Exploring Bandon: Washed Ashore, Cranberries and Crabbing

Cosmo the Tufted Puffin – He sits on Coquille Point overlooking off shore rocks where tufted puffins nest

Bandon has one of the more unique galleries I have visited in our recent travels – “Washed Ashore, Art to Save the Sea.” Of all things, this organization takes trash that has been removed from Oregon’s beaches and creates artistic sculptures from the waste. Their purpose is to educate the public about plastic pollution in oceans and waterways and encourage positive changes in the use of every day items. Each piece of art is designed and directed by a professional artist and then formed through the united effort of Washed Ashore team members, volunteers and students.

Angus the Cowfish In front of a bleached coral reef

When I visited Washed Ashore there were about 10 sculptures inside the gallery, two located outside and one on the bluffs above Bandon’s Beach. I was told by the staff that they have more pieces than usual as often they are on traveling exhibitions. For example, some of the pieces were recently at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Whale rib cage

All of the pieces I saw were of marine animals, including the whale rib cage (above) which was located near the entrance. Signs at each piece include information about environmental hazards for the particular animal. The organization notes that 80% of marine debris comes from “land based sources – from streets to streams to rivers to oceans.” On the whale rib cage sign there was a list of items found in the stomach of a dead gray whale on the Washington Coast which included plastic bags, towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, duct tape, fishing line, and a golf ball. Each sign also has a “Can you find” section on the trash that was used in that piece. In the whale sculpture it was bucket lids, bleach bottles, buoys, soap bottles and bait traps.

The musical sea star was a fun sculpture because it was made from glass bottles and taking the mallets provided you could gently hit the bottles to create a tune. This sculpture has plastic bottles lining the arms with many from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Steve the Weedy Sea Dragon sculpture requests reducing plastic use to keep more plastic out of the ocean and provide a cleaner environment for sea creatures. Marine animals can mistake plastic for food. Suggestion was to carry a reusable water bottle and reusable bags.

Plastic pieces cut from a laundry basket

The manager gave me a little tour of the work shop where volunteers sat at tables working on projects for upcoming sculptures. The blue plastic pieces in photo above are being strung on wire to create a sea bed for a fish. When I asked what the cut up blue pieces were from, he went to a back storage room and came out with a laundry basket. Yes, it was easy to see that a lot of plastic pieces can be cut from a laundry basket. Anyone is welcome to sit at a table and do some “crafting” even if they are just a visitor and not part of the Washed Ashore team.

Bella the Angelfish

“Bella the Angelfish on a Reef” symbolizes the danger imposed on coral reefs and their inhabitants due to human impact including plastic pollution. Trash used on this sculpture includes toy shovels, toothbrushes, fly swatters, water bottles, bottle caps, buoys and shotgun shell wads. This trash as well as trash from other sculptures was gathered on beaches by volunteers.

Zora Belle, Rockhopper Penguin

Posters on gallery walls show pictures and provide information on the plastic problem. Here is some information noted on one of them: Almost all the rope used by fishermen is made of plastic; broken plastic pieces are the most common debris found; cigarette lighters wash in from all over the world; white is the most common color of plastic found; red, yellow, tan and orange plastics imitate the colors of food for many animals.

The organization is dedicated to the cause of educating the public while at the same time finding a positive use for trash by turning it into art. It sure made an impression on me. I am giving more thought to my use of plastic throwaway containers like bottles and grocery bags.

Bandon cranberry bog

Bandon calls itself the “Cranberry Capital” and during our stay I was really hoping to see a cranberry bog, something I had never seen but only read about. Bandon supposedly has the sandy soil and coastal climate that is ideal for growing the berries and Ocean Spray has a plant in Bandon. We were coming at harvest time and during one drive I saw a bright red bog with workers in action.

Raking the berries

Later, I did some research and read that the night before harvest the bogs are flooded with up to 18 inches of water. A piece of equipment called a reel, nicknamed “egg beater” is used to loosen the berries from the vine. The ripe berries are then able to float and rise to the surface where they can be gathered. While I watched I saw two men raking the berries and moving them to a conveyor belt so they could be lifted onto a truck.

