-face, retracing our steps back through the green, mossy woods towards the trailhead.

Thick moss and ferns engulf this tree

As we headed back, afternoon clouds began to obscure the day's lovely sunshine.  It made me realize how much better the forest looked lit up by the sun.  In contrast now everything seemed duller, and I wasn't motivated to take many more photos.  

I couldn't get enough of the river views!

But we'd had a golden morning of sun, forest beauty, and lovely river views that would sustain us through next week's gloomy rainstorms.  Another great outing!

Sunday, February 25, 2024

A Day on the Oregon Coast

Ah the power of the internet!  One morning in late January, while perusing Facebook, I came upon a photo of a stunning ocean seastack and beach.  The caption said it was called "Short Beach" and was someplace along the Oregon coast.  A quick Google search located this place near Cape Meares.  That wasn't too far from home.  I immediately schemed a plan to go find it.

Mama elk giving me the stink eye

Another thing I learned from my internet browsing - the nearby Cape Meares loop road had just reopened.  Wiped out by a landslide in 2013, this scenic link between the town of Oceanside and Tillamook Bay had remained closed for over 10 years.  A second item to check out!

A kiss for junior

Leaving home one overcast, but dry morning, I pointed my car westward.  After driving through the coastal town of Tillamook (famous for its cheese) I located the north end of the reopened Cape Meares loop.  The roadway grades were steep, but boy oh boy were there some nice ocean views.  Passing by a recently revegetated road slope, I was surprised to see a dozen elk scattered about enjoying the tender, newly-planted grass.  A few of the beasts were right next to the roadway, so I was able to score some super close-ups from the comfort of my car.  I didn't even need to use my big zoom lens!  And luckily, there wasn't any traffic that morning, so no problem stopping in the middle of the road for a few minutes.

Short Beach

After the surprise elk photography session, I continued on a short distance until locating a tiny pullout with an even tinier sign indicating the trail to Short Beach.  A rickety wooden staircase led me down a steep bluff until the forest opened up to showcase a lovely, rocky beach.

The sun came out for a short while

Instead of sand, the beach was covered with millions of perfectly rounded stones.  Reminded me a lot of Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park.  A tall seastack stood prominently near the beach's north side.  I tried to walk over to it, but was blocked by a swift-running creek.  Having my rubber boots on, I considered trying to cross (and even tentatively ventured in a step or two) but the strong current dissuaded me.  I didn't want to risk falling in and getting my camera equipment wet!

Wave action

Instead, I hung out on the rocky shoreline and entertained myself photographing the waves.  The sun peeped out of the clouds for a few short minutes and I was able to capture the seastack and ocean in glorious full sunshine.

Steep cliff at Cape Meares

After enjoying this lovely beach for a half hour or so, I retraced my steps back up the staircase.  Knowing Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint was a short distance away, I decided to drive over and give the place a visit.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares is mostly known for its lovely lighthouse, which sits at the very end of this prominent headland.  Built in 1890, it has the distinction of being the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon coast.  Open during summer months for tours, the Cape Meares lighthouse has been decommissioned since 1963.  From the parking lot, a paved trail takes visitors along the cape to the lighthouse.  Pausing at several viewpoints along the way, I couldn't help capturing some images of the stunning oceanside cliffs.


Another view of the lighthouse

Although the lighthouse wasn't open that day, I was able to walk nearly around it's perimeter.  One gets a nice view of the red and white Fresnel lens, lovingly preserved for visitors to enjoy.

The beach at Oceanside

After enjoying some sunshine at Cape Meares, I drove southward to the tiny town of Oceanside.  There's a gorgeous beach here, which I was looking forward to photographing.

Three Arch Rocks and frothy waves

Sadly, by the time I arrived at Oceanside's beach, clouds moved in and obscured the lovely sunshine.  The overcast, midday light was not the best for capturing this usually pretty coastline.

Cannon Beach from above

So after a quick walk in the sand, I returned to my car and decided to head northward to Cannon Beach.  It's a lovely drive along Highway 101 from Tillamook and I enjoyed the scenery as I motored along.

