Saturday, May 26, 2018

Climbing Bishop Peak

The Nine Sisters
Central California

I'm not done with California yet.  Far from it.  There are still many places to explore in this diverse and beautiful state.  Because I have family there, I will be making an annual pilgrimage to see them AND to visit all those places I didn't quite get to.  Climbing all Nine Sisters in San Luis Obispo County was one goal I started, but didn't finish.  In 2014, my travel buddy and I climbed Cerro San Luis.  Last week we climbed another one--Bishop Peak.

Bishop Peak is the highest of the Nine Sisters at 1,559 feet.  It is a challenging hike, but a popular one.  Even though it was a weekday, there were several hikers on the trail.  Most of them were millennials and I was happy to hear one young man call this hike "intense."  Why?  Because part of the trail is a scramble over boulders and it takes strength.  It begins with an easy trail through a scrub oak forest but then a series of rocky switchbacks take you to the summit with alot of huffing and puffing to get there.  I thought I was in good shape after all the hiking I do in the Pacific Northwest, but this hike took me a full three hours to complete.  Guess I'm not in that great of shape!

"Don't be so hard on yourself," my travel buddy reminded me.  "We stayed at the top for nearly an hour!"

Oh . . . right.  (And I stopped often to take pictures!!!)

There are a couple of places to pick up the trail.  We started at Patricia Drive.  To get to the trailhead, take exit 203B in San Luis Obispo, from Highway 101.  Drive north for one mile toward Morro Bay and then turn left on Highland Drive.  Drive half a mile, then turn right on Patricia Drive.  Go another mile where you will spot the trailhead sign, opposite several houses.  Park on the street.  It is a 4.2 mile round trip hike from here.

Compared to the Cascades, these mountains (hills?) are puny, but in geology-speak, they are far from it.  The Cascades are less than 2 million years old and the highest peaks are young--a mere 100,000 years old.  But the Nine Sisters?  These babies were created 20 million years ago!  What I am climbing are all that's left of these ancient giants--their volcanic plugs.  I am walking on the congealed lava that once filled the vent inside the mountain.  I swear it gives me the shivers thinking about it.
 These volcanic plugs range in height from Morro Rock at 576 feet to Bishop Peak at 1,559 feet.  They stretch from the city of San Luis Obispo to the ocean.  Not all of them can be climbed, however, so my goal may not be attainable.  The five that have public access are Black Hill at 665 feet, Cerro Cabrillo at 9ll feet, Bishop Peak, Cerro San Luis at 1,292 feet and Islay Hill at 775 feet. 

Climbing Morro Rock is forbidden because it is sacred to the Chumash.  Hollister Peak, Cerro Romauldo and Chumash Peak are all privately owned.  I will keep checking, however, hoping . . . hoping. . . hoping . . . that one day there will be access.
At the summit is a bench marking the end of the trail.  The views of San Luis Obispo and the other Sisters are amazing from up here. 

It was a glorious day.  A glorious hike.  Can't wait to return.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Marina del Rey

They are pretty, aren't they?
These boats bobbing in
their own reflections.
Neglected by the one percent
To be boarded.

They are admired, aren't they?
For their flawless hulls and
polished brass
Lines touching with tension
To be untethered.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Climbing Beacon Rock

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

I can't believe it's taken me this long to climb one of the Columbia River Gorge's most majestic icons:  The 848 foot monolith, Beacon Rock.  Why?  Intimidation.  Pure and simple.  I didn't think I had the strength.  Or be able to control my dizziness.  But let me tell you, folks, it's a PIECE OF CAKE.  AND SO MUCH FUN.

I had one of those shit-eating-grins on my face during the entire climb.

The trailhead begins at the parking lot of Beacon Rock State Park on Highway 14, near Stevenson, Washington.  The climb begins very gently with a stroll through a shaded forest.
But then the real fun begins--a series of switchbacks and wooden bridges that take you up and around the south side of the rock.  The engineering of this trail is a remarkable feat.  To think it was built 100 years ago is an amazing fact in and of itself.  It is one of the oldest trails in the Columbia River Gorge.
There are railings to hold on to the entire way and the boardwalk bridges are well maintained.  I never felt frightened; I felt elated.  The views along the way are breathtaking.

We were at the top in no time.


Other hikers soon joined us.  One family was from Alaska.  We were actually embarrassed to admit this was our first time here and we're local!

