Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

I had just an evening and a few hours the next morning to explore the Alabama Hills. I got in after dark and it was very windy and cold Halloween night so I didn’t want to spend too much time outside. I shall return with more time to explore the Movie Road and Movie Flats to find the locations of the arches and television / movie shooting locations. The Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine will provide a history and has information and self-guided tours of the area.

Alabama-Hills-Movie-Location-Map

Map of several of the Alabama Hills movie sites

These hills, arches and rock formations on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada are in the shadow of Mount Whitney just west of the California town of Lone Pine. Located right off the road to Whitney Portal, the starting point for climbing the 11th highest peak in the United States and the tallest in California, this BLM land is open for exploring, hiking, astronomy, camping and exploring. The formations are part of the same geological formation although geographically separate from the Sierra Nevada Mountains just adjacent to the east

Mines in the area were named after the Confederate Civil War ship the CSS Alabama by sympathetic confederate miners of the time and then it became the name of the entire area. When the Alabama was finally sunk by the USS Kearsarge in 1864 the mining district, a mountain pass and peak and a town were named Kearsarge by sympathetic union miners.

Used by television and movie productions for filming, especially Westerns. Since the 1920’s this rugged environment has been shown in approximately 150 movies and a dozen television shows. A few of the early television shows have been Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, The Gene Audrey Show, The Lone Ranger, and Bonanza. While Gunga Din, The Walking Hills, Yellow Sky, Springfield Rifle, The Violent Men, Bad Day at Black Rock and How the West was Won are some of the Movie Classics. Current Films have included Gladiator, Django Unchained, Iron Man, Man of Steel, Firefly and Tremors.

Nighttime is just as impressive as the landscape during the day as the Alabama Hills is a Bortle Class 2 “average dark sky” site. On a clear moonless night many star formations and the Milky Way appear brightly in the night sky.

Fort Stevens and Ecola State Parks, Oregon

After a restful nights sleep I make a small breakfast, pack up and head out for the short 1-hour drive across the Columbia River into Oregon for a visit to Fort Stevens State Park. Located in the far northwest tip of the state this park is bordered on 1 side by the mouth of the Columbia River and on  second side by the Graveyard of the Pacific This 4,300 acre (17.4 sq km) park has much to offer to its visitors; walk or drive along the beach, hike coastal and forested paths, bicycle along bike trails, camp, beachcomb, birdwatch, visit a shipwreck, explore an abandoned military installation used during the Civil War and World War II. Or just relax and enjoy the area.

Fort Stevens Park Map

My first stop was to see one of the shipwrecks along this stretch of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Along with approximately 2,000 other ships since 1792, the remains of the Peter Iredale now rests on the sandy beach. Only a portion of this 275 foot (83.8 m) long steel ship remains, grounded where she came to rest in 1906 from a navigation error in dense fog by its Captain due to the areas treacherous weather and storms. It has become an attraction since the day it grounded on the sandbar.

 

Next stop was Fort Stevens. First built in 1863-64 during the Civil War it was in use up until the end of World War II, it was part of a 3-fort system at the mouth of the Columbia River to defend this waterway and ports from attack by sea. The other 2 forts were located in the state of Washington; Fort Canby at Cape Disappointment and Fort Columbia a few miles up river from Fort Canby. (For my visit to Fort Canby and Cape Disappointment see LINK)

Day 2-26

Fort Stevens installation map

 

 

 

During World War II a Japanese submarine fired upon Fort Stevens in June of 1942, making this fort notable as being the only military base on the Continental United States to be fired upon by an enemy since the War of 1812. 17 rounds were fired at the fort with no real damage being done.

After a full morning of exploring the buildings and small Fort Stevens Visitors Center – Museum I enjoyed a late picnic lunch and continued my journey south on Highway 101 to visit Ecola State Park. This 9 mile (14.5 k) long stretch of beach lets you enjoy hiking, picnicking, tidepooling, surfing and scenic coastal vistas. Located just north of Cannon Beach, OR I leave Highway 101 and travel the13 miles (21 k) of twisty narrow roadway into the north area of the park to see Indian Beach Day Use Area. This secluded beach is a spot frequented by surfers, beachcombers, and tidepool explorers and is reached along a short path down the hillside to the beach. Extending north is a network of trails that will provide a 2 ½ mile (4 k) loop trail to the top of Bald Mountain or continue north to Tillamook Head trailhead which is part of the Oregon Coast Trail. The loop trail is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Tail, walked by Lewis Clark and a band of men from the Corps of Discovery to search for a beached whale in 1806. They were hoping to return to Fort Clatsop with whale blubber as they fought hunger from their time there. They sadly return empty handed.

