Oregon and Saddle Mountain Expedition 2013
Abundant Beauty and Wonder

Oregon 2013

The Assault of Saddle Mountain, 2013

 

Things came together a bit late this year, nonetheless Olivia and I managed to complete our fourth annual trek to the West Coast. Our top objective was the assault of Saddle Mountain, which is the largest mountain in that part of Oregon’s Coastal Range and commands great views.

 

For the first night— after supper at J.C.’s Country Diner in Elwood, Utah— we stopped in our usual camping spot near Twin Falls, Idaho where we witnessed an amazing sunset. It came together just after we arrived and I had none of my camera equipment handy. A beautiful colorful sunset enhanced by forest fire smoke along the horizon and by the many streaming sprinkling systems pumping river-size volumes of Snake River water onto the crops - vast fields of wheat and corn - and the sun sinking into a flat red horizon as if setting over the Pacific.

 

We left our rattlesnake infested campsite early and headed for Oregon by way of the Starbucks to check my email. (Olivia can check hers from her phone.) We stopped to tour the ethereal Painted Hills section of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. That night we found a place off in the woods near Prineville, Oregon, in the center of the state— after an disappointing Chinese dinner—amid a large stand of tall Ponderosa pines. Great camping spots are easy to find in central and eastern Oregon.

 

First stopping for a bath in the Deschutes River and then stopping on Santium Pass to walk a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (we had the order wrong)– beautiful as always in its stark contrast —we sprang over the Cascade Range. That night we camped along the Santium River near a town called Waterloo – no sign of Napoleon. A very important stop for anyone sane passing through Lebanon, Oregon is Kris’s Kitchen for fresh pie, scones, and so on. Good coffee and a slice of cherry pie – heaven at Kris’s.

 

Then on to the coast. Stop at the over-priced Health Food Store in Eugene. Lunch at Mo’s in Florence. Two nights at Bandon with walks along its fabulous windy wood strewn beaches and lunch at Tony’s on the dock – killer! And dinner with friends, supping on fired potatoes, sweet onions, and fresh caught trout! The next day, after pausing for an obligatory lunch at my favorite coastal eatery, The Luna Sea in Yachats – fabulous as always food-wise – the service was bad this time– that waitress is nuts. Then a night near Newport (unfortunately next to fifty screaming pubescent campers with a church group from Idaho – they built their own indoor soccer court to burn off hormones). In the morning, I took Livvie to the aquarium – she was excited because she had never been to an aquarium in her life, although Hillary later reminded us Liv was with us at the aquarium in Chicago about seven years ago where we also saw two giants. The aquarium had some interesting and informative displays, yet so many of the fish had scars and bruises. They didn’t look happy. They should let them go. Same with the birds and the seals and such.  We had to scramble for a place to camp for that night as I could find no online campground reservations for two nights, Friday and Saturday because the Oregonians also like to use their parks. After lunch at Mo’s in Lincoln City, we explored up Highway 101 and then off to a Cape area near Tillamook and found a small county park on the water that had one spot because someone had just that minute decided to leave a day early. This place is a treasure. It’s on Whalen Island and is surrounded by bird and fish rich estuaries. Long white beaches are nearby. Egrets and Blue Herons squawk and hustle all night long. Very pleasant and peaceful place. I would like to stay and fish a while.

 

Now mentally and physically prepared. Our regimen of fine protein rich sea food dinners at the finest seafood restaurants on the planet Earth had us at full strength for the expedition. Now we were ready. We were on to the assault of Saddle Mountain – from our camp at sea level, plus about five feet, to a summit of 3283. The trailhead is at the end of a seven-mile long narrow road constructed by the CCC in the 1930s. The trail was also a CCC project (as are so many great places in the West and all over the country – I’d like to see it brought back.) It was not possible to prepare for the awe-inspiring beauty and energy this primitive trek can bring you. We begin in a dense old growth forest, slanting sunlight filtered by drifting fog and hanging mosses – a floor of ferns, berry bushes, flowers, slugs, and fungi. After about a mile and a half you come into open areas with steep basaltic cliffs nurturing flowers like a Mondrian. Views of tall mountains to the east. The ocean to the west - foamy lines along the shore. Unbelievable numbers of flowers buzzing with bees, bright and smiling (flowers not bees, they were too busy). It was a fine day. To top it off we drove down to Canon Beach and had dinner at the Ecola Sea Food Market and Restaurant – always excellent! The crabmeat cocktail is amazing (all claws if you want) and delicious, fish filled salmon tacos that are really a burrito filled out the meal.)