Climbing to Beacon Rock is going to be our "Go To" hike when out-of-town guests come to visit us.  Because of the switchbacks, the climb is very gentle.  There were many folks older than us who were attempting it.

Lesson Learned:  Don't let intimidation stop me from having fun.  Ever again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Bickleton's Carousel Museum

Offbeat Museums

It's hard to believe I've been writing about travel for six years now.  While searching for magical moments, I have come across many carousels and written about them for this blog.  The carved horses are masterpieces of American Folk Art.  To own one of these treasures is a secret desire of mine. So when the waitress at the Bluebird Inn in tiny Bickleton, Washington, told us about the Carousel Museum across the street, my eyes widened and my jaw dropped. 

And . . . it was truly wonderful.

The 24 horses in the museum were part of a portable track carousel built by the Herschell-Spillman Company back in 1905.  The carousel's first home was Portland, Oregon, but in 1929, the Alder Creek Pioneer Association bought it and moved it to the picnic grounds in Cleveland, Washington, another tiny town in Klickitat County.  Over the years this little carousel has been ridden by folks, both young and old so you can imagine the wear and tear on these poor creatures.

Happily, in 1968 the Bickleton-Cleveland community started a major campaign to restore all of the horses to their original splendor and this endeavor continued into the 90's.  Today, they are housed in this delightful little museum, BUT . . . every June during the annual pioneer picnic and rodeo, they are re-attached to the carousel and people line up for blocks to ride it. 


Now . . . allow me to digress a bit.  While researching these early 20th century carousels, I came across a series of events that once again widened my eyes and dropped my jaw.  "You aren't going to believe this," I yelled to my travel buddy. 

In 2015, we moved from Santa Barbara, California, to the Columbia River Gorge.  One of my posts while living in Santa Barbara was about riding the historic 1916 carousel in Chase Palm Park.    Well, unbelievably (and unbeknownst by me) this gorgeous old carousel was moved to the International Carousel Museum in Hood River, Oregon in 2017.  (Sorry, Independent, but boy oh boy did you get this story wrong!)

What carousel museum?  There's no carousel museum in Hood River.

Well, it turns out there used to be, but closed five years ago because Hood River banned tour buses from the downtown area and the museum lost its traffic.  The entire collection was moved to an old abandoned mill in Dee.  However, the building's roof collapsed last year in the winter storms and many of the antiques were damaged.  They were either covered with tarps or moved to other buildings.   The owners, Duane and Carol Perron, are now in their 80's but still optimistic their collection of over 1,000 carousel horses will find a new home.  Maybe in the Old Mill itself.  A new roof has been put on and plans continue to eventually open a new International Carousel Museum right there in little old Dee.  Yikes!

If it happens, it will be a miracle.  If it doesn't, it will be a tragedy. 

Map in Museum of operating carousels

I have put the weekend of June 8th on my calendar.  The chance to ride on an original Herschell-Spellman Carousel is becoming increasingly rare.  I'll wait in line all day if I have to.

Stay Tuned  

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Bickleton Bluebird Boxes

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

Bickleton, Washington.  Bet you never heard of it, right?  Unless you're a birder, that is. You see, back in the 60's a birdloving couple noticed a pair of bluebirds looking for a nesting site.  They built a bird house.  The next spring they built nine more.  The community (all 88 of them!) took notice.  Suddenly, everyone started nailing white and blue birdhouses to fence posts, trees and buildings.   Today Bickleton is known as the "Bluebird Capital of the World."

 Getting here is a bit of a challenge.  Bickleton is so small it may not be on your road map.  Cell phone coverage is spotty so forget about using your phone's GPS.  Just head east from Goldendale, Washington, and even then, it took us a couple of attempts before we found the right road.  But suddenly there they were:  little white and blue boxes.  And better yet, hundreds of bluebirds!

We saw so many, we lost count.

We stopped for lunch at the Bluebird Inn.  There were other "birders" from all over Washington and Oregon who, like us, had found their way here to see the bluebirds on this quiet Saturday afternoon in April.

"Although it feels like cheating," one old guy said.

I didn't care.  I was so thrilled.  How many times have I seen a flash of blue whiz by during one of my hikes and been frustrated at my inability to identify it. 

Not this time.  The Mountain Bluebird is now 100% identified.  One more bird checked off my Life List.