Day 2 Ecola State Park Map

 

 

 

After this beautiful day of exploring I returned to my car and drove the 2 hours back to my home to plan the next trip in a few weeks, south to visit my family and friends at the home I just moved from.

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Named by Captain John Meares’ 1778 disappointing sailing to find the mouth of the Columbia River for trading. Being turned away by a severe storm, he named this place Cape Disappointment. While in complete contrast Lewis and Clark’ s Corps of Discovery cheered as they completed their journey with their first sight of the Pacific Ocean on a bluff on Cape Disappointment.

“Cape Disappointment Map 07-27-16”

Cape Disappointment State Park is far from being a disappointment. Steeped in Northwest history, it is a place to explore U.S. military and maritime installations, learn more of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition and their effects on native tribes of the area. Camp, fish, hike old-growth forests, roam around freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes and ocean tidelands. Marvel at the breathtaking views from the highlands above the sea and wander the beaches that are enjoyed by kite-fliers, beachcombers, sandcastle builders and those who just love to walk. Hike to 2 lighthouses that guided the mariners to the mouth of the river and kept them from becoming victims of the Grave Yard of the Pacific.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

I began my day at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and one of the Battery’s of Fort Canby that defended the entrance to the Columbia River from the mid 1900’s to the end of World War II. The Interpretive center is a museum providing a history lesson of The Corps of Discovery’s journey from settled America along the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Walk along the history path in its interactive exhibits that will entertain all ages. Sitting right above Battery Harvey Allen of Fort Canby to the inland side and overlooking the Pacific Ocean from its cliff side perch it is a wonderful place to start your visit to the park.

Off to the south from the ocean-viewing platform of the Interpretive Center you see Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Start the hike to the lighthouse in the Interpretive Center’s parking lot. You’ll walk through dense forest glimpsing ocean and river views as you make your way to the oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest. Built in 1856 to warn the ships of the treacherous currents and obstacles of the river bar at the mouth of the river.

Continuing on driving I thought I made a very wrong turn as I saw a sign for Waikiki Beach. It is a short ¼ mile (0.4 k) walk to the beach. It was still overcast when I visited although I suspect it would be a nice place for a picnic lunch and to watch the waters and vessels of the Columbia River float past.

Continuing my exploration of the park I stopped a short time later at the trailhead to Battery 247 that is perch on a hill in a strategic location overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. Very deteriorated and overgrown it is an interesting structure to wander through. Although being small I recommend bringing some type of flashlight or headlamp to go deeper into the underground ammunition building. This is also the area where Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery first laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean.

Following the road a little further leads me to the campground. I wish to see if I wanted to spend the night here. I found it to be a nice place right along the ocean and went back to the entry station to reserve a site for the night. I wanted a quiet spot to relax for the night so selected site #157. My site is not right along the beach, although a few are, but only 200 yards (183 m) away. In this group of 9 campsites there were only 2 other sites being occupied.

 

Having settled my accommodations for the night I drove up to North Head Lighthouse to walk the pathway to the base of the lighthouse. This second lighthouse was built as the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse left a section of coast unprotected from a mariner’s point of view. Built 190 feet (60 m) above sea level in 1898 this 65’ (19.8 m) tall lighthouse is still functioning and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. This is located on one of the windiest places along the west coast with recorded winds of up to 120 MPH (321.9 km/h).

Finished for the day I returned to set up camp and have a snack before I took a walk along the beach outside my temporary front door. The beach was an easy walk although exploring higher up the high tide line finds many logs that have been deposited along the beach during the severe storms coming in off the Pacific. Many small windbreak structures have been built by visitors add to the cozy feel of the beach.

Deciding to go back and grab my camera tripod, I return to the beach to watch the sun setting in the west. After a wonderful rest and watching a beautiful sunset I proceed back to my camp, fix a small dinner and climb into the tent early to do a little reading then to fall asleep listening to the waves crashing into the shore.

I will return here again to continue exploration of the trails in the area. The 1.5 mile (2.4 k) Coastal Forest Loop trail, Bell’s View Trail, the 1.5 mile (2.4 k) long North Head Trail and the south portion of the coastal Discovery Trail will be on the short list of walks.

I continue my journey in the morning crossing back into Oregon to visit Fort Stevens then head a little further south to see another fantastic beach.

FORT VANCOUVER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

This National Historic Site has a long history on the north bank of the Columbia River, starting as a Hudson Bay fur trading post. The Park is a collection of 4 distinct sites, Old Fort Vancouver, The Village, Pearson Air Field and Vancouver Barracks, each having a history of transition, settlement, manufacturing and conflict.

“Old Fort Vancouver”, visited before (LINK) which I will discussed more in a future post, was established around 1825 by the Hudson Bay Company. Serving as the main headquarters of the Company’s interior fur trade from Russian Alaska to Mexican California and everything west of the Rocky Mountains.