Using a “boom” to corral the berries

I also watched a worker use something called a “boom” to round up or corral the floating berries. I couldn’t help but think it would be fun to wade in a pond full of cranberries. As I drove back to our trailer after watching the cranberry harvest I reflected on how fun it is to be able to travel the country and see different things being harvested. We were staying in Louisiana during the sugarcane harvest and when we were in Maine last summer it was time for harvesting wild blueberries. This past July we were in Michigan just in time for the cherries.

Cranberries that are wet harvested are processed for juice and sauce. Fresh berries that are sold in stores are dry harvested. A local grocery store in Bandon had fresh cranberries in bulk. Because the growing season is longer in Oregon than cranberry producing states back east, the berries here are darker red in color. I bought some and using apples I got at the local farmer’s market made cranberry applesauce.

Old Town Bandon has a marina and one day when I was there for the farmer’s market I came upon crabbing action on the pier. Crabbing is a popular sport or pastime on the Oregon Coast and people stood along the pier waiting to pull up their traps and see what they caught. I thought it was interesting that chicken legs were used as bait because sea lions won’t eat the chicken. One lady I talked to was there with her husband and two young daughters. When they finished crabbing they were headed to the woods to do some wild mushroom gathering. They weren’t having much success catching any crabs that day. I watched one man haul up his trap but the crabs were too small to keep.

Crab trap with chicken legs on the bottom and an undersized crab
Big enough to keep!
For those that don’t want to cook their crab, a local crab shack at the marina will

When I got back from my outing I told Mark that it would be a neat experience to get a crabbing license, rent some traps and try our luck on the pier. He looked dubious about this and after we talked about it for awhile I realized that it would be a lot of trouble getting the equipment, baiting the traps, hauling and throwing them in and out and then dealing with those squirming crabs. I think the squirming crabs is what settled it for me. But it was fun to think about and fascinating to watch others doing it.

I had never seen this before coming to Bandon’s pier – what a great idea!

I hope you enjoyed a look at exploring in Bandon. More to come on our Oregon Coast trip!

Finding the Best Beach in Bandon, Oregon

I think I found my favorite beach ever … or at least one of my favorites. I had high expectations for Bandon’s Beach after reading reviews and articles. I was looking forward to exploring the sea stacks, rock formations and tide pools. The beach did not disappoint. In my opinion it is not the kind of beach where I would lay down a towel and relax. It is perfect for exploring and that is the kind of beach I like.

Bandon was the first town where we stayed as we made our way up the Oregon Coast. Since we were in Bandon for a week, I was able to explore the beach on multiple occasions. The beach is vast in size – wide and long, so there is plenty to see and experience. There are two main access points – Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint and Coquille Point. Both of these areas have parking on the bluff and then a long set of stairs down to the beach.

Some of the rocks have pointed shapes like this one

Perhaps my favorite formation was Cathedral Rock with its sea cave and tunnels. It is not often I get to explore this kind of formation and I do love caves. The main room was quite high; I would guess about 15 feet and as large as a living room. From the main room were a few tunnels going to the other side of the cave, but I was cautious while exploring these as I didn’t want to get caught by a wave rushing in.

Cave entrance on the right side of Cathedral Rock
Tunnel in the sea cave
Another tunnel in the sea cave
Sea cave entrance on the back side

Below is a photo of a “window” which I really enjoyed finding.

These rock formations are under the protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. It is an important sanctuary for nesting seabirds like Tufted Puffins, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Auklets, several species of gulls and terns. Unfortunately we were there too late in the year to see the birds which would have been quite a sight.

With all the many rock formations, the beach has great tide pooling during low tide. I especially enjoyed seeing star fish and the anemones with their bright green color. I was told the starfish were dying so I did some research and read that 90 percent of the starfish died in 2014 on the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico due to a wasting disease. They have recovered though and the population has rebounded along the Oregon Coast. I saw quite a few as I wandered and it was a happy sight.

Giant Green Anemone

Evening is a favorite time here for photographers. They gather with their tripods and camera equipment although I don’t use a tripod and wander around unprofessionally snapping photos. They were wearing rubber boots so they didn’t have to worry about “sneaker” waves getting their feet wet. After I saw some of them wearing their boots I decided to wear mine the next day. I had been on the beach for only five minutes in a channel between two rock formations when a sneaker wave rushed in and went over the top of my boots soaking my feet. I think I need something taller or better than my Walmart specials.

