About Mary Ames Mitchell

Writer, Graphic Designer and recent RVer. Check out my website at www.MaryAmesMitchell.com.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Epilogue

Ann Delfin sent me the group photo that our PleasureWay RV group took of ourselves on the last night of our nine-day rolling rally. Here it is.

PleasureWay RV Club Lighthouse Rolling Rally - Group Shot

PleasureWay RV Club Lighthouse Rolling Rally – Group Shot

Here is a map showing the lighthouses and RV Campgrounds we visited.

Lighthouse Rolling Rally

Thanks again Tim O’Malley for organizing everything.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Final Days

I’m posting Days 12 to 14 from home because I was either out of cell-civilization or driving. And when I first got home and let Annie out in the backyard, we found a little squirrel trapped there. Something was wrong with his forelegs. He could run like mad, but not climb. After closing Annie in the house, I fetched a large cardboard box from the garage, somehow managed to get the squirrel to fall back into it, quickly closed the flaps, and placed a drawing board over the top of the box to make sure the frightened little guy couldn’t get out. WildCare is only a few blocks from my house. They told me I could call in 24 hours to see how he is. I think he must have fallen from the very high oak tree into my yard during the two weeks I wasn’t there and broken his right arm. He would have been in pain but had plenty to eat and no one to bother him until I arrived.

Anyway, by the time I got home again, unpacked Ramsey, emptied his tanks, and washed him down, I was too blasted to blog. However, I had been writing nightly in Notes on my iPhone, so now all I have to do is copy and paste.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Day 12 – May 14 – Brookings to the Redwood Forest

Closing in on the border of Oregon and California, one of our tasks this morning was to fill up with gas, which I did in Gold City at $3.25/gal for regular. I later passed a station offering $3.19/gal, but oh well. The first station in California would start at $3.79/gal. For the guy in the motorhome filling up next to me, whose credit card wouldn’t allow him to buy more than $100 worth of gas at a time, that was a much bigger deal. I’m going to miss having my gas pumped for me as they do in Oregon.

Some 20 miles later, I wove from 101 to the beach in Harbor, Oregon, just past Brookings, and found the privately owned Pelican Bay Lighthouse overlooking a parking lot, a boat yard, and an RV park that skirted the beach.

The RV Park might be fun to stay at there in the harbor.

According to Tim’s info sheet, this lighthouse was built by a Bill Cady in 1999. He simply wanted a lighthouse as part of his beach house. Oregon’s most southern beacon can be seen 11 miles out at sea. The US Coast Guard officially commissioned it to guard the mouth of the Chetco River.

Our next stop was Crescent City, California’s most northern port, guarded by the Battery Point Lighthouse. Crescent City is situated at the culmination of the mighty Smith River.

According to the only two of us (not including me) who arrived during the narrow window of 3:00 and 4:00 pm to view it, the volunteers give a terrific tour and explain how the lighthouse survived the tsunami back in the 1960s.

The working lighthouse sits on an isthmus that, except for an hour twice a day at the high tides, is cut off from the mainland. Most of us arrived at 10:30 am ish when the path was under water.

I discovered that back in California, my T-Mobile worked better, so I stayed in the parking lot after everyone left, posted Day 11 on my blog, ate lunch, and gave a tour of Ramsey to a couple of curious looky-loos who were also hopping from lighthouse to lighthouse, only in a sedan.

The most exciting part of the day for me was the drive through the Redwood National and State Parks. As mentioned on previous blogs, one of my goals when purchasing Ramsey last May 30, 2017, was to visit all the National Parks in the contiguous US before May 2027. I wanted to visit all the National Parks in California before May 30, 2017. When I got my passport stamped on this day, I achieved that second goal. Yeah! And like all the parks, Redwoods National Park is awesome.

Home tonight is under the majestic trees at the Emerald Forest RV Park.

Since some of us will start our trips home tomorrow after visiting the remaining lighthouses on our itinerary, we gathered in the aptly named Celebration House to honor Tim, who had organized this fantastic rolling rally.