Haystack Rock

Another internet photo I'd enjoyed was one of the sandy dunes above Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock in the background and two elk standing on the dunes.  Although early afternoon wasn't the right time to catch the elk, I was hoping to scout out this location for future photographic opportunities.  Parking in a nearby lot, I walked a couple blocks down a side street before finding the area I was seeking.  Nope, no elk right now, but plenty of elk poop indicated they liked to hang out here.  And I was able to capture some nice images of Haystack Rock from a different viewpoint.

Another view of the iconic sea stack

Although the cloudy skies didn't give me the best light for photography, I had a nice trip to the coast, and was able to discover some new places.  Always fun to explore!

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Adventures in Steamboat 2024

I didn't intend to go over two weeks between posts.  But I've been busy.....traveling to different ski areas.  My buddy Kim and I bought IKON passes this year.  For those not into skiing, this pass gives users 5 days each at over 40 different ski resorts throughout the US and even internationally.  After finalizing our pass purchases, Kim and I immediately began scheming what resorts we could visit. 

Steamboat base area

Steamboat ski resort, located in northern Colorado, quickly rose to the top of our list.  Having visited its beautiful slopes several times (most recently eight years ago) Steamboat was an obvious favorite.

First day near the Thunderhead Lodge

So, way back in August, Kim and I booked flights and reserved lodging at Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a half week in mid-January.  Although at the time, January seemed far away, it didn't take long for our chosen dates to arrive.

Selfie with a foggy background

We planned three days of skiing on Steamboat's lovely, aspen-lined slopes.  After flying in on a Saturday afternoon, and braving the luggage carousel nightmare at its tiny airport (they had two airplanes worth of skis unload into one tiny chute - with about fifty people climbing over each other to retrieve their bags!) Kim and arrived at our cozy condo.  We fell asleep with snowflakes dancing in our heads - tomorrow we'd ski!

Views were a bit limited

Sunday dawned - overcast and foggy.  Not ideal conditions, but we came here to ski and ski we would.  After boarding a shuttle from our lodging we arrived at the Steamboat base area.  Kim and I then hopped into the Steamboat Gondola, which whisked us halfway up the mountain.

Moose on the loose!

Even though visibility was a challenge, we made our way to some of our favorite runs.  I was amused by a sign cautioning visitors of a resident moose, who apparently was living in the middle of the resort.  (Thankfully, we there were no moose encounters during our stay!)

Skiing back to the base area after day one

Kim tired out before I did, so she rode the gondola back down to the base area, while I took a few more runs.  After another hour on the slopes, I made my way towards the bottom, skiing a very long trail that followed the gondola.  Although the clouds and fog persisted, I still got a few views of the town of Steamboat Springs, spread out in the valley below.

We celebrated with well-earned beers!

Reuniting with my friend, we clomped around the base area in our ski boots, in search of food and beer.  We found both in a nearby restaurant that cooked up some delicious burgers and fries.  Or maybe they tasted so good because we were starving!

Day two - still cloudy

The second morning, Kim wasn't feeling well, and opted to stay back at the condo.  Skiing solo today, I took the shuttle back to the mountain.  After another gondola ride to the mid-mountain, I opted to try some runs off of both the Storm Peak Express and Morningside lifts.

But the views were great!

Although the skies were still cloudy, there was no fog so visibility was better.  And - surprise - about three inches of fluffy powder had dropped overnight.  I had a great time zipping through the freshies, before everything got tracked out.

A bit of new snow to shush through

There's nothing better than skiing through a coat of new-fallen snow, and I had a most excellent morning.

Loved all the aspen trees that lined the slopes

When I ski solo, I don't stop for breaks as often.  So it didn't take long for my legs to start protesting.  A nearby mid-mountain lodge provided a perfect spot take a breather.

Skiing towards the Four Points Lodge

After my first break, I tried to stop a little more frequently.  Taking photos of the amazing scenery provided the perfect excuse.  Not wanting to tote around a big camera while skiing, I employed my cell phone for the task.  All these photos were taken from my phone, which I discovered has a pretty decent camera.  My phone's photo editing app isn't bad either!

More aspen views

One of my favorite subjects was the forests of aspen trees that lined many of the slopes.  This place must be drop-dead gorgeous in the fall when they all turn golden!

Looking across to the Thunderhead Lodge

Enjoy some more of the fantastic Steamboat scenery.......

Another scenery selfie

The liftys had built this cute snowman!