The “Elephant Rock” formation has an arch that was a great spot to catch the rays of the setting sun filtering through.

The Elephant Rock Formation

I thought the rock formation on the far left in photo below had the oddest shape. It reminded me of a long finger with pointy nail.

The most famous rock formation on the beach is called “Face Rock.” When I first read about the rock on sign boards at the parking area I scanned the beach to find the right formation and see if I saw the face. I didn’t have much success and then in the fun of exploring just forgot about the rock’s significance. When I was going through photos for this blog post the face all of a sudden jumped out at me. Some how when I was taking the photos I don’t remember seeing it. Can you see the face in the picture below? It is on the righthand side of the rock and is supposed to look like a young girl looking up at the sky.

Face Rock – From a Coquille Indian legend this is the face of Ewauna, an Indian princess
Another view of Face Rock

If you ever make a trip to the Southern Oregon Coast, don’t miss a stop in Bandon to see this amazing beach. The town of Bandon has more to offer so stay tuned!

Hiking the Redwoods in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve and includes two state parks, Prairie Creek Redwoods on the southern end and Jedediah Smith on the northern end. We stayed near the southern end of the Park near Prairie Creek Redwoods. In a previous blog I wrote about exploring Fern Canyon which is located in Prairie Creek. There are a number of other trails in Prairie Creek so in this blog I will write about hiking three.

Trillium Falls Trail – Redwood National Park

One of my all time favorite nature experiences is walking through the redwoods. There is nothing else like these tall trees in their lush green forests. It is pure magic walking among the tallest trees on earth. Coast redwoods can grow to over 300 feet and live to be 2,000 years old although most live from 500-700 years. My favorite hike during this trip was the Trillium Falls Trail and except for the first 1/2 mile or so, I had it all to myself. I was in awe of the redwood groves here. I thought this was the perfect redwood hike – a little up and down for some exercise and change of scenery but nothing difficult. The scenery was spectacular, the redwoods magnificent.

Walking in these woods I thought about the healing power of trees and Shinrin-yoku. I wrote about Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) in a blog last year about Lum’s Pond in Delaware. We had camped at the state park there and I spent some time walking the forest trail around the lake. It was the perfect place to try out forest bathing which is the art and science of healing the mind and body by immersing one’s self in the forest. This involves leaving the distractions of our lives and using all the senses – sight, sound, touch and taste to experience nature. Forest bathing is supposed to reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, increase energy, improve mood and concentration.

Walking by exposed redwood roots – Trillium Falls Trail

To learn more about this practice I read an informative and interesting book written by Dr. Qing Li called “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness.” Dr. Li is considered an expert in forest medicine and has worked with patients at forest bathing centers in Japan. If you are interested in learning more about this practice I highly recommend this book. I got the book on Kindle and it includes beautiful photographs of Japanese forests. I had never thought before of Japan having such gorgeous forests! The book will change how you view a walk in the woods, time spent among trees and the importance of nature in our well-being.

Perhaps the most well known trail in Redwood National Park is the Lady Bird Johnson Trail. The former First Lady came to this site and dedicated Redwood National Park on November 25, 1968. She returned on August 27, 1969 to be honored by President Nixon with this grove of trees. This was in recognition of her devotion in protecting and creating natural habitats for the public to enjoy. At 1.5 miles the trail is short and easy to do, so many visitors to Redwood National Park like to walk it. Unlike the other redwood hikes I did that were lowland trails, this one is located at 1,200 feet on a ridge.

Hiking the Lady Bird Trail – Redwood National Park

Located at this grove is a signboard with a photo of Lady Bird standing on a hill surrounded by a clear cut redwood forest. It was a sad situation that heavy logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries destroyed much of the old growth forest. Today, most of the trees in Redwood National Park are second growth, although some old growth do remain. I am so thankful for our national park system and the efforts made by conservation groups to save lands that without their efforts we might not have today. Redwood National Park was saved through the efforts of the State of California and Save-the-Redwoods League that acquired hundreds of groves. As I walked the trails, I often came upon memorial groves that were purchased and dedicated to civic groups, family members and friends.

