An old dog runs again - Amy Schmitz

An old dog runs again

Sept. 17, 2017

We used to have to drive about 9 hours to get to the mountains.

Now it takes less than 2.

And that proximity to our favorite places completely changes traveling. Mikey, Winston, and I made our way south to visit the Oregon coast last month. It was our third time, and it was a whole different experience from the other times. I felt so relaxed when we got home because I felt like I still was there. I am still there. I live there.

With no 12-hour driving days, we got to bounce around, stop wherever we pleased, and even backtrack a little. I think I grinned the whole week.

Our biggest traffic concern was getting past the shit show that we expected central Oregon to experience the weekend before the solar eclipse. We were quite happy to drive straight through central Oregon and skip the path of totality. I hear it's amazing, but we don't do crowds.

Instead we drove right on down I-5 and hopped over to our favorite coastal highway, the 101. We revisted Redwood National and State Parks in northern California and spent our first night in the Element.

When we arrived, I grabbed my hydration pack and ran a few miles around the Mill Creek campground.


Motivation: One of the reasons we returned to this park was to get a new Redwood sticker for the Element.


The next morning we headed south in the park for our first beach visit of the week. 

After hitting a couple of visitors centers to collect our new Redwood sticker and some local glass artwork of banana slugs, we made our way back up Highway 101 to Oregon.

When we've driven into southern Oregon in past trips, the California fog has given way to sunshine, but this time we drove through heavy smoke cover in Brookings.

Smoke over the Pacific/And then it got DARK.


We started to get a little concerned our next two nights of camping were going to be a bit unhealthy, but southern Oregon came through after all.

Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint


Looking back at the smoke cloud we had just driven under.


Winston used to show no interest in fetching sticks, but on this day he couldn't get enough.


About a half-hour later we arrived at Humbug Mountain State Park, where we've stayed twice before. We have some wonderful memories at this park.

I went on another solo run, my only paved run of the trip.


We then took Winston for his first of many runs on the beach.


The next day was Monday, Aug. 21, the morning of the total solar eclipse. We headed for the beach and at first were the only people out there. I was surprised, but as the eclipse started some fellow campers made their way to join us.

About 15 minutes after the start of the eclipse.


20 minutes until peak. You can see the eclipse in some of the lens flares/We were in 94 percent of total coverage.


I picked up free glasses from our local library a few weeks before we left. I was impressed we managed to keep them undamaged while camping.


The waves seemed to die down a bit as the peak approached/Fellow campers look at the sun 1 minute before peak eclipse.


Winston doesn't love photography as much as Mikey and I do, but he put up with hanging around these rocks for more than an hour.


As the moon moved away from the sun, we headed over to the north part of the beach. Last winter a storm changed the flow of the creek through the beach. Instead of cutting straight through like it used to, it now hugs the base of the mountain. This also allows for access to a cave that Stinkie Dog repeatedly wanted to visit. But we never let her get as close as she liked because the waves crashed hard into the wall there.

So Stinkers finally got to visit her little cave. As the moon still mostly covered the sun, we spread her remains inside.

Mikey and I felt chilly after our eclipse-filled morning, so he put on some layers, and I ran up the mountain. Although the sun was intense in the morning, clouds and a breeze moved in that afternoon, and we found it difficult to stay warm.

My third summit of Humbug. It really is about the journey, not the view at the top of this mountain.


I came back to the boys trying to stay warm in what little sunshine our campsite had.


I thought Winston would be totally turned off by the idea of joining us in the hammock, but he jumped right in when given the command. 


That evening we ventured out to our favorite beach one last time. The tide had come and gone that afternoon, and there was no evidence of Stinkers visible in the cave.

Sunrise the next morning over Humbug.


The sky stayed cloudy overnight. (Probably much to Winston's delight, as I had planned on taking some night sky photos that night.) And we headed north Tuesday morning, unsure of our next campground.

We ended up at South Beach State Park, where I took Winston for a few 3-minute repeats of easy running on the beach. You see, Winston began limping this spring and didn't get to run from May to the middle of August. He's been seeing a vet who does physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, laser treatments, and other specialities. We've been doing a lot of soft-tissue work and exercises to improve his posture. The limp is gone, and we're building his mileage back up.

I handed Winston off to Mikey and finished a few more miles without the knucklehead.

I ran past the crowds and had total solitude.


Mine were the only footprints I saw.


That evening we kept dry from the mist and enjoyed a little campfire by the Element. (Hurray! The fire ban had been lifted.) The clouds remained, and we set off north again in the morning.

Sleepy a.m. Winnel snuggles.


Wednesday and Thursday ended up being filled with lighthouse hunts. First we sought out the lighthouse we could see across the jetty from South Beach.

Our first attempt, Yaquina Bay, wasn't it/Looking south across the foggy bay.


LOL, Newport, Ore.