 

We had to go all the way to the state of Washington in order to find a good place to spend Saturday night, across that crazy rickety-looking span bridge that arcs what must be two hundred feet into the air and continues four miles across the mighty Columbia to Washington. It’s in the same general part of Washington as was Galloping Gertie, which conjures creepy shaky images. In the process we discovered an interesting part of Washington called The Peninsula. Lots of fishing, crabbing, and clam digging. My kind of place. Fried local oysters for lunch. That night back across the miracle bridge to Astoria and on to Fort Stevens - a long walk on the beach in the morning (as every morning or evening in the northwest -I believe I could walk on an ocean beach every day of the year in any weather for the rest of my life and never tire of it), followed by a fine lunch at McKeown’s in Seaside – the best steamers of the trip –simmered in a Chardonnay Pesto Garlic broth. Fresh salmon grilled perfectly. On the way home we took a detour to Jackson, Wyoming to visit my daughter, Prudence. Had supper at The Trillium in Hood River on the way through – hand cut fries is all I need to say. On the long drive the next morning (I am intentionally omitting a terrible nigh spent at the KOA in Pendleton listening to semis whizz buy, rumbling up the grade and then whining as they decompress as it levels out, one after another all night long. This crappy kampground does not deserve to call itself KOA. It’s more like a paved parking lot with a few tiny patches of green grass with signs depicting a pooping dog, arched back, poop flying in a black circle with a line down through it. That’s how classy this place is.) Eleven hours driving in one day (easier when I was younger)—we stopped at the dam and beach at American Falls Reservoir for a nap on the beach and a swim/bath in green algae soup – very refreshing. The country between Idaho Falls and Jackson is otherworldly. So much beauty. Fields of grain harvested as the sun set over Swan Valley, hawks swooping or waiting on fence posts, and then we climb and then descend the very steep, 8341 feet high, Teton Pass. We surprised Prudence by coming into town a night early; she was working the upstairs beer and wine bar at The Snake River Brewery. She was happy to see us and we got to sit at the bar as she worked and observe her in her natural environment. Kind of like back at the aquarium in Newport, but with ski bums instead of fishes. I had an excellent French onion soup, beef tacos, and two glasses of Guido’s, perhaps my favorite all-time craft beer (or is it an ale?). Livvie had a salad and sweet potato fries. In the morning Prue had a root canal and then took us to a lake in the Tetons for a swim and picnic lunch in an amazing location. (Great sandwiches from The Whole Market). You could not create an environment as magnificent if you spent a billion dollars … a trillion. Look at the pictures. The water temperature was perfect after warming up on a beach blanket for a few minutes. It was interesting to watch tourists from all over the world, mostly China, from our spot on the beach. That night, after dinner in a Thai place in Jackson, I camped on a hill across from the Tetons. Liv stayed at Prue’s. I took pictures of old buildings on the way out in the morning. 3104 miles in thirteen days - My apologies to the planet. We sure saw a lot of beauty. An emaciated coyote ran onto the highway in front of us in Idaho, retrieved a stiff, coiled snake, and ran off with it, looking quite pleased with himself. It seemed worth mentioning.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

blackberry pie at Kris' Kitchen, Lebanon, Oregon
 
Our forests headed for China. We buy it back at Walmart and Ikea.
 
lunch at Mo's, Florence, Oregon

lunch at The Luna Sea, Yachats, Oregon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Saddle Mountain Expedition

 
 
 
 
 

That's Olivia on the ridge. I took the picture from the summit.

 

big slug on Saddle Mountain
 
 

Yes, there are dragons in Oregon. I have proof.

steamers at McKeowan's, Seaside, Oregon -fabulous!
 
String Lake, Grand Teton National Park   

Paco and Prudence in Jackson, Wyoming
The view from my camp site.