Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the month “September, 2022”

Freeway Free in California – Morning among the Giants, Evening among Friends


My old friends T & C, who live in McKinleyville, arrive at our campsite. T is a volunteer ranger at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, so of course we go for a hike enjoying all sorts of special tidbits of knowledge provided by our Personal Tour Guide – and also the lunch goodies brought by C. We eat our lunch at the foot of the big tree used in a National Geographic article about mapping the redwood canopy. re redwoods.

T&C twist our arms a bit and we desert our campsite in favor of a night in their new “downsized “ 3br / 2ba home with a 270 degree view of ocean and forest. Every wall and bookcase is filled with photos, artifacts, and mementoes. The old house accomodated a family of nine, but looking around, I can’t see what’s missing, other than the seven kids.

T, M and I go for a walk on Clam Beach, a short hike from their promontory. I find a whole sand dollar. Lucky omen for upcoming days, we hope.

After dinner C offers board games, and I choose Scrabble. Fair warning: Don’t ever let me choose Scrabble! Years of crossword puzzles, anagrams, and the license plate game make me near invincible. (However, Son#1 skunks me regularly – don’t know what he practices on!)

Our bedroom – a queen-sized blow up bed, two large glass-fronted cabinets mounted on the walls, both full of Madame Alexander and other collectible and not-so-collectible dolls. All those glass eyes staring at us as we sleep. I’m glad I never saw those Chucky movies.

Freeway-Free down the Left Coast

For the next two days we amble our way down the Left Coast, hugging the coastline, stopping once in a while to admire the sweeping surfline, the white sand dunes, the rock stacks, the redwoods. We spend a night near Florence at Honeyman State Park, one of the largest campgrounds in Oregon, we are told, but still offering fairly secluded hookups for our trailer and, I suppose, a hundred others.

We stop at Bandon to visit our nephew J, who is living a bachelor life in a fixer -upper in the charming seaside town of Bandon. When he has finished the re-hab, he will rent the cottage out as an AirB&B. On the day we visit it is still missing a fence, kitchen counters and appliances, but he assures us that his first renter will find it habitable when he arrives the following week. We can see what a nice seaside pied a terre it isgoing to be – but not quite yet.

J breaks for lunch and takes us for seafood sandwiches at Tony’s Crab Shack, and gives us a brief tour of Bandon’s interesting spots. That orange globe in front of the house facing the ocean? It’s a tsunami escape pod.

We continue down the coast, crossing into California, where the highway swings inland to introduce us to the towering trees of the Redwood Empire. More on this next week!

Freeway-Free in Oregon: Beach Town

Our next day was spent in Astoria and Ft. Stephens, and I have written about Astoria and its wonderful Maritime Museum in an earlier blog. The following day M and I set off early, determined to cruise the Oregon coast quickly, pay a call on our nephew in Bandon halfway down, and make it to our campsite in the redwoods across the California border in good time.

But we were derailed en route by a sign for Mo’s Seafood and Chowder, and M’s memories of her student days in Corvallis when a bowl of Mo’s chowder was the high point of a weekend. There was a branch of Mo’s in Seaside. So we stopped.

Seaside is also a claimant to being a final stop on the Lewis and Clark trail. Certainly their statue to the adventurous explorers is the most elaborate we had seen, with bas-reliefs around the base and a commanding view of the Pacific at the end of Seaside’s main street.

It was a gray, foggy noontide, but as we walked to and from the car we spotted some enduring signs of the beach party culture that would animate Seaside on a sunnier day, and since the bumpercars, the tilt-a-whirl, and the carousel ware all indoors as a concession to Oregon’s variable weather, why not buy a bug-eyed beach toy to invite the sun to play?

Freeway Free in Washington – Mighty Mt. Rainier

Saturday – Day 7 Mt. Rainier National Park

Our camping spots at Cowlitz County Park are only a few dozen miles from Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a lazy Saturday morning, but after a fine breakfast we four pile into the Big Red Truck and head for the mountain. We move happily along past beautiful green meadows with occasional glimpses of Mt. St. Helen with her top blown off.  Roadside stands offer blueberries and cherries.  Then suddenly – brake lights ahead.

Evidently on a beautiful Saturday morning a lot more people than ourselves have thought that an outing to Mt. Rainier was a lovely idea. An hour and half of inching along later, I hop out of the car to buy some cherries from a stand, and see we are at the gates of the park.   Once inside, we move along quickly past signs saying, “Paradise Parking Lot full,” and stop at the National Park Inn, the first place that offers food.  As we turn on the front porch steps the mountain is looming above us, huge and white and clear against the blue sky.  Wow.

We get a table at the Inn almost instantly, Pia the waitress assures us that she will be “right with us, in a flash” and literally runs away.  15 minutes later she reappears, takes our order and sprints off again. So far, so good. But we hadn’t noticed the number of tables waiting for food, and the very limited number of servers.

An hour later, we get our food.  The sandwich is smushed into a basket along with some French fries, the soup is just warm. The fish and chips are “ok”. Short staffing is the issue.  But where are all the teenagers and college kids who should be working in the national park for the summer? 

The gift shop is a restorative stop, and then there is that mountain.  After soaking it in for a short bit, we take the historic trail around the old mineral springs through a drop-dead- lovely fern/cedar/wetlands forest.  We count 21 kinds of wildflowers, dip our fingers in the sulphur springs which were the first attraction near the Mountain, and marvel at the gnarled stumps of toppled cedars (rivaling redwoods, I have to say).

It is three pm and we must be back at the camp by 8:45.  We drive up to paradise, stopping here and there for more Mountain views, now beginning to be enhanced by wisps of peek-a-boo clouds. We get to paradise.  the parking lot is indeed full, with folks circling and circling. We abort and take the wonderfully scenic other road back down to Hwy 12 and our camp-. Dinner tonight by Miche and me – veggies burritos.  Yum. Chris has two. 

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