26 July 2016

Oregon, Ho!

As we worked our way up the California coastline I found myself eager to get further faster, tense instead of relaxing and taking it slowly, savoring each morsel as we had intended.  At first I thought I just wanted to get up past the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, and then I'd settle down.  But we made that milestone and still I felt an incessant tug to get further and further before chillaxing.  Somewhere in the vicinity of Redwoods National Park in Northern California, I sat down next to a stream as the girls chased polliwogs, and tried to put my finger on why I felt so itchy to get further up the road.  After a bit of self-reflection, the best guess I could theorize was some unconscious urge to get back to Oregon, land of my youth.

So on we marched up the coast.  We briefly abandoned the coastal route to shoot inland over the border to The Oregon Caves, a charming gem, highly recommended.  If you can plan ahead far enough to get reservations, stay at the Oregon Caves Chateau.  It's an absolutely charming remnant from FDR's New Deal and public works projects, and one of only a few such fabulous hand-hewn lodges in Oregon, along with the lodge at Crater Lake and Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, all now part of the National Parks system, and all remarkable places, well worth the effort to seek them out.

Cave entrance to left, chateau to right, Clifricksons in the middle, sorry for lame exposure
We opted for the much more affordable and delightfully empty and quiet Forest Service campground just down the road from the caves, a beautiful swath of woods next to a babbling stream.

The caves themselves are pretty cool, of course.  Literally.

We ducked back to the coast and continued north.  Not far along we stopped at Humbug Mountain State Park.  Kirstin found out why it's named Humbug Mountain after climbing the 3 miles to the top at sunrise to find it tree-covered, obscuring the view of anything but trees.  Humbug.

Nice beach though.

And our campsite was rife with wild blackberries.

Further up the coast we found a bit of BLM land (free "dispersed" camping) right on the beach.

Kirstin caught a bucketful of Dungeness crabs in the surf, but prior to boiling them we determined they were females and not legal for making into dinner, so we apologized to them for our mistake and returned them to the waves.

Movie Night with popcorn in the trailer
But the best thing that the Oregon coast held waiting for us was a reunion with some of our dear friends from Cali, wonderful people who embody the concept of "framily", and co-conspirators in ongoing development of our plan to establish a "compound" somewhere.  Is there still some land available in Antelope?

And lastly for now, just a couple bonus pics: 
Sunset Bay, OR
Blueberry picking
Forest Friends

18 July 2016


If you haven't found it yet, you can also follow us on Instagram, and catch more photos and commentary about The Big Adventure from Kirstin's unique perspective at #afamilywalkabout.

Things We've Learned

This is a work in progress and will be updated as we go along.  So far:

1. How to do dishes with a lot less water.

2. Sand is fun.  Like glitter.  But it gets everywhere.  Like glitter.

3. How to make cold brewed coffee (see appropriately titled blog post).

4. How to steal water (see appropriately titled blog post).

Things We Miss

This is a work in progress and will be updated as we go along.  Things we miss so far:

1. The king sized bed.

2. Looooong showers.  That do not require a constant stream of quarters.

3. An adult-sized bathtub.

4. In-house laundry facilities.


I've always loved Northern California.  It's beautiful and way less crowded than So-Cal.  Giant trees, pastoral rolling hills, earthy agriculture, and gorgeous rugged coastline, interspersed with a network of roads-less-traveled, funky towns, and pockets of the Haves strewn throughout the broader spread of the Have-Nots.

We've attempted to alternate between paid campsites and more primitive low-cost or free alternatives as we wend our way north along California's coast.  And we have been rewarded with a broad cross-section of experiences.  

Oh, the interesting people you can meet!  

We've been very pleased to meet a wide spread of wonderful and interesting people along our way, each on their own personal journey, each with their own fascinating story, and we've been humbled at the openness, kindness, and vulnerability we have encountered.  No hedges, fences, yards, or walls separating you from the people just-over-there.  How easy to strike up a conversation with your neighbor when their fire pit is but 20 feet from yours.

In only the last few days we have been privileged to cross paths, ever so briefly, with a former Olympic cyclist, a pair of world-traveling physical therapists, a beautiful young couple in search of an off-grid existence, Europeans experiencing our grand scope and scale, Canadians, and people without permanent domicile.  People are so rich and interesting when you make the effort to find out.

Bodega Dunes State Park.  Where's Alexis?  Climbing!

Bodega Dunes State Park


Alexis climbing in Point Arena, CA

Just north of Fort Bragg, CA

Climbing the Redwoods

Where's Alexis?

Clam Beach, near Arcata, CA

Petting a worm found in ear of corn at Farmers Market, Arcata

Fern Canyon

Campsite near Crescent City.  Note MATT in background...

Polliwog found in Eel River near Redwoods National Park

How To Make Cold Brew

One of the things we've learned along the road so far is how to make cold brewed coffee.  Cold brew seems less bitter than normal coffee, and when prepped the night beforehand is ready and waiting in the morning.  Of course, it's cold, which works better in some weather than in other.  Cold mornings hanker for hot brew, but on warmish days, cold brew is the bomb!  If you have ice, simply pour the cold brew on top for instant iced coffee.

If you have a French press, making cold brew is uber simple.  Fill your French press with the appropriate amounts of coarse ground coffee and water (four to five scoops of grounds in ours, then fill with water), set it aside, and then 8-12 hours later press the French press presser-thingie.  Voila!  Room-temp coffee without the need to boil water or anything!

