Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Wandering in the West (Part 2)

A view of the city and the Golden Gate from the Marin Headlands
 After spending a few nice days (and celebratory meals with our son) in San Francisco, we continued our journey up the pacific coast road to Corvallis, where the family was gathering to celebrate Christmas with my brother's family. Before we start that story, though, I need to chronicle Rocky's San Francisco misadventure.  (Click photos for a larger view).

The Tacoma is very easy to navigate around the city- one of the reasons we chose it.

 Our son lives in a nice first floor flat across from Buena Vista Park. The park is a great forested hill in the middle of San Francisco with spectacular views of the city and the bay. It is a popular place to walk dogs, and many owners let their dogs off leash to socialize with other dogs while the people do the same with each other. There are many paths for walking, most going steeply uphill or down- great exercise for both dogs and humans. We enjoy taking Rocky there for walks.

View of the Bay from Buena Vista Park
One morning, we took Rocky as usual to the park for some exercise. He had a great time as usual, meeting dogs and sniffing all the interesting scents. We saw him eating something (not unusual- he is a master forager). We quickly admonished him and moved on, not thinking twice about it.

A few hours later in the apartment, we began to notice behavior changes- he became very agitated, lost bladder and muscle control, developed a fever, bloodshot eyes, became hyper-sensitive to sounds. We took him outside and he calmed down but didn't want to move. When we brought him inside, he got super nervous again. A friend of our son's mentioned a similar incident with another dog and suggested we take him to the vet. There was an emergency vet office not far away, so after debating for some time, we decided to take him in.

The people there were very nice. A vet tech came out to interview us. No sooner did I get the words, "Buena Vista Park" and "ate something" out of my mouth, then the tech said immediately- "oh I know what the problem is- marijuana! We see it all the time." I was stunned. Our dog was stoned!

Evidently, homeless people hide their pot in the park and dogs can find it- they love the stuff. While it seems funny now, it turns out that marijuana exposure in pets is toxic and interferes with their nervous system- resulting in red eyes, poor motor function, an irregular heart beat and/or poor temperature regulation.

Rocky in a calmer mood.

If caught immediately, liquid charcoal can be administered to minimize the effects. In our case, the vet tech said there was nothing to do at this point but let time pass and he would most likely fully recover. This turned out to be true, but it took over 12 hours and a subsequent good nights sleep. The next day, Rocky was good as new. There was no charge for the vet visit since we didn't see a vet- an awesome service! We decided to memorialize the event by renaming Rocky. His new name? Stoner. Just kidding.

With Rocky restored to his normal self and our son's education achievement suitably commemorated, we set off for Oregon. The day was beautiful. The trip across the Golden Gate bridge was as clear as I've ever seen it.

We followed Hwy 1 as it split from Hwy 101 in Marin and our adventure was on again. We passed by the Green Gulch Farm, where I had spent some time many years ago as an instructor for a land conservation retreat and first became exposed to Buddhism. That brought back some good memories. Turnoffs to Muir Beach and Muir Woods passed by- we have been to both on earlier trips. Our first stop was at an overlook where we could see both the city and miles up the coast- what a beautiful day! The weather was just great- sunny and 50's.

The city is visible in the far distance.

The day was extraordinary.

We got back in the truck to continue our drive. The scenery was great- a combination of coast views and rural landscape. We stopped briefly at Point Reyes- a very cool place. It is amazing to see the famed San Andreas fault laid out before you, plain as day, and realize it runs right through some of the most populated areas of the country. Los Angeles and San Diego are moving north along the fault while San Francisco is moving south.

The goal for the day was to see the sunset at Albion (trying to relive an earlier experience- always a questionable endeavor) and then find a place to camp. As it turned out, the sunset was less than spectacular as clouds were moving in and obscured the setting sun, but it was still beautiful. We decided to camp at Van Damme State Park. We were by ourselves, continuing a trend of the trip.

Sunset near Albion.

The next day dawned with clouds and rain. This would turn out to be the weather for the rest of our time on the coast. While we knew going in that rain was the likely weather, our first day had spoiled us. But we soon adapted and the rainy weather became just the way things were.

The second day was filled with one scenic vista after another. As suggested by several folks, we stopped at Roundman's Smokehouse in Fort Bragg. It was good advice. We bought some bacon, sausage and some smoked sturgeon for good measure. As they say on their website, " We'll smoke anything!" The sausage went for breakfast, the bacon went into spaghetti sauce (I know- what?) and the sturgeon was a gift to my brother.

Photo from Roundman's Smokehouse website

Here is a montage of scenic views from the day:

Bridge at Russian Gulch

In the afternoon, we reached redwood country. We drove the Avenue of the Giants in a pouring rain. The trees were majestic and the rain and mist added to the spiritual atmosphere of the place.

We reached Redwood National Park after dark. The park was experiencing a power outage so there were no lights anywhere. We were feeling our way to the campground when suddenly out of the dark we saw shadows of large animals on the road- elk! A small herd was crossing the road right at the entrance to the campground. We continued on to find a campsite- again the only ones there other than the park host- set up in the rain and went to bed. In the morning, we heard bugling. Evidence of the elk's presence was all around the camper- we were parked in their territory.

On the way out of the park, we got up close and personal. Neither Kathy or I had seen wild elk so close. It was quite an experience.

Two young elk sparring.

Nice rack on this old guy. Yes, we were in the truck.

After leaving the redwoods, we returned to the coast for another day of scenic vistas:

A scenic detour on gravel near the mouth of the Klamath River- originally an access road to facilities used to monitor the coast for invasions during WWII.

Cape Blanco- local boosters call it the most western point of the lower 48. It is the most western point you can drive to (Cape Alava in Washington is generally considered most west). Very windy too.

Seven Devils Park.

A side trip to the South Slough National Estuarine Reseach Reserve near Coos Bay.

 Our final camp on the coast was at Honeyman State Park. This park had quite a few people camping- our first experience of the trip with people in a campground. Even so, we didn't have neighbors. Had a nice hot shower and managed to set up the tarp well enough to permit cooking out of the rain.

 In the morning, we toured around the park a bit before leaving. It looked like a great park to visit in the summer, with dunes, fresh water lakes and great facilities.

We had a tip from my brother about the Darlingtonia State Botanical Preserve- just off the highway. Nice place for a walk in the rain.

More pitcher plants than you can shake a stick at.

Another tip was to stop at the Sea Lion Caves. The place looks like the worst kind of tourist trap from the road. Not a place we would normally stop. We are glad we did. What an experience! The cave is the largest sea cave complex in the world, reached by an elevator that travels down over 200 feet through the rock. During the winter, it is filled with sea lions- nearly 300 the day we were there. With the waves crashing in and the sea lions roaring, the noise was deafening. A very cool site.

A view from the sea cave of Heceta light house in the far distance.

After the sea lions, we continued on to Corvallis,with a stop at Mo's Annex in Newport for some tasty seafood chowder.

To be continued...

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