Sunday, September 16, 2012

West Coastin

 Sept. 4 -11

Heading from Bend, Oregon to the Oregon coast line was an easy feat. Oregon is just stunning and I had the pleasure of cutting across the Deschutes National Forest in order to catch the coast and head south.  On the way I stopped to observe Crecent Lake National Park.  An ancient lava crater that has since become a popular tourist attraction. Quite stunning.  Then my bike fell over.  No other way of putting it. I was parking in the tourist scenic view lot, and made a sharp turn while paddling the bike and boom the weight took over and the bike dropped. My bike is heavy without all the luggage, let alone packed to the gils. While lying on it's side I gingerly took off all luggage and then proceeded to lift the bike upright.  Before I left for the trip I watched several videos showing the proper way of doing this as it requires a specific teqnique. Amongst the clammer and finger pointing my direction by foreign onlookers, I am happy to report that I was able to lift the bike upright, load my stuff back on and off I went.

my studio
The Oregon coast looks like the location from the movie Goonies. By the time I arrived on the coast it was getting dark so I made camp in Bandon, OR at Bullards Beach State Park. First thing the next morning I walked along the nature trail and photographed their coastal natives. I then began my descent towards the redwoods.

I arrived at Jedidihah State Park, the Northern tip of the redwood forest well before sunset and took a leisurely and secluded walk through the giant Sequoia trees.  Aww inspiring. This was a moment long overdue. The fact that the park was practically empty made the visit all that more special and I felt isolated, yet not alone.
chester copperpot

The next morning would begin the ride of rides. I traveled south from the northern border of California to San Fransisco by way of several redwood forest passes and then through back country wine valley roads. I didn't stop all the much to shoot pictures as I was having too much fun riding the bike through hills, valleys and giant trees of northern California.  8 hours later I arrived in San Fransisco only to realized I had to climb and descend the steepest of streets to get to my friend Jon's house. My bike is carrying a lot of top weight and is loaded beyond suggested capacity on the back so I was sure this was going to be an adventure in balance. The bike and I held true and I made sure not to stop accelerating until I reach a level part of the cross street. I arrived at Jon's safe and sound and let my bike rest for 3 days while I enjoyed the company of an old friend and a new to me city.

Jon has some amazing people in his life, in and out of san fran, and I can't thank him and all the wonderful people  I met while visiting for showing me such a wonderful time. But, the journey must continue. Monday morning I was off again, my destination: Santa Barbara Botanical Garden by way of Big Sur.

A few people told me it was a must that I camp in Limekiln State Park located in the upper middle portion of the coastal route 1 of of Big Sur.  When I arrived to the northern portion I stopped to watch the sunset. This portion of the coast resembles much of the northern coastal geography with winding roads that hug the coastline set atop high cliffs with magnificent vistas of the rocky coast line.  Quite amazing, especially on a bike.

Once the sun had set it was only but a few miles to Limkiln State Park. However, when I arrived at the gate, it was locked and there was sign that said closed after sunset. Oooof. Bummed, I shrugged it off as there were several campground further south along the road.

It was quickly getting dark and visibility was getting tough as the fog rolls thick in some areas of the Sur. Even worse, the last two remaining campgrounds were full.  Here I was, traveling the most sought after scenic road on the west coast in the dark. Just a note: you are allowed to primitive camp for free inside of national forests. Though according to my map  there were no dirt roads or fire paths that led into the San Padres National Forest that encompasses Big Sur.

Frustrated, and with spotty cell service, I pulled off at the next gas / lodging area to figure out my what I was going to do. I had plenty of energy and could easily keep driving south all night, but the whole point of taking this route is to see the coast while riding in Big Sur. I called the fancy lodge whose parking lot I was now resting in and asked for the cheapest room.  The woman told me the "cliff suite" was the only thing available and that it was $360.00.  I sorta laughed and choked on the phone upon hearing that and said, no thanks.

The nearest town was 45 minutes away according to the map. The fog was thick, the road is treacherous in the day, let alone in the dark and I was frustrated. Not a good combination for riding a motorcycle. I decided to gas up while I was there. The price of gas was  ridiculous, almost $6 a gallon but best to be safe and not stranded.

Something I have come to do on this trip is ask the locals; where to eat, where to drink, best road to take etc. It usually ends with a good recommendation, and what was about to happened would be case and point. The gas station was small with only 2 pumps, and there was an older, wiry gentleman working.  He came out to meet me and while taking my card told me they were about to close. I quickly told him my situation and asked him if he knew a good spot to camp nearby. He scratched his chin in thought, looked over the chaos that is my bike, and proceeded to give me directions to a local primitive, unmarked camp site.  Drive a mile down the road, he said.  You will see a pull off with an emergency phone box.  Park your bike there and walk into the woods about 100 yards and you will see a bunch of areas to camp. In California you are legally allowed to leave your vehicle on the side of road for up to 72 hours. This was a fortuitous moment.

I did as he said, found the pull off, gabbed my head lamp, tent and duffel from the bike, threw the cover over the bike and proceeded to walk into the coastal abyss of trees, shrubs and California coastal native fauna. About 75 yards in, I found a flat of ground, set up the tent and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up in Big Sur paradise. Though I couldn't see a thing the night before, I quickly realized that I was in a secluded natural area that had both small forest and coastal cliffs all around me. In fact, I ended up taking a 3 hour hike in and around this place that I renegade camped the night before.