We took a terrific group photo that I hope someone (Andy?) will share with me.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Day 13 – May 15 – to the Mendocino Coast

The last day of our PleasureWay Owners West Coast Group Rolling Rally started with coffee clusters and a few goodbyes.

Larry, Maureen, and their Fred were among the first to depart.

Some of us, including me, would continue south on our own after seeing the last three lighthouses. Some would only visit two of the lighthouses, return to Emerald Forest RV Park in Trinidad and have one last campfire together.

Trinidad Head Lighthouse, only 2.7 miles away, should have been easy to find, but it was the most difficult of the entire trip. It didn’t help that our GPSes were not connecting to the satellites there in the rocky coastal village surrounded by redwood forests. (BTW Trinidad, founded in 1850, is the oldest town on the Northern California coast.)

We were misled by the “replica” we found near the wharf once we negotiated the hairpin turns to reach it. All of us thought, “that’s it?” with a great deal of dismay. Some shrugged and departed for the next lighthouse. Andy and I investigated further and were told the real lighthouse, built in 1871, was just around the bend of the path we could see leading up the hill.

Making our way along the path we had some gorgeous views of Trinidad harbor.

45 minutes later, after hoping at every turn to view the lighthouse and following every “spur” along the path, we came to a locked chain link gate with a sign informing us that the lighthouse was open to visitors only the first Saturday of each month.

Returning to the wharf, we ignored the placard that said the lighthouse “is not visible from this point” and walked to the end of it. After our last fruitless attempt to see the real beacon, we submitted to being content with the replica.

Moving on, we drove 24.3 miles to Eureka, where the Table Bluff Lighthouse that once stood at the end of a sand spit guarding the entrance to Humbolt Bay, now decorates the parking lot of the restaurant on the harbor’s wharf.

Andy, Peggy, Cindy, Don, June, and I ate lunch at the restaurant, most of us choosing their clam chowder, which was yummy, and all of us enjoying getting to know each other a bit better. By nature, Class B RV owners are traveling adventurers with interesting stories to tell.

Andy wanted to seek out the ruins of the foundation where the lighthouse used to be. So I followed his rig to the end of the sand spit, where we got out and traced a sandy path between the flowering ice plant to a clearing identified by broken bricks scattered around. Further inspection under the brambles uncovered the old granite steps and the remains of the foundation. I’d mistakenly left my iPhone and camera in Ramsey, so no pics, sorry.

Andy turned north from there and Annie and I headed south to the final lighthouse on our itinerary, the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse. It too was moved from its original location farther north after its duties were taken over by an automated light buoy. Including my stop near a farm for a half hour nap, it took me three hours to get to the lighthouse in Shelter Cove. This jewel and it’s gorgeous location did not disappoint.

First I drove down HWY 101 parallel to the Avenue of the Giants (redwoods), which I have cherished several times in the past. At Redway, I turned coastward along the Briceland Thorn Road, wiggling and wiggling and wiggling through more rocky mountains covered in forests.

Turning on Shelter Cove Road, I climbed over a very steep grade over which you virtually drop straight down to sea level and the tiny town with the lighthouse sparkling in the center.

I asked the man who checked me in at the RV Park across the road from the lighthouse if everyone arrived with their brakes smelling of burning rubber. He answered, “Pretty much.”

He also encouraged me to take the walk starting with the steps that descended the bluff below the lighthouse,

past the rocks covered with cormorants and sleeping seals (“baby ones, too”),

along the pebbly beach around the cliff, and ascend again by the road leading from the bluff to the boat ramp.

From the boat ramp, I watched a hang glider take off. After about 20 minutes gliding around, he (or she) landed on the airstrip between the RV Park and the edge of the bluff.

I watched the sunset from my rig and slept to the sound of crashing waves. The lighthouse was right outside my window. I never would have come here if I weren’t looking for the lighthouse. I’m so glad I did. This camping experience tops on my favorites list.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Day 11 – May 14 – Cape Blanco

Cape Blanco, named by the Spanish for its 200-ft white cliffs, is Oregon’s most western point and one of the windiest. The lighthouse there was nearly closed to those of us who visited on Saturday because the wind speed nearly topped 50 mph. It was still a challenge opening and shutting doors when I arrived yesterday, Sunday.