IMG_3685

Reconstructed Old Fort Vancouver

“The Village” provided the area for housing the workers and their families who supported Fort Vancouver. Established in 1829 it had a population exceeding 600 and was one of the largest settlements in the west at that time.

“Pearson Air Field” first used the Polo Field of the Vancouver Barracks as a site for aviation enthusiasts to gather and show off their aerobatic skills in the early years of the 20th century. During World War I a Spruce Production Mill was built on the Polo Field to supply aviation grade lumber in the manufacturing of war planes. After the war the Spruce Mill was removed and “Vancouver Barracks Aerodrome” was built, in 1925 it was christened “Pearson Air Field,” after Lt. Alexander Pearson. I will go into more detail of this part of the Park in a future post.

Continue reading

Canada / Alaska Adventure in July-August

All right my trip is getting closer and I’m in the final stages of preparation. Vehicle is ready just needs final fluid changes before leaving. Camping gear is waiting. GPS route is set and just the final tweaks and additions are being done.

2018 Tillamook

Will be leaving Southern California on July 9th heading to Vancouver, WA along Highway 395 for the birth of my 4th grandchild. Leaving Vancouver I will head to Glacier National Park, Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada then start the northern push to Dawson Creek, B.C. and start the drive there at Mile-marker Zero on the Alaskan Highway (Al-Can to us older folks) to Watson Lake, Yukon.

Turning off the Alaskan Highway at Watson Lake I’ll be on Canadian 4, a gravel road, to make my swing to Dawson, Yukon and the Arctic ocean at Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. At this, my furthest point north, I start my swing back to Dawson and turn west to continue along the Top of the World Highway to Tok, Alaska.

Leaving Tok I will go south on the Alaskan Highway to Haines Junction and continue to Haines, Alaska along the Haines Highway to ferry across to Skagway and head back to the Alaskan Highway along the South Klondike Highway. I will leave the Alaskan Highway just before Watson Lake and turn south onto Canadian 37, The Cassier Highway, to Prince George, BC. From there I will continue south along Canadian 97 making my way back to the border and return to Vancouver, WA to visit my new grandchild before returning home south along Highway 101.

I have found during research a great resource for the area called, “The Milepost”. this details the Alaskan Highway and side-routes in Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukona nd Northwest Territories. I also picked up a camping guide named “Traveler’s Guide to Alaskan Camping” that includes all the Alaskan Highway and the same side-routes in it’s pages. Although this book was written for RV’s in mind it is good source for me, tent camping, to hit some campgrounds with services such as WIFI, showers, and laundry facilities along the way. It ranges from private, to Provincial Parks, to free camping areas along the roads.

milepost-book.jpg

 

January 27,2018 Bickel Camp Fundraiser

 

IMG_3425

Good Morning, 6:30 AM 28F degrees

Well I am heading back out to Bickel Camp, Burro Schmidt Tunnel and a ranger led hike into Nightmare Gulch in Red Rock Canyon State Park for a fundraiser to help offset expenses on the upkeep of Bickel Camp.

Bickel Camp is full of mining equipment on display at this historic 1930’s era mining camp. The camp is still there to be visited by the adventurist explorer. Luckily this has remained on the “Adopt-A-Cabin” program and there is a caretaker on site to help explain and protect the remaining historic artifacts. Donations to help preserve and maintain the site are appreciated. 2 of Walter Bickel’s granddaughters were there walking us around the camp and telling of the fun they had out here when they visited. They told us one story of Bickel finding a stranded motorist in the desert and helped him get unstuck, turned out it was Jimmy Durante. Another interesting fact was that both Bickel and Schmidt were in the service during WWII, living within sight of one another they had a strong friendship and even rigged up automobile headlights so they could send messages back and forth in Morris Code. And yes the light at Bickel Camp is still standing.

For a full history on this wonderful place to visit follow this LINK.

 

After wandering around the camp and being entertained by first hand stories from the granddaughters we all head the few miles down the trial to Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel to explore the hand-drilled tunnel nearly a half-mile long that was dug with a single 4-pound jackhammer, and dynamite.

For additional information see my previous post LINKED HERE.

 

Next up it was to find our way back to asphalt and turn south into Red Rock Canyon State Park and the hike into Nightmare Gulch. We all meet-up for a short lunch stop at a park rest area before heading out the dirt road to the trail head. Although we did not do the loop we drove as far as we could to the official trail head and took a 5-mile total out and back hike into the canyon. Led by 3 Bureau of Land Management rangers we were given lessons in history, geology and ecology of this area. It was a great hike and took most of the afternoon.