Mark dwarfed by the redwoods on the Lady Bird Trail

Starting at the Prairie Creek Redwoods Visitor Center are several trails leading into different parts of the forest. I chose the recommended Prairie Creek Trail which follows through some of the most impressive stands of trees and lush forest.

Tree tunnel on the Prairie Creek Trail

At one point I met two women hikers, one was down at the creek looking for something. It turned out they were salamander hunting. They said the salamanders are quite large here but so far they had only come across a baby one. I walked with them for awhile as they turned over rotting logs and searched the water’s edge with no success. We did find many mushrooms and large orange wood decay fungi on a downed tree. I actually saw little wildlife on my redwood hikes, not even banana slugs which are usually a sure sighting in a redwood forest.

Wood decay fungi

I came across one of the park’s oddities – the unusual Corkscrew Tree that has four intertwined trunks reaching for the sky.

Corkscrew Tree

As I have said before, in my opinion there can never be too many ferns in the forest.

I hope you enjoyed a look at some of the hiking possibilities in Redwood National Park – one of my favorite places to walk! In my next post we travel on to the Oregon Coast with our first stop in Bandon.

Camping With Elk on California’s Redwood Coast

Elk Country RV Resort and Campground

After leaving Chico for our road trip to Oregon our first camping spot was at Elk Country RV Park between Trinidad and Orick, California. Besides a location near the redwoods, I chose this park because it advertised having a herd of wild elk that roamed the camping area. It is not often you get to camp near elk so this was the spot for us. The elk did not disappoint. Although they frequently moved around and at times were not seen, they usually made a showing some time each day.

While checking in, the campground office gave us a paper called “Elk Rules.” The page was actually full of information such as the following: “DO NOT approach the elk, keep your distance from them, give them their space by staying about 75-100 feet away. DO NOT look an elk in the eye, they consider this a challenge. Look away if they are staring at you. Calmly but quickly walk away from them. Elk live here, or rather we live with them. They will graze anywhere within the campground, schoolhouse, barn and pasture. Elk are often grazing around RV’s, tents and cars. Take a look before you go outside your trailer or tent.” My favorite was the following: “If the herd prevents you from returning to your site, you can always go up and wait at the store porch or find an Elk Country Rv Resort staff member and they can help you.”

It is true that if the elk had decided to hang out at our camp site we would not be able to chase them off and go back into our trailer. We talked to one couple who were camping with a tent and they had that happen to them. They returned one day to find their tent surrounded and had to just wait it out until the elk left. In the photo below, about six males decided to relax right next to a motor home. They were there for quite awhile.

One of the main things visitors want to see when coming to Redwoods National Park (RNP) are the elk. There are a few meadows in RNP where they hang out but I never saw them at those places. The elk found here are actually called Roosevelt Elk, named for our former president Teddy Roosevelt who worked to preserve them. He created what is now Olympic National Park mostly as an elk reserve. Roosevelt Elk can be found in the Northwestern states, on the coasts from Northern California up into British Columbia. I read that these elk are a success story as at one time they were hunted almost to extinction with only a few hundred animals left. Today they number in the thousands. There are four subspecies of elk and the Roosevelt are the largest in body size. Rocky Mountain elk though have the largest antlers.

Elk traffic jam on Highway 101

The historic one room Stone Lagoon School is located on the campground in a large meadow. This is a popular elk hangout and can be seen by travelers driving up Highway 101. I remember on my first trip up the redwood coast many years ago seeing this building with the elk nearby.

Stone Lagoon School

Besides having the elk as neighbors, we really enjoyed this large and lovely campground. Although we never saw elk at our site, we did have a flock of quail come to visit. Mark also alerted me to a fox that ran by and I followed it near a grassy area where it posed for some photos taken with my long lens.

Hard to imagine we have lived in this little trailer for over two years!
Gray Fox

We were fortunate to be less than a mile away from a really nice, secluded beach in Humboldt Lagoons State Park. It had been awhile since we had been on the Pacific Coast as our travels the past few years have been focused so much on the Eastern U.S. It was great to be close to a Northern California beach again. Here are a few sunset photos from our visits there.