This highlight came when I approached the cliffs which had a very treacherous narrow path that extended out beyond the coastline about 50 yards, with an elevation of around 150 feet. Honestly, I was nervous to walk out on it.  But this was one of those moments where I would have regretted not taking the risk. So off I went. Slowly, step by step, inch by inch,  I walked across the edge of a coastal rock structure in order to get to the far end where I could turn around and look at the coastline from the oceans perspective.  The only sketchy moment was when I was startled by two huge Hawks that were perching beyond a rock that I approached.  They didn't hear me coming as the ocean has sound of a lions roar, and were just as surprised to see me as I them.  For the next 15 minutes they circled very close above me as to say, what the hell are you doing on our rock.

I successfully reached the end peak.  I raised my hands up like many do when they climb the steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum in order to re-create the infamous Rocky scene.  I always thought that was pretty lame, but here I was, arms raised and yelling at the Pacific ocean as though I just conquered the coast. And as far as I'm concerned, I did.

Back on the bike I would ride the rest of the Big Sur south towards Santa Barbara where yet another serendipitous moment would occur.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Canyons, Firs & Deschutes

good morning moab
moonlight moab
I was sad to say goodbye to Colorado.  I absolutely love the Rockies. Headed west from Beuna Vista, I rode for 5 hours through some of the most spectacular scenery I have encountered up to that point. I went from a straight route through Kansas to the most curves and twists one can image through the Rocky Mountains. I arrived in Moab Utah just before sundown. I set up camp along a winding river in the depths of a bright red canyon. The moon was almost full so I was able to take some long exposures of the canyon illuminated by  the moonlight.  Waking up I was greeted to a mesmerizing view.  This area is eye candy, Arches and Canyon Lands National Park are just miles away. I could have easily spent a week exploring but I have an agenda to keep so I was on my way bright and early.

My Boise host, Mike
11 hours later, via the hot desert plains of Utah and Idaho I arrived in Boise. ((WHAT A LONG RIDE)) and immediately found a brewpub! Once again I hooked up a place to stay with motorcycle enthusiast. Big Shout to Mike Costanti for allowing me a sweet bungalow type bedroom at his place. Mike was great and was preparing his newly acquired adventure bike for a South America trip this winter.  Can't wait for his ride reports.  What little I saw of Boise I really liked, small town feel with a touch of urban. Thanks again Mike!

Boise Bungalow
The next morning I was off! My destination: Portland, Oregon.  It has long been my dream to walk in the old growth forests of Washington & Oregon. I am lucky to have a couple friends, Jenny and Dave, Philadelphia ex pats, living in Portland. They offered to let me bunk down with them while I explored the area.

Another 8+ hour ride from Boise to Portland and arrived to Jenny and Dave's house in the midst of a birthday party for Dave. Smoked pulled pork and some of the finest wine you can imagine were my welcoming committee.  What a treat after 1300 miles of riding in two days.
Hoyt Arboretum

The next day Jenny and I explored Portland's nature resources.  We went to the both the Audubon center and Hoyt Arboretum where I spewed out my project to the rangers there in order to be guided to the areas native plants. I was lucky to meet Martin Nicholson, Curator at the Hoyt Arboretum.  He was happy to show me the small area dedicated to the native plants of the region. After leaving nature Jenny and I took a quick tour of the "NewSpace" Photographic Art Center, in NW Portland.  I was curious to see this place and it honestly blew me away. What an amazing facility.  I spoke to the staff there, told them about the Light Room and extended a friendship. I recommend visiting this photo center and gallery if ever in Portland

That evening, Jenny, Dave and I checked out some of the local bars in Portland. I really liked the vibe of the city, and although it has an over exaggerated hipster feel (see Portlandia) I thought it's location next to the forest and it's commitment to "green" made it a place I would certainly visit again and again.

It didn't take long for Jenny, Dave and some of their friends to convince me to drive north a few hours and visit the Olympic National Park in Washington state. I mean hey, what's 3 hours on the bike at this point.... no big deal.  So, the next morning I awoke, packed a few things and off I went.  4 hours later I arrived in what seemed like a dream world.  The Largest Old Growth Forest in the Unites States.  It was getting late so I found a campground, set up the tent and immediately took an 8 mile hike through the woods.  Amazing. And because the previous day I learned about the native plants in this eco-region I could easily identify the vegetation as I walked through the largest Spruces and Fir trees in the world. That evening I experienced a full moon rising over the top ridge of these wonderful trees reflecting over a pristine lake. It was 10PM and I was sitting lake-side in the moonlight fishing.  Again I caught nothing, but what a moment.


The next morning I awoke a went for an hour cycle ride on dirt roads through the park.  I made it to a trail head and did a 3.5 hour hike into the rain forest. This is certainly another place I could spend a week at and not see enough.  A 4 hour drive and I was back in Portland for what would be my last night there. Jenny , Dave , Gus (their black lab who couldn't get enough of me) played cards, drank wine and laughed the evening away. Can't thank them enough for being  wonderful hosts! ( I will be uploading a picture of Jenny, Dave & Gus as soon as I can!)

The next day my goal was to begin moving south. Bend, Oregon was my destination.  It seems everyone I meet in Oregon couldn't say enough great things about this town.  A good friend of Len's offered to put me up for a night or two in Bend.  I met Mo and her friends at the infamous Deschutes Brewery (brew pub). Mo has an amazing outlook being from Mass and re-locating here.  She is a speech therapist, world traveler and avid outdoors woman.  Her friends were all very cool and were happy to show me the best way to get to the coast from Bend, via some mountain passes and stunning scenery.

Now, here I am, catching up with the interweb and having a cup of Kombucha at local Coffee shop in Bend about to move onto to the second leg of this trip. From here I will head west, catch the coast, ride south, hug a redwood and discover more native plants!