We found it at Yaquina Head, about 5 miles up the coast.

Which apparently is a GREAT place to see gray whales!

We then made a quick stop at Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area, which to be honest, was kind of a disappointment. It was a little busy, and visitors aren't allowed anywhere near it.

But Oregon redeemed itself at our last (impromptu) stop. I needed to pee, so we pulled into Hug Point State Park and ended up walking up and down the beach. Mikey took a pretty picture of me (at my insistence — I could probably stand to update my Facebook profile picture).

Hurray, iPhone portrait mode!


We would have loved to camp in Fort Stevens State Park by Astoria, but it filled before we arrived. (We rarely make reservations, so we often get to explore new places by going wherever we can park!) So we went ahead and crossed the Columbia River back into Washington and grabbed a KOA spot in Bay Center.

The Element's newest rooftop toy kept us dry for a couple of damp evenings. We really could vanlife it at this point. In fact, we slept in the Element seven nights straight without a hotel break. (I enjoyed it a little more than Mikey did. I suspect Winston liked it, too.)


Mikey's turn at Winnel snuggles. But the mutt is always a bit less relaxed when I leave his sight.


We headed back south a little to Cape Disappointment State Park (across the mouth of the Columbia River from Fort Stevens). The campground there was also full Wednesday night, but we both wanted to see it. Mikey has a particular interest in Lewis and Clark history, so he visited the Interpretive Center while Winston and I ran.

First we explored Bell's View Overlook and the North Head Lighthouse.


Mikey insisted I include McKenzie Head, far left, in this shot because of something important to do with the end of Lewis and Clark's journey. (I promise I was listening, but I'm typing this three weeks later. This is why I need to get my photos up faster.)


We took Mikey to his Lewis and Clark exhibit, and I took Winston on his first continuous mile in three months. Then I dropped Winston at the Element and explored a little more of the park on my own.

Hot and happy old man at Waikiki Beach/Cape Disappointment Lighthouse/Looking from the lighthouse toward Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center/Mikey's proof that he saw all the Lewis and Clark exhibits (their campsites and prints of the animals you might see at those locations)/One last look toward Oregon before heading to the Olympic Peninsula.


Since we moved to Washington, Mikey has been asking when we could return to Graves Creek Campground, which we first stumbled upon (because Cape Disappointment was full) on our first trip to Washington six years ago. I was a little worried it wouldn't live up to his memories, but we found it just as beautiful — although drier — as the first time.

Almost primitive: No showers, no cell service, but this campground has everything we need. Quinault River, giant trees, night sky with no light pollution, and plenty of places for Mikey to hang his hammock.


The next morning I ran along the Quinault, a beautiful 1,200-foot climb, to Pony Bridge.

I was pretty proud of myself for taking that narrow log bridge on the way back. My vertigo didn't kick in at all!


After my run, I attempted to re-create my homepage photo (so much less gray on his face six years ago!), but Winston doesn't love to cooperate for portrait sessions. See how much greener the campground was in 2011? As I type this we are getting our first real rain in three months.


At this point (and really for the previous couple of days) we could have driven home if we couldn't find a place to park for the night. And I really needed a shower. I had run the past two days with only wet wipes (Thanks, Dawn!) for cleanup. I really don't know how Mikey could stand being in the car with me, but he didn't complain at all!

So we headed north, hoping for a campsite at one of Olympic National Park's beach campgrounds or a state park near Forks. Only one of those places had showers.

(Photo is from an unnamed waterfall on our way out of Graves Creek. Even with as dry a summer as we've had, the water continues to flow in the mountains.)

We ended up in Bogachiel State Park about 1 p.m. Friday and had our pick of campsites. The campground didn't fill until about 7 that evening, which really surprised me. This is Bogachiel's last year as a first-come first-served campground, so I'm sure that will change next year.

Mikey settled into his favorite spot while I took a well earned shower/Then I took Winston for a walk down to the Bogachiel River.


We decided to head home on Saturday but first made a side trip to Cape Flattery, the most northwest point of the lower 48. It was a short, easy hike with good views of the cliffs and Tatoosh Island (although we think there are prettier views farther south), and Mikey was happy to see seals hanging out on a nearby rock.

So if you've made it through this ridiculously long post, congrats! You must either really love me or really like photos of the Pacific Northwest! I wrote way too much and included way too many photos even though I've spent the past few weeks editing them down. Yikes. 

But it really was a beautiful trip, and I loved the easygoing flow of our time and travels. Another bonus of moving here!

Oh, and by the way, Winston has built back up to 2.5 miles. I'm not sure how much more I'll ask of him. He needs to burn the energy — not getting to run everyday really messes with his ability to stay calm — but I have to remember he is 11.

And now, I sew. (Because oh wow, it's been way too long since I've finished a project and even longer since I've posted on here about it.)

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