The only difference between the layout of this building and the others we have seen is there is no passageway between the keeper’s workroom and the three-flight stairwell. We visitors were allowed to climb the iron stairs to the walkway that surrounds the lens, a different perspective from climbing into the lens as we did at the Umpqua River Lighthouse.

As usual, we got a lovely view of the Oregon Coast.

We’ve been told by all the guides that Fresnel lenses came in six grades. Grade 1 lenses were the biggest, over seven feet tall and over 2000 lbs each. The lens in the Cape Blanco Lighthouse is an unusual Grade 2E manufactured by Henry-Lepaute in Paris in the mid 1860s and first lit in 1870. Our guide didn’t explain what the “E” stood for, just that this lens is larger than a Grade 2 but smaller than a Grade 1.

Displays in the workroom gave us a firsthand look at the oil containers and the hurricane glass toppers. (The display in a previous lighthouse only showed a photo of one.)

Near the lighthouse, visitors are invited to tour the historic Victorian home built by the Hughes Family in the late 1800s. The Irish couple came to California via the East Coast in search of gold. Not making a fortune that way, they turned to farming and raising sheep and cattle. Over time their ranch grew to over 2000 acres.

One son became the keeper at the lighthouse, seen in this photo. (The smocks the keeper and his two assistants are wearing while cleaning the soot from the lenses keep the soot off their uniform and keep the brass buttons on the uniform from scratching the glass prisms.)

Other activities for the day included exploring Port Orford, the first place in Oregon where the East Coast settlers established a town. That did not go down well with the local natives. One of the placards describes the bloody conflict that resulted.

Some of us ate here.

We stayed a second night in the Humbug State Campground.

Bob and Diane from Arizona organized cocktail hour around their campfire.

I took the opportunity to try sautéing some chicken in a pan on their fire, which I ate with a just-right avocado.

Bill did his outdoor grilling in a different manner. He employed a tripod to support the hatch cover of one of his storage closets to make a table. Then he cooked pork chops and pineapple in a cast iron pan on an induction plate. He surrounded the plate with a small metal folding screen to keep the splattering grease off his fancy paint job. Sonny Boy the dachshund watched from behind.

Once the pork chops were cooked, Bill doused them with bourbon. They looked and smelled yummy. BJ added a broccoli salad.

We hit the road again on Monday starting with Pelican Bay and on onto California.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Day 10 – Winchester Bay to Port Orford

Happy Mother’s Day

We have stayed in peaceful and sweet-smelling campgrounds, which have been glorious, but not conducive to a daily blog that relies on T-Mobile cell service. Hobbling along, here is the latest.

I opted to backtrack to the Sourdough Bakery in Winchester Bay for breakfast with hopes to post Day 9’s blog. The bakery displayed a delicious looking array of sourdough loaves, but offered few breakfast items. I think their specialty is their giant, and I mean giant, cinnamon rolls. I chose a scone and sat down to attack my blog.

The scone went down like a brick of lard and my videos wouldn’t go down at all. Better luck next time.

Back on the road, we saw two lighthouses. Some of our group jumped the gun on tomorrow’s schedule and saw three lighthouses, but not I.

30 miles south of Winchester Bay, we could observe Cape Arago Lighthouse from a distance. It’s the third in a succession of lighthouses built on a detached cliff that the Coos Indians called Chief’s Island. Did the chief used to live there? Did it look like their chief? I don’t know.

Since it is not a very historical building and no longer functions, we were content to use the zoom feature in our cameras while standing in a parking turnout on Cape Arago State Park. And there was no other choice.

As noted in a previous post, at one time there were lighthouses approximately every forty miles along the Oregon Coast. The Coquille River Lighthouse is a 38.5 mile drive south of the Cape Arago Lighthouse.