Orick was the town closest to our campground but it didn’t offer much in services and appears to have seen better days. There are no gas stations here but a general store had one ancient gas pump with a price of a mere $4.69 per gallon. Yikes! We got the minimum amount and decided to get a full tank in the town of Klamath further north. The owner herself suggested this. I was surprised that a town bordering the southern end of Redwood National Park did not have eateries and gas stations. Redwood carvings are popular here and the shop next to the one pump store had some fun looking ones.

Redwood National Park offered some great scenery and walks, so stay tuned for my next post!

Did we make it through the tree? Nope, not even close

Exploring the Wonder of Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park on the California Redwood Coast is loaded with ferns. I love seeing the forest floor and hillsides full of them. But one place in particular really celebrates fernery and is aptly called Fern Canyon. The first time I came here was over 18 years ago during an Oregon/Washington road trip with my sister, daughter and niece. We were all amazed by our visit and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Mark and I also came here some years ago and it was still just as wonderful. A return to Fern Canyon was definitely in order. I would love to visit this place every year if I could as it is that special.

My $6.00 Walmart rubber boots saved the day

I am glad we talked to the rangers before driving out to the Canyon. We visited the Redwood National Park Visitor Center a few days before and were told that the Canyon was accessible, but the footbridges over the creek had been removed for the season. A visit guaranteed wet feet. I decided we should bring our rubber boots and it was the best decision as we were able to walk through the creek and keep dry.

Creek Crossing on Davidson Road to Fern Canyon

Getting to Fern Canyon is a bit of an adventure as it involves driving for some miles (about 10) on a winding, narrow dirt road with a couple of creek crossings. One of the creeks was rather wide but it was no problem for our truck. Once we reached the parking area it was a short walk before entering the Canyon where Home Creek flows. Since it is later in the year, I was a little surprised at how well the creek was flowing. As I said earlier, I was very happy about our rubber boots. While others were rock hopping and enduring soaked shoes, we could happily splash in and out of the creek. I think I spent most of my time walking in the creek, as it was just more fun that way.

Fern Canyon is well known for having 50 foot walls covered with ferns. These walls and all the fallen logs and branches give the Canyon a primeval look and feel. It is not surprising that several movies have been filmed here including “Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs” and “IMAX: Dinosaurs Alive.”

There are five different kinds of ferns growing here including five fingered, sword and lady. The National Park Service page describes these ferns as an “ancient species” dating back over 325 million years. In addition, there is lots of other foliage giving the Canyon a lush, tropical look. In some areas moss covers the walls and misty sprays from the top keep everything soaked.

Water sprayed down on me and the moss was soaked and dripping

Although the Canyon is fairly open most of the way, at one point there was a tangled mass of downed trees, stumps and logs. It looked like we wouldn’t be able to go further but we were able to pass under the trees and continue on.

A few obstacles in Fern Canyon
A few more logs to climb over

Fern Canyon can be done as a loop hike with steps that lead up the hill to a trail in the forest and back to the beginning. We didn’t want to leave the creek and fern covered walls though and decided to continue further up the creek until there wasn’t any where to walk and go back the same way. This was a perfect walk, I just wish it had been longer as it is under a mile each way and I hated for it to end.

The Canyon narrows and the trees/shrubs get thicker

On this trip I took this walking stick that I am embarrassed to say I have been meaning to use for close to two years but keep forgetting to take it along. This stick has a bit of a story. When we were staying at a campground next to the Mississippi River we met one of our neighbors. Although we only had the opportunity to talk to him a few times, he kindly surprised us with this stick. On the river’s edge he found a willow branch which had been gnawed by a beaver. He turned it into a walking stick, writing in pen the date and place it was made (Vidalia, Louisiana). A thoughtful gift that shows we have met some of the nicest people on the road.

It seems to us that Fern Canyon is one of the more difficult places to take photos because it tends to be dark and shafts of light beaming in wash out the photos. I say this because I don’t think pictures can do this place justice. It needs to be seen to be appreciated. If you haven’t been I hope you will consider a trip here some day. There is also lots more to see in the area since it is part of Redwood National Park. The redwoods are incredible and the beaches are pretty great as well. Check out the gallery below for several more Fern Canyon photos.