 

Leaving the trail head at about 4:30PM I still had a 3 hour drive home. Arriving home at 7:50 PM I was exhausted as I got up at 3AM to get there and meet someone at the turnoff to the Camp. This adventure was wonderful as I met new adventurers and discovered this magnificent canyon that I will return to to follow the entire loop trail.

New Years trip to Washington – Part 2

Up at 7AM in the dark, I showered, packed and departed to visit some painted ladies of the town. No not that kind, but the beautiful Victorian Houses located throughout the city of Eureka. My Air BnB host told me of Hillsdale Street and Carson Mansion as places to see fine examples of this Victorian, Queen Anne style of architecture.

These wonderful homes are located throughout the city in various stages of maintenance that go from restored to dilapidated conditions, along Hillsdale Street they are well maintained and are a great display of this style of architecture. Visiting Hillsdale Street lined with these homes brought back such a noustalgic past life that would have transported me back in time if it weren’t for all the modern cars parked out front.

 

Next stop was to have a breakfast consisting of 2 blueberry pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, hash browns and a large glass of orange juice to fuel my day of sightseeing along the California and Oregon Coast, yes I was hungry and finished it all. I planned to visit several scenic overlooks and lighthouses along the way to my next stop just north of Coos Bay, OR only 218 miles (350.8k) and 4 ½ hours of drive time north.

My first stop was still in Eureka, just down the street from breakfast, the Carson Mansion. Placed on the Historic American Building Survey in 1964 it is one of the most photographed Victorian homes in California. Completed in 1884 it has been a private club since the 1950’s.

 

My next stops, lighthouses in Trinidad, CA and Crescent City, CA were also recommended by Patricia, my B&B host.

Prior to satellite and electronic navigation sailors relied on dead reckoning, compass and visual sittings to sail the waters of the oceans, during the darkness of night they relied on the stars and visual sightings. Many ships were lost due to running aground due to heavy weather along dangerous coastlines.

Fires built on hilltops once defined port access and placing that fire on a tall platform increased its visibility out to sea. Later lighthouses were located along coastlines to help define the coastal shoreline and locate dangerous areas that could sink a ship. In heavy fog, that is quite common along coastlines, so a light and foghorns (bells in olden times) warned mariners of hazards.

 

Trinidad Lighthouse is only 20 miles from Eureka located on Trinidad Head a small section of land jutting south out from the coast defining the harbor entrance. Built in 1871 the small 20-foot (6.1m) tall tower sits on a promontory 176 feet (53.6m) above the sea. Originally consisting of the light tower, a single residence, and small barn; a fog bell house was constructed in 1898 with a 4,000-pound (1,800 kg) bell that was operated by weights. The Trinidad Civic Club erected a facsimile of the tower in 1949 at a park overlooking the harbor and installed the original lighthouse lens in its structure and the 4,000-pound bell displayed alongside the tower. This Memorial is now under protest by local Native Americans stating it has been built on an ancient burial ground.

 

62 miles (99.7k) north of Trinidad is the Lighthouse in Crescent City on Battery Point. This lighthouse built in 1855 is on a tiny point of land that is only accessible during low tide. Built in a Cape Cod style of architecture this lighthouse survived the March 27, 1964 Alaska earthquake tsunami that hit the city and killed 11 people.

 

Heading into Oregon I stop 35 miles (56.3k) north at Whaleshead Beach to walk along the sand and enjoy the coastal scene.

2 to Coos Bay-18

Whalesehead Beach, OR

Another 58 miles (93.2k) later I stopped at Cape Blanco Lighthouse at 3 PM. A lighthouse sitting on 200-foot (61m) high cliffs jutting 1-½ miles (2.4k) out into the Pacific Ocean, this forested head of land had to be cleared of the spruce forest so the light could be visible from sea. Getting out of the car was a struggle; the wind was blowing so hard I could barely stand up. Walking the ¾ mile or so path to the lighthouse along a ridge-line didn’t interest me today so I leaned against a pole just to get a steady photo of the lighthouse. I’ll return on a future trip to visit this one.

 

On the way in off Highway 101 I noticed a sign leading to the Hugh’s Historic House (Hughes Ranch) that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, I decided to go in and see it, as I didn’t make the journey to the lighthouse. Situated behind a hill it was in the calm leeward side away form the strong ocean winds. Built in 1898 for the dairy farm of Patrick and Jane Hughes this Victorian style two-story house was home to Mother, Father and 7 children. Local church groups decorated every room for the Christmas Holidays. The well appointed home with authentic furnishings was a joy to walk around and listen to the curators tell of life of the inhabitants.

 

Finishing the day’s 218-mile (350.8k) trek in North Bend, OR I stop for the night at a Quality Inn Hotel at 5 PM to rest for my final push to Vancouver, WA the next day. A nice clean quiet typical motel room awaited me that evening for another great nights rest.