At the bottom of the Thunderhead Express lift, the liftys (ski terminology for the folks who run the ski lifts) had built this adorable little snowman, complete with hat, jacket, gloves, scarf, skis and ski pass!

Riding up the Thunderhead Express

Riding up the Thunderhead Express, one crosses paths with Steamboat's newest lift, the Wild Blue Gondola. 

The resort photographer took my picture

Kim texted me that she was feeling better, so I suggested she meet me at the resort base area.  Making my way back, I passed by a resort photographer who had no customers.  The poor guy looked bored so I skied up and asked if he'd take some photos of me.  We had a great conversation, and when he was finished, the photographer generously offered to take a couple of pics with my phone.

Skies began to clear as I skied back to the base area

Then it was down, down, down the main run to the bottom once again.  Today, the skies were much clearer and I got better views of the valley below.  It's a long, steep trail to the very bottom and after several hours of skiing my legs were already tired.  It required many rest breaks before I finally reached the base area.  But it's such a fantastic run!  Probably my favorite here at Steamboat.

Such amazing views!

Kim was waiting at a nearby pub and we had a beer and a then truly terrible lunch from the nearby food court.  If you ever go to Steamboat, I don't recommend eating at the Range Food and Drink Hall.  Not only was everything overpriced, I had the worst burrito I've ever eaten.

Beautiful sunrise to start day 3

Our final ski day dawned with a lovely pink sunrise, which I tried to capture out our condo's window.  I took it as a good omen.

Aboard the Wild Blue Gondola

Kim was feeling better, so I had a ski buddy once again!  We boarded the Wild Blue Gondola, which whisked us away to the mountain's very top.  It was a lovely sunny, blue-sky day, and although a bit chilly, we welcomed the sunshine.

Gondola views

The Sunrise Express area is one of our favorite places to ski at Steamboat, so Kim and I headed directly to the many different trails near this lift.  

Lovely blue skies near the Sunrise Express

All the runs were groomed perfectly, and we had a great time gliding down the perfect corduroy.  Starting early, we had the trails to ourselves for a wonderful half hour before the crowds began showing up.

It was wonderful to actually see the scenery

The aspen trees looked amazing in the sunshine.  More photos may have been taken....

A Steamboat ambassador took this photo

We skied for a couple of hours until our legs protested.  Day three for me, my body wore out much quicker than the previous days.  So we took more frequent breaks, trying to prolong our energy.

Can't get enough of these pretty aspens!

It was such a beautiful day, I didn't want to quit!  But eventually both Kim and I's legs became rubber.  From experience, I knew that continuing to ski with a tired body is how accidents happen.  So we both reluctantly cried "uncle" and decided to call it a day.

Kim skis by

Instead of skiing the long trail down to the base for a third day in a row, Kim and I decided to ride the gondola instead.  Without clouds obscuring our view, we were able to enjoy the stunning scenery to its fullest.

Action shot courtesy of Kim

Lots of people enjoying the day

Valley views

That night Kim and I explored downtown Steamboat Springs.  The business area is very cute, with Christmas lights lining the streets.

Downtown Steamboat Springs at night

Another small ski area called Howelsen Hill is located adjacent to the downtown core.  Featuring night skiing, we could see the lighted runs down one of the side streets.

Howelsen Hill Ski Area

The week before we arrived Steamboat Springs got hit with several snowstorms and received over four feet of snow.  The white stuff was still piled up everywhere, and sidewalks had been tunneled through snowbanks.  Guess our timing was good! 

The town received four feet of snow the prior week - snowbanks were everywhere!

What had been a fabulous trip had a not-so-fabulous ending.  Our flight home was routed through San Diego, with a very short layover.  The airplane we were to take from Steamboat Springs to San Diego was delayed getting to the airport because of heavy snow.  We waited over two hours before departing Steamboat Springs, and by that time had missed our connecting flight.  The only flight we could get to Portland didn't leave until the following day.  So Kim and I ended up with an unexpected overnight stay in San Diego.  Sadly we arrived late and left early, so didn't get to see any of the city.

I loved the downtown area

Despite the return trip mishap, it was great to revisit a favorite ski area.  Kim and I joke about our trips as the "adventures of Kim and Linda."  I've even started using that hashtag when I post photos on Facebook.  (If you're curious, check it out.)  This one was certainly that and more!  

On to the next ski trip - which I'll post about soon!