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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Days 11-20: A Change of State

More pictures here!

When I last left off we were just north of Big Sur, California enjoying a full hook-up spot in Marina, CA.   We took a good two weeks to go from that location to our home site on Orcas, and during that time experienced changing three states, one state of mind and one state of being.

There are some folks who swear by the beauty of the Big Sur area of California and I cannot complain about what we saw there:  The amazing drop of the mountains down to the sea and simply the incredible-ness of feeling so remote while being only 200 or so miles from either San Francisco or LA is a feeling not to be missed.  But my money (or so I wish) is on the Sonoma Coast, just north of San Francisco and Salinas.  There, the green, empty hillsides slide gently down to the crashing waves and every other second there is a portion of the Sonoma Coast State Park, just waiting to take your money.

No kidding.  Even the picnic areas charge a day use fee.  Now, I don’t have a problem with that, California is an expensive place, however, when you are driving up this part of Highway 1, pulling a trailer on curves so sharp that Simon, our GPS system, thinks they are actual turns (“Turn left in 100 yards”), there is precious little area in which to pull over and give everyone a break—pee or otherwise.

But nature was calling and provided no choice but to pull into a State Park day use area.  We stopped at the gate and explained that all we wanted to do is let the dogs out to pee; the man said he would have to charge us anyway.   $10 to pee. Many things about California I do not miss and this strict adherence to the rules is one of them.  We crossed sixteen legs and left.  

And what happened to hiking with your dogs in California?  Or enjoying the beach with them?  Trying to find camping or hiking near a beach that allowed dogs was growing more and more frustrating.  We eventually found Wright’s Beach; an unappealing campground (unless you have a choice ocean-front pitch) but on one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in California.  And where, to spite the rules, we let the dogs run off-leash.

Growing weary of the fruitless search for dog-friendly hiking trails in California we set our sights on Oregon, a state we know loves dogs to the extent that they are welcomed on the majority of beaches and you would have to search hard to find a trail excluding them.  Only one thing stood in our way:  Mendocino.

Now, let me just say I have had a long, long, love affair with Mendocino.  Almost everything about it:  The natural beauty; The vibe (Southern California Beach crossed with Northern California Intellectual); and the utter coolness of just being there.  

But good lord not the state of the camping.

We checked out two State Parks, Van Damme and Russian Gulch.  The former being in a tight, small valley filled with mosquitoes and the latter being tiny and cramped and down a one-lane road barely large enough for Salt.  The state of Oregon was really calling now; prior experience with their State Parks had us ready to keep on driving past Mendocino.   But the state of our laundry was demanding a washing stop.  So we parked for the night at the Caspar RV Park which was a typical RV park, way too much like a parking lot, but had the required laundry facilities (albeit in such bad shape that I feared dropping a freshly washed item on the ground lest I had to start the cycle over.)  Life on the road.

We did go into town for groceries and a great dinner at The Flow, where we discovered Russell Henry, a great local gin, and Thackery & Company wine.  A night out was just what was needed to restore my love of Mendocino.

But time to get to Oregon as quickly as possible, changing to a state of less frustration and more love of dogs.

And rain.

We stopped for two nights at Alfred Loeb State Park.  On our full day we set out hiking in a drizzle and came home drenched to the bone.  All of us except for Rosco who, due to his advanced age and occasionally brilliant mind, slept peacefully in the warm, dry truck.

Soaking wet dogs and pouring down rain don’t mix well in 19’ but it is nothing that a local beer and some fish and chips can’t solve:  We headed to the marina with our tablet to get the weather forecast and to plot out the camping plan.

Turns out it was about to be gorgeous.  Not wanting to waste any sunshine, the next day we drove less than 100 miles up the coast to Bullard's Beach State Park, where we grabbed a full-hookup site in a sunny pitch and immediately threw everything outside to dry out.  Que the Beverly Hillbillies theme song--nothing looks as tacky as a sunny campground after a full day's rain.

A great campground (state run again—can’t say enough about Oregon State Parks), where we enjoyed a two mile walk to the beach (dog friendly, of course) and a six mile bike ride to the lighthouse.  My kind of biking!  You know, where you take your high-end mountain bike and turn it into a low-end beach cruiser.  Nice and flat.

Next stop was a bit further up the coast at Cape Lookout State Park.  More beach, more sunshine and what should have been a great hike.  Much recommended, the hike out Cape Lookout was way too crowded and narrow for our enjoyment.  But it was a sunny Sunday and, having lived and worked in the Pacific Northwest, I know the value of that combination.  But between having to carry Rosco, Opus joyfully jumping on anything that moved and River anxiously eyeing anything that moved, we didn’t get anywhere near a hiker’s high.

Time to say goodbye to Oregon.   Ahh well, until next time wonderful State Parks.

Continuing on our coastal route, Alan found us a great spot at Kalaloch Campground in the Olympic National Park, right on a dog-friendly beach.  We drove in around 3:30 PM and found the last pitch with any kind of a view of the water.  Parked Salt at a jaunty angle, opened the door and breathed in the fresh smell of wet trees and salty air.

Being this close to our spot on Orcas Island was making us antsy so despite having landed at our favorite stop so far, we hit the road the next day and tried to make a the 3:30 Port Townsend ferry over to Whidbey Island.  No such luck.  Next available was 6:45 so we opted to spend the night at Fort Worden State Park where we enjoyed a quick bit of tennis (you can really hit the ball hard at sea level!) and a nice private picnic area.  In the morning while Opus was running freely on the beach, I was doing my best to ignore the naked 60-something lady coming out of the water.  But Opus was not having any of that--I think he just saw extra flesh that might be useful in a petting experience.  There was freedom of every sort on this sunny, warm morning. 

Finally ferry day.  I think we only drove 60 miles but we were on two ferries and eventually pulled Salt up to our gorgeous Orcas site.

Orcas, for me, is one of those places where you can’t remember if you have been here an hour, a day, or ten years.  It is like a warm bath, comfortable, soothing and it completely changed my state of mind.  I went from being driven to just sinking in, in less than a day.

And glory be, my favorite laundromat!  Odd to love a business that much, but I could have cried I was so happy to see the gleaming machines and bright, clean floor.  Then I saw the TV and, indeed, cried. 

Prince had changed his state of being.