3rd Aug 2012 - 7th Aug 2012
Pleasant Valley and South Beach State Park
We had thought that we would be visiting a dentist on Friday morning and so we showered straightaway so that we were ready to leave but the bad toothache did not come back, not even after eating breakfast - on one side of course – it just felt very sore and uncomfortable and so Linda decided to wait and see how it progressed. You may have guessed from Linda’s enthusiasm that she was sure it was going to be ok that she hates going to the dentist and would rather wait to see one in the UK. So, we made our way to a tourist attraction which is not normally the sort of thing that we tend to do but this was an exception – we visited the Tillamook cheese and ice cream factory. We learned some “udderly amazing cow facts” such as on average a cow can produce 6-8 gallons of milk per day and there are approximately 350 squirts of milk in a gallon. We then went upstairs and looked down on a production line where cheese was being cut to size. Then it was time to sample some cheeses and then, of course, we had to sample the ice cream. We both sampled about 6 before making up our minds which cone we would have and would you believe it from a choice of 38 different flavours we both chose the same one – chocolate mudslide which was basically a mixture of different chocolates and oh dear the ice cream was a little soft and so the girl serving asked if she could put it in a dish along with a cone full as well – mmmmmmmmmmm – delicious – thank you Ron for telling us how wonderful it was! We did some grocery shopping in Tillamook and then made our way to our Friday and Saturday night campsite which was in Pleasant Valley. We were in desperate need of a laundry and the facilities here were excellent – they even had a little garden bench that you could sit on and watch the birds feeding on the seed feeders whilst the washing was being done. However, just before we pulled in to the site we decided to visit Munson Creek Falls which was literally a little further up the road. The sign said no trailers but we decided that that did not refer to us. We had only gone a short distance up the narrow rough road when we decided that we should turn around where possible and head back because the road was narrowing at an alarming rate and the potholes were getting bigger and bigger. Upon reading the information about the area which we acquired from the campsite upon check in, we were delighted that we had turned around when we did because trailers and RVs were prohibited! We spent the afternoon doing laundry and bits and pieces so that Saturday would be completely free and we could hike or bike to the falls.
Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature rose steadily until it peaked at 95F. We had some security issues that needed solving with the computer and so in the morning Linda sat working at that and the blog etc. Immediately after lunch we set off on our bikes to Munson Creek Falls. As you can imagine it was boiling hot and when we turned off the main road it was uphill for the majority of the way. We were in the full sun with absolutely no areas of shade and Linda moaned and whinged and sweated all of the way there which was about 2 miles, with Seamus reacting in much the same way minus the moaning. We arrived at the car park looking as though we had already stood under the falls, which of course we had not yet seen, and oh joy we then discovered that we had to walk, yes uphill, for another quarter of a mile. As we rounded the final corner we met with a “trail closed” sign. There had been a mudslide but fortunately we could see the falls from the path and they were quite impressive and even Linda agreed that it had been worth the slog to get there. We had a chat with a family from Montana and then a couple from St Augustine, Florida joined us – it was all very pleasant. Riding back was sheer bliss – just one small hill to go up – and then downhill all the way. The wind was actually hot as we free-wheeled back to our campsite. We spent a while trying to improve our picture of a Rufous Hummingbird that we had taken earlier but it would not play the game!
South Beach State Park:
On Sunday we were on the road by ten o’clock as we had about 70 miles to go to our next campsite which we had chosen not to book and so we needed to be there fairly early. On the road we saw our very first porcupine but sadly it had been the victim of a road accident – it was much bigger than we had envisaged it – about two feet or so in length. We passed many banks of the most beautiful poppies and daisies. The first state park that we passed had a full sign posted campsite full but we were not unduly worried because it was the only state park in Oregon that is in the middle of a city but then we came to the next one which we knew was a large site and that was also full we were not so confident. However, we pressed on and when we came to South Beach State Park the sign announced that it had vacancies – phew! We pulled in triumphant that we were going to be in luck and just as we turned towards the camping registration we met with “Campsite Full”. We continued and joined a long line of RVs waiting to register. Eventually, it came to our turn and there were just two sites left. The ranger said that we might struggle to get in as it was a tight angle but we were confident at backing into tight spaces and so we took – there was just one night available. We drove to our site and with Linda directing and Seamus driving we got in very easily. We set up, had our lunch and rode our bikes along the path to the beach. The pavement lasted for half a mile and at one point Linda made an unscheduled departure from her bike when the gears had not behaved themselves but she has improved enormously in that department as she managed to remain on one leg!! Then we had to abandon our bikes as there was a drop off into soft sand. When we reached the beach we laughed because the fog was in and you could not see a thing! We walked about a mile and a half and then decided to turn back as it was getting quite cool and our hair was actually wet from the fog. We retrieved our bikes and took another cycle path to South Jetty which was a day use area. We could see that the path went into town and the marina and decided to explore – this side of the jetty the sun was out and the fog cleared in no time at all. We rode around the marina and watched fishermen carving up their Albacore Tuna fish – they made it look so easy! We noticed that there was a visitor’s centre (The Hatfield Marine Science Centre) which we thought might be worth a visit and managed to find it - eventually. It was one of the best visitor’s centres we had been to – it had lost of live exhibits including an octopus, many huge starfish, various fish including clown fish and many interesting posters – they even had a telephone system that allowed you to call up the sounds of the various whales. We left at 5pm which was when it closed and made our way back to Harvey.