It’s a humble little guy that barely escaped the wrecking ball. A lighted buoy has replaced its function to guard the entrance to the river, important for shipping timber. As one of “The Eight” surviving lighthouses in Oregon, the Coquille River Lighthouse merely decorates the landscape. The locals light it up at Christmas.

Some of us spent time enjoying the expanse of sandy, windswept beach. I tagged along with Bill and Rita to seek lunch in the fishing village of Bandon across the Coquille River. Others of our group were already there.

We spent an hour or two exploring the wharf, shops, and Farmers Market in Bandon,

then meandered down the coast between Bandon and Humbug Mountain State Park, where we are parked for two nights.

Day 11 is a day of rest or “free play.” Some of us will seek active cell phone waves to call the mothers we want to bless, such as my daughter, Amy, and my daughter-in-law, Erica.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Day 9 – Lincoln City to Winchester Bay

Today we got up close and personnel to four lighthouses, drove through two national forests and three “creek wildernesses”, crossed four major rivers, and turned out at three unusual rock and sea formations named after the devil.

Leaving the Siuslaw National Forest, we took the turnout for Boiler Bay, a cove that you would not find comforting in a boat of any size.

Another cove of crashing surf was called Devil’s Churn.

I think my favorite view was from the point on Cape Foulweather (named by Capt. James Cook in 1778) overlooking the town of Otter Rock.

Once you reach Otter Rock, you find the Devil’s Punch Bowl

and this tree decorated with floats.

Shortly after Otter Rock, we reached the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, one of the most visited lighthouses in the US. It is cared for by the Bureau of Land Management, so those of us with National Parks’ Senior Passes got in free.

After learning in the Visitor’s Center everything there is to know about Oregon’s tallest (93 ft.) lighthouse, some of us drove and some of us walked the 1/3 mile to the lighthouse itself. The interior of this lighthouse is not open for viewing until summer.

Bill and BJ were armed with more serious cameras than my iPhone.

The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is only 4.91 miles down the road from the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. It’s small, but offers a peek inside, set up as the keeper’s quarters would have looked in the 1880s. He had seven children.

To be a keeper, a man had to be married. It was preferable that he had kids, theory being he would stay longer. Other qualifications included the ability to write (to keep the records) and be strong enough to pull a boat.

After that, I found an inviting turnout/park with a placard about Lewis and Clark and early fur trading and took my nap.

37.4 miles farther (there were, at the lighthouse peak, lights approximately every 40 miles) we came to the Heceta Head Lighthouse named after the Basque explorer Bruno de Heceta y Dudagoitia, who surveyed the northwest coast for Spain in 1775 in the 36-foot Sonora.

We got some much needed exercise walking up the hill.

Another path led us to a place where we could look directly at the light which can also be seen 26 miles out at sea. The Fresnel-designed lens was built in England because the French manufacturer was backlogged two years. More trivia: The French glass is clear and the English glass has a yellow tinge.

Legend states that the 12,787-pound lens was shipped from England in a crate of molasses to keep it from breaking or getting scratched.

A volunteer showed us the first floor of the interior. The layout, similar to many lighthouses, consists of a workroom, short arched hallway, and stairwell to the light. No dogs are allowed inside, so Peggy (right) and her Shady missed this tour.

My corgi Annie had waited patiently in the van.

We drove 39.7 more miles past beaches and through forests to the Umpqua River Lighthouse in Winchester.

A few of us were lucky enough to snag Ed (at right), a volunteer who had just closed up the lighthouse for the day, to open it again.

This is the only lighthouse, in Oregon at least, where visitors can look inside the lens, a rare French model.

A display showed the progression of light sources – from kerosene lamp to electric bulb.

The biggest treat was climbing the ladder into the lens. Installed in 1894, it still functions perfectly. I caught a really cool video, but I can’t get it download right now.

William M. Tugman State Park Campground is home for the night. We are parked around a cluster of yurts.