07 July 2016

Big Sur

Funny story: A year ago we had no idea that we were going on our Big Adventure.  We had no plans or serious interest in procuring an RV.  One of our good friends invited our eclectic gaggle of friends to go camping in Big Sur in the following summer (this year), over 4th of July.  You have to plan such things way out or there is no way to get reserved camping.  So we jumped on it.  We wanted to camp close to our friends, and the closest camping spot happened to be an RV spot, which we really didn't care about, but as it was the closest space we reserved it.  Little did we know that one year later that little camp spot would end up being our Big Adventure launch pad.  

Five days and seven families out playing in the woods.  We broke out some chem-light glowsticks for the kids to throw around on the evening of the 4th.  That's as close as we got to fireworks.

Big Sur is a remarkable stretch of coastline.  If you've never been there, then think of any car commercial you've ever seen with a long helicopter shot of a shiny car zooming along serpentine cliffs above a rugged coastline, and then over a spectacular arched bridge.  That's Big Sur.  That and the giant Redwoods.  Spectacular.

I've done a fair bit of camping in my lifetime, but this trip was unique for me.  Oddly, it's the first time I've ever gone camping with more than a couple of good friends; the first time I've gone camping with multiple full-on families.  

There is something really remarkable about spending more than a brief period of time in a place where phones, email, Facebook, etc. don't work.  

And there is something remarkable about spending that kind of time with good friends.  


For us Big Sur was a bittersweet unofficial point of debarkation for the Big Adventure - for reals this time!  We had managed to put off many, but not all, tears as we rolled out of Livermore, headed for Monterey and Big Sur, telling ourselves and friends that it's not goodbye yet, we'll see you in Big Sur!  But at the end of Big Sur, the inevitable goodbyes could no longer be avoided.  Teary hugs, puffy eyes, and runny makeup.  

Although, even that blow was softened a bit when we started booking camp spots for 2-6 July 2017!

01 July 2016

Goodbye, sweet Lacey

Fourteen years ago I adopted a new family member: a two-year old Border Collie named Lacey who was a 'rescue'.  I never learned anything about her first two years of life beyond the physical and emotional scars that she bore.  Much love and patience helped her overcome most of her traumas and blossom into a sweet, playful, loving, four-legged girl.

There are two kinds of pet owners: those who treat their pets as possessions, taken out to play with when the owner wants to play with them, and then pushed outside or into a garage the rest of the time; and then there are the pet owners who consider and treat their animals as companions and as full-fledged members of the family.  Lacey was a furry daughter to us.

She was always ready for fun of any kind, be it a long hike, or catching frisbees six feet over her head.  She could jump!  More than anything, though, she loved the ocean, and she would race up and down the beach or out into the waves until she was absolutely, completely, exhausted.

But time takes its toll on us all.  And sweet Lacey, who was ever a puppy at heart, was an old lady in dog years.  Her body could no longer bear the march of time, and she left us a year and a half ago.

We had her cremated.  And we kept her ashes ever with us.  Maybe we weren't ready to let her go yet.

Today we took her back to the place where she was the happiest I ever remember seeing her, Asilomar Beach, just south of Monterey, the city where Lacey became part of our family.  We took her ashes there, said words of remembrance and love, cried yet again, and spread her ashes in the sea.

Goodbye, faithful friend.  May we all meet again in the next life.

Day Two - Monterey

Monterey is a special place to our family. I lived and worked here for many years while in the military.  It's where Kirstin and I met and hit it off.  It's a magnificent outdoorsie playground with the ocean and a ton of hiking and biking options at hand.  And it's just a darn cute little town.

There's a campground run by the city in Veterans Park that we head for, hoping to score a spot.  It's first come first served with no reservations allowed and a maximum stay of three days, so there's a pretty steady turnover and odds of getting a place are good if you get there early enough.

We arrive and score our favorite spot in the park, one we've stayed in several times before, Campsite 34.  It's beautifully nestled right into the forest.

We make camp and then go for an exploratory hike through the woods.  Beware the poison oak!

For lunch we head to my favorite Mexican restaurant in the world, Turtle Bay.  During the years that I lived overseas, I found it exceedingly difficult to find acceptable Mexican food.  Forget finding good Mexican fare.  And in those times that I found myself craving Mexican, the only place I would dream about was Turtle Bay.  Thus, no trip to Monterey is complete without at least one meal there.

Their cuisine is more Baja than typical Americanized Mexican, which suits Monterey's maritime placement and availability of off-the-boat-fresh fish well.  Lots of seafood options.  I highly recommend their Seafood Combo Quesadilla.  Insanely good.  And if you love spicy, they have a housemade habanero salsa at the self-serve salsa bar that is fantastic!  

Living inland for the last several years, we have all become fairly acclimated to the unpleasant summer temperatures (110F+ a few days just prior to our departure) so the cooler seaside temps, coupled with a light breeze, incite our children to proclaim that they are in danger of freezing to death.  We wrap them up in the clothing we've brought for winter.  The thermometer reads 55F.  We have raised "California" girls.  Time to change that up.

We spend the afternoon walking and exploring the scenic trail that runs along the ocean south from Lovers Point in Pacific Grove.  Ah, the ocean, breathe it deep!

After dinner we snuggle by the fire, and then retire to MATT's furnace-warmed comfiness.

A beautiful day in a special place.