On Monday morning we were up and breakfasted and on our bikes headed for the registration booth by 9.30am in order to secure a site for at least another one but preferably two nights. It was very cold and we wished that we had put on more clothes – ie trousers and an extra jacket for Linda. The system in this park is the most bizarre that we have come across. Some of the staff have not got a clue what is happening and we managed to get one of those the first time. She asked if we could come back at 11am because no-one had checked out and she did not know if they would have any sites available and no, you could not put your name on a list for a site. So, basically, if you came back 5 minutes after someone else arrived for the first time and there was only one site available they would get it and you would lose out. Linda managed to bite her tongue and drag Seamus away before anything at all was said but honestly, they ran a computer system which would tell them if they had any sites which would come available that day! We rode back just after 11am and this time we saw someone who knew exactly how to use the system and she said that we could have a site for two nights – it was not easy to get into but she was confident that we could do it since we had managed the other one – ah that was nice. However, although we paid for the site we had to return to collect our hang tag because the present occupiers had not yet moved out. We do not understand why it could not simply be issued but on the understanding that you could not occupy the site until after the others had checked out – still, ours was not to reason why. It was soup for lunch because it was so cold and then the sun came out and it was really warm. We checked out of our site just before one and then went into a holding area until we saw the people from the site we were going into go passed. We got our precious hang tag and then went to park Harvey. It was not an easy manoeuvre and we amazed onlookers at how we got into it. One man tried to be helpful and said to Seamus that he might find it easier to…… and he said no he just needed to look at his wife’s directions or he would be in big trouble (making the slit throat sign) and the guy fell about laughing but he later congratulated us on our teamwork and expertise. We just had time to get on our hiking boots and walk to the start of the afternoon ranger-led hike. We arrived at the meeting place but there was no-one to be seen. As we had walked up to the venue we noticed a ranger and three youngsters heading off at 1.45pm but we assumed that they were doing a different programme. How wrong we were. He had decided to leave 15 minutes early and so we missed out. We walked part of the trail on our own but it was not particularly interesting and so we went back for our bikes. We rode out to the South Jetty again and had a good look around. We saw a bald eagle go over the water and settle on some rocks, Linda saw two of her beloved brown pelicans and we watched the cormorants flying up and down. We decided to ride up to the marina and go out on the little pier where folk were crabbing. Linda expected it to be much the same as when Nicky and Tim go crabbing on the south coast – with lines and bacon bits. Not a bit of it – here they used cages and chicken legs!! We howled with laughter at one point because what we believed to be an elephant seal appeared jostling with something in its mouth and when one of the crabbers pulled up his basket his chicken leg was nowhere to be seen!! It had turned cold again and the fog seemed as though it was looming again – time to go back to Harvey for the day. As we cycled back the bald eagle flew over our heads with his tea in his claws – a fish.
On Tuesday morning we headed, with Harvey, back up the coast to Boiler Bay State Park to see whether we could spot any whales. There were none to be seen but we spent a very pleasant hour or so looking out to sea and we found a new bird for us, the American Oyster Catcher. We then decided to head back to Depot Bay and park up so that we could visit the Whale Watching Centre. We found a space about a quarter of a mile out of town and walked back into town. As we entered the Centre we saw that five whales had been spotted that day and we were so distraught that we had missed them! We looked around the exhibits and out to sea but alas nothing. Linda then found a very well informed volunteer who told us that he would follow the coast down to a scenic loop road and look there. He said that in the bay they come in as close as that “booeee”. We said pardon and he repeated it and then we realised that he was pointing to a buoy! Unfortunately we already knew that we could not take Harvey on the road that he was suggesting and when we explained our situation and that we only had one day available to us, he said that he was absolutely sure that we would see a whale if we took a boat trip. The ticket office was just across the road and we could not get there quick enough. The ticket girl said that they had had good sightings that day and we could go on the boat leaving at 2pm, an hour away. We rushed back to Harvey, grabbed a bite to eat and packed our trousers etc in case it was cold out at sea. We made our way back to the boat dock where we were to wait for the “Tackle Buster”. As we stood there on the wooden dock, the most gorgeous grey and white seal came to entertain us. We boarded our boat and the captain told us that they had had excellent sightings on his previous trip – our adrenaline was really going now! We headed out and round the bay and were told to keep a lookout for the “blow”. He invited everyone to the front of the boat to keep a lookout but Linda was worried about the rucksack as there was nowhere to put it and it had a camera lens in it and so she hung back. And there it was, Linda spotted the blow, which was the whale exhaling - a spout of water shot 12 feet in the air. She yelled “there is one” but typically the wind was blowing her voice away from the people at the front and no-one could hear her. Eventually, the captain heard her cries. All in all we saw five Gray Whales including a calf. They would blow across the surface about three or four times and then take a deep dive and at this point their tales came right out of the water. Our closest encounter was around 40-50ft away from a fully matured whale which was 40-50 feet long. It was incredible and one of the most thrilling experiences of our trip. They are magnificent creatures despite their severe halitosis which you could most definitely smell when downwind of the blow!! We were both absolutely delighted with the trip and felt that it was worth every cent of the $18 fee per person for about an hour (Seamus got his first discount of $2 for being over 60 – Linda was worried that he would ask for an increase in his pocket money!!!!). We made our way back to Harvey and decided to head out to Rocky Head where we knew we could park and look out over the sea for our afternoon cuppa. We sat on a bench looking out and it was not long before we were elated – we saw the whales blow. They were headed back up the coast again feeding on the krill. It was a very special day for us.