In my next post more about our stay on the California Redwood Coast!

Our Time in Chico, CA and Fall Plans

Pool party time – my parents and daughter
Our grandsons Luke and Levi enjoying lunch after a swim

I thought I would update on what we have been up to the past few months. From the end of July to the first part of October, we stayed in Chico so we could be near my parents. My mother had to have emergency surgery and we are so thankful and pleased that she had a full and quick recovery. For some time she has been back to her normal activities – she is a tough one! When we first arrived in Chico we stayed at the RV park where we usually stay when visiting my parents – Almond Tree RV Park. This park is less than two miles from their house and is a really nice spot for short stays. Unfortunately, they have a two week stay limit and we wanted to be in Chico longer than that. I did some research and found another RV/trailer park about a mile down the road. It was reviewed as once being a “problem” place full of questionable residents that gave the Park a bad name. Enter a man named Eddie who became the manager, rousted the ones who wouldn’t follow the “law” and peace ensued.

Mark and I showed up to see if we could convince Eddie to take us in as residents. At first he was doubtful as our RV is smaller than ones usually accepted there. But it happened that a small site was being vacated the next day that could perfectly accommodate our rig. After filling out the rental agreement and other necessary paperwork we were accepted. We affectionately nicknamed it the “gravel pit,” because well, there is nothing but gravel there. But this place was just what we needed. It was very quiet and peaceful, close to my parents’ house and also close to shopping, restaurants and other businesses. In addition, the monthly cost was very low and Eddie was a great landlord.

Yeah – we finished it!

Our two plus months in Chico were filled with lovely visits with my parents, sharing meals (my mom is a very good cook) and great talks full of reminiscing. Together we watched many baseball games as my dad is a big Giants fan and catches all the games. Mark and I never watch sports so this was a new thing for us and I learned some things I didn’t know (or had forgotten) about the game. Watching baseball games is more fun than we thought (except for all those looooong commercials 😞 ). During the games (and other times) my mom and I worked on this puzzle of the Anza Borrego Desert which was rather challenging, more so since we did it on a flowered table cloth and it was too long for the end of the table!

My dad and I at the Food Locker – making sure shelves are stocked and bags are packed

Staying in Chico meant attending church with my parents and helping out on Wednesdays at the Food Locker which is sponsored by the Catholic Ladies Relief Society. Food and other provisions are provided to the needy and my mother has volunteered here for 20 years 😃 .

Heirloom tomatoes at the Chico Farmer’s Market
Lots of stands have flower bouquets for sale at the Chico Farmer’s Market

I had been missing the food and restaurants in California and Chico has an abundance of good ones. There were great lunches at Sierra Nevada Brewery, Beatniks, Priya’s Indian for the buffet, Hula’s Mongolian Grill and Great Harvest Bread. We liked getting Italian food at California Pasta Productions which makes their own homemade noodles and sauces. On Saturdays I made sure to go to the Farmer’s Market which is one of my all time favorite outdoor markets. Among other things, the tomatoes, nectarines and bread were standouts.

Diving in without first getting used to the water – pretty good for an almost 86 year old

My parents live in a beautiful, tree filled neighborhood that comes with a clubhouse and large pool. That pool was a welcome treat in the hot summer weather and my dad and I took advantage of it on several occasions. We arrived at Chico when temperatures were often in the mid to high 90’s, even breaking 100. Our trailer air conditioning couldn’t handle the heat by mid afternoons and often shut off. Getting exercise outside was not a popular option for us so we headed to the local mall to walk inside. It was the perfect place to do some laps and I got in some fast power walks, getting in a little better shape than when I arrived. Sadly, the Chico Mall like so many around the country are becoming like ghost towns with fewer and fewer shoppers. Who knows how long many of them will hang on.

Walking with my dad under the tall oaks in Bidwell Park

When the temps cooled down after August we walked in Bidwell Park which in my humble opinion is one of the best parks in any town/city I have visited. The Park features amazing huge oak and sycamore trees and is very large (11 miles in length) with a road and many paths for walking, biking and horseback riding. The focal point of the Park is Big Chico Creek which flows year around. Due to the beauty of the trees, the original “Adventures of Robin Hood” movie starring Errol Flynn was filmed here in 1938.