Tomorrow I need to make the decision to backtrack five miles to visit the Sourdough Bakery in Winchester, or head straight to the next lighthouse in Coos Bay 25.7 miles south.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Day 8 – Tillamook & Lincoln City

Turns out there have been 19 of us PleasureWay owners cruising the west coast of Washington and Oregon. We became 20 when Sherrie and Tina met up with us here in Lincoln City.

After a quiet night under the trees in Fort Stevens State Park Campground, we wiggled our way down Oregon’s dramatic coast to Cannon Beach. From there a turn-off gave us the closest view possible of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. As its name implies, the lighthouse sits on a rock — built there a mile away from shore in 1881. If you look on Wikipedia at a closer shot of the rock, you’ll see it appears like a monster head coming out of the sea. The Indians and 19th century seamen had a heyday creating stories and legends about it.

Looking south, we saw this.

Yes, it is still raining off and on. But we have had some glorious sunny moments, too.

Next stop, lunch at the Tillamook Cheese Factory a little over an hour south through more gorgeous vistas interrupted by the occasional jarring patches left by clear cutting.

I met up with Bill and Rita at one turnout.

And we enjoyed a cheesy lunch together.

The next task was supposed to be finding the Cape Mears Lighthouse. Trouble was, the planned route was closed. It being way past my nap time with a tummy heavy from grilled cheese and a chocolate mint ice cream cone, I was too tired to make the extra effort to find the alternate route. I headed south through cow farms.

And sloughs.

And coastline. This is the beach at Pacific City.

Now we are nestled in our vans parked in the Premier RV Resort in Lincoln City. At cocktail hour we gathered in the community room to rehash our days.

Lighthouse Road Trip – Day 7 – Wallapa Bay and the Mouth of the Columbia River

Yesterday was actually Day 3 for my PleasureWay Convoy, but 7 for my trip starting in Marin County.

From Westport we headed south on 101, forest on the left and the Pacific in the right. As you can see, it was raining, but no matter.

Entering Pacific County, we came to the north end of Wallapa Bay, where from pre-colonial times, locals have harvested oysters. This truck is hauling away the shells from a canning company,

I stopped in at Raymond, a tiny rundown town.

A metal artist has sprinkled sculptures of people doing various everyday things on nearly every roadside and corner. He has also cut rabbits, deer, and other animals from sheet metal, now covered with a rusty patina. It was still raining, so these photos are dark.

This old relic was built as a Sears Roebuck.

A monument to logging graces the center of town across from the post office.

At the south end of Wallapa Bay we turned to the coast to see two lighthouses that guard the entrance to the Columbia River. North Head Lighthouse is still functioning and open to the public. Built in 1893, its beam extends 17 miles out to sea. The light was originally lit with kerosene, which had replaced whale oil. The two buildings to the right housed 6 months worth of kerosene each.

There is also a short walk to a point that was used as a weather station and guard house during World War II.

North head is one of the windiest places on the coast and continues to be a place from where weathermen measure.

Here are some of our vans in the parking lot.

Just a couple miles south looms Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The cape was named by Captain Mears in 1788. He was looking for the mouth of a great river hoping it was the Northwest Passage. How he missed the Columbia, we can only guess?

‘Cape D’ Lighthouse was built a few years before North Head, but boat pilots complained they couldn’t see it soon enough when approaching the river from the north.

This is also the location of the Lewis & Clark Museum. The self-guided tour describes their adventure, which culminated at viewing the Pacific for the first time here.

They also have one of the lenses designed by Augustin Fresnel that were used in most lighthouses after 1822. He used prisms stacked in the shape of a beehive to enhance the lights made from the kerosene flames.

From the museum we viewed the Cape D Lighthouse.

After reading about all of Lewis and Clark’s travel woes, it was amazing to see the Astoria Bridge spanning the entire river mouth from Washington State to Oregon.

Turning left after crossing the bridge and driving through the 19th century town of Astoria, I had 15 minutes to see the Columbia River Maritime Museum before it closed.

Finally we reached our home for the night, Fort Stevens State Park Campground — another good find by Tom O’Malley.