Big Chico Creek flows through Bidwell Park
My dad at one of the bridges over Big Chico Creek

The best part of our Chico stay were all the family get togethers. Besides my parents, we were able to visit with my sister, brother-in-law, son, daughter and family, two nieces and a great-niece. It was such a blessing to see everyone again.

From left: Mark, niece Emily, daughter Shannon, son-in-law Jonathan, son Matt, grandsons Luke and Levi

We celebrated my dad’s birthday while we were there. Our family has always enjoyed gag gifts and years ago when our son Matt was a pre-teen, my parents gave him a broken tennis racket as a gag gift. Matt was wanting a new racket for Christmas and he was known for having busted a few while playing. This year Matt decided to return the favor and give his grandpa (once an avid tennis player) a busted racket. It brought lots of laughter from everyone when he opened his gift.

My dad with his bent tennis racket
My dad enjoying a homemade sniff and scratch birthday card from the great-grandsons
My dad with his great-grandsons

We also enjoyed trips to visit at the home of our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons who live south of Chico near the Sacramento area. We enjoyed their new spa and beautifully renovated backyard. It was great to be together again.

As I write this we are sitting in our little trailer in an RV park in Bandon on the Oregon Coast. We just arrived here today, the 37th state of our RV travels. After leaving Chico we stopped near Redwood National Park on the Northern California Coast for five nights. We had a wonderful stay there which I will be writing about in future blogs. For the rest of October and into early November we will be exploring Oregon, first making our way up the coast. Stay tuned!

Exploring Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula

Relief map of the Keweenaw Peninsula

After leaving our campsite near the town of Munising and the Pictured Rocks area, we traveled west to the Keweenaw Peninsula for our last stay in Michigan. The Peninsula is the most northern part of the state and juts out into Lake Superior. It was the site of the first copper boom in the United States. There didn’t seem to be many campgrounds to choose from but we did find one in the town of Ontonagon and reserved a spot for one week. I thought this would be a good location as it was central to the main town of Calumet to the north and also in the vicinity of Porcupine Mountains State Park and Bond Falls to the south. Our campsite was basic, inexpensive and situated across from the Ontonagon River.

Ontonagon River with Yellow Yarrow wildflowers

The River is most well known for the Ontonagon Boulder discovered near the shore in 1667, exact location of discovery unknown. It is a 3,708 pound boulder of native copper that is now held by the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C.

During our short stay in this town I found two main things of interest. The first was the Ontonagon Lighthouse which can only be accessed with a tour guide. The tour ended up being myself and one other family who met at the local museum and then were driven by van to the lighthouse built in 1866. One of the main keepers was a man named James Corgan who began work here in 1883 and remained for 37 years, retiring in 1919 when he was 71. Mr. Corgan is credited with saving the lighthouse when fire 🔥 broke out in Ontonagon in August 1896. The fire destroyed the town including sawmills and the Diamond Match Company, the town’s main enterprise. Mr. Corgan and his family carried water from the river, keeping the roofs and buildings wet to prevent igniting. The light was discontinued in 1964 and in 2008 restored to its 1915 appearance.

The tour was given by a life-long resident of Ontonagon, who reported he was 80 years old. He really knew the history of the town and lighthouse. Inside we were able to visit all of the rooms as well as the light tower. Although, me and those spiral staircases ☹️ .

Lighthouse living areas

After driving back from the lighthouse tour I saw a small hand made sign on a street corner advertising music that night by Peter Yarrow at the community theater building. I pondered if this could possibly be the Peter of the “Peter, Paul and Mary,” trio, the famous folk group in the 60’s and 70’s. I found out it was indeed and there was no way I was going to miss this show. I really enjoy the music of Peter, Paul and Mary and had never seen any of them performing live.

Peter Yarrow and his son Christopher

During the show Peter was accompanied by his son who played the washtub bass as well as a talented duo called “Mustard’s Retreat.” This turned out to be one of the most fun musical evenings I had been to in years. Peter encouraged lots of audience participation and we sang along with him during many of the songs, including: If I Had a Hammer, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Blowin’ in the Wind, Lemon Tree, This Land is Your Land and El Salvador. When it was time for Puff the Magic Dragon, he asked that all the children come on the stage. Well, there was a real lack of children in the theater that night but a few adults came up. He insisted that more join him and a few more came including myself. On stage we all sang about Puff together and it was a memorable experience. Throughout the show Peter was personable and funny with frequent messages promoting good will. He encouraged love and acceptance as the remedy for society’s ills. During the intermission he invited people to come and say hello and get a hug.

After intermission which included homemade cookies and punch (at no cost and something you don’t usually find in a big city) the concert continued as Peter played requested songs from the audience. When it was getting close to 10:30 and he had been performing for over three hours, even I a night owl was starting to get a little tired. After all, you can only sing along so long 😊 😊. I was amazed by his stamina and exuberance especially since he is now 81 years old. When the show ended I thought it was the best $20.00 I had spent in a long time. I was glad my eye had caught the small Peter Yarrow sign on the street corner.

The town of Calumet was once the center of the copper mine industry and a National Park (NPS) Historic Site Visitor Center is located there. The day we drove up we found a parade getting ready to start. Turned out this was part of the Upper Peninsula Firefighters Tournament which was in its 125th year. The tournament included fire departments from various towns competing in skill races and other events. We were glad we came at just the right time because we watched dozens of fire engines, both vintage and new as well as floats travel the downtown streets of Calumet.

One of the most clever floats was put together by the West Iron County Fire Department from the town of Iron River. Dressed like KISS band members they rocked and sang their hearts out.

Mark and I were surprised to learn that hockey had its beginnings in this part of the Peninsula. The nearby town of Houghton claims to be the birth place of organized professional ice hockey and home of the world’s first all professional ice hockey team which began in 1902. So, it made sense that there would be kids from ice hockey teams in the parade. We were especially interested to learn about hockey in this area because our son Matt has loved and continuously played the sport for 26 years, since he was nine years old.

Young hockey players parading past the former St. Anne’s church and carrying a sign “Calumet is Hockeyville USA”

The NPS Visitor Center was a place to get our passport book stamped and see all the exhibits regarding this once booming copper mining town. We learned that the copper rush began here in the early 1840’s, before the California gold rush got going in 1848. For about 40 years, Michigan surpassed all other states in copper production. Several copper mines no longer in operation can still be toured and are a popular attraction in this part of Michigan. Today, Arizona remains the top copper producing state.

Remember the pasties we ate in Munising? Miners carried them in these tin pails

I really enjoyed seeing Calumet’s historic buildings and many were built with Lake Superior sandstone. In the later years of the 19th century small towns with wooden buildings in the Keweenaw Peninsula were ravaged by fires. Sandstone was seen as a much better alternative as it was prized for its beauty and toughness. I always love seeing historic churches when we visit new places and I admired two very beautiful sandstone churches – St. Anne’s, a former French Canadian Catholic Church and now a heritage center with the National Park Service and St. Paul Catholic Church, built in 1902 and still holding services.

St. Paul Catholic Church

Calumet has several museums and we spent some time at the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum. It was built as a fire station in 1898 with the rear of the station functioning as a stable for eight horses that pulled the fire wagons. The horses were used into the 1930’s even though the first mechanized fire truck arrived in 1919. During the winter the wheels were removed from the fire engines and sleigh runners attached so the fire trucks could be pulled to fire locations by the horses.

Calumet Fire Museum

The museum has a variety of historic fire wagons, engines, memorabilia, photos and information. The first mechanized fire truck was the La France pumper made in 1919 and shipped to Calumet over the ocean and then by rail.

First mechanized fire truck

Perhaps the most well known historic sandstone building is the Calumet Theater which was built as an opera house in 1900. Many famous performers of that era came to this opera house which still has shows today. I was hoping to see the inside of it but it was closed even though we were there on a weekend. I was told at the Visitor Center that the buildings are staffed by volunteers and hours of operation are therefore limited.

Calumet Theater

This finishes our Michigan exploration as the next day after our visit to Calumet we had to return to California for a family emergency. In my next post, I review our time in California and plans for the Fall.