I’m determined to get caught up on these travel posts, but accommodations (or lack there of) and the quality of “high-speed” internet over every inch of the planet is conspiring against me. All that aside, here is my entry for 2010-09-04 of the trip.
Reinvigorated from my stay at the humble but surprisingly pleasant Quality Inn of Medford, I was really looking forward to checking out a recommendation from Cyberduck… Oregon Caves National Monument. Backtracking just a bit, I took 199 to the small town of Cave Junction and then 46 into Rogue River National Park. This is contrary to what my GPS insisted, but I’d been warned beforehand that most GPS directions to Oregon Caves are highly inefficient or downright inaccurate. After a winding ascent of forest roads, you are greeted by excellent parking, good facilities and an utterly charming buildings in the style of old-fashioned mills. The rangers and staff are among the friendliest I’ve ever met (not that I’ve ever met an unpleasant National Park Ranger).
I arrived just a few minutes too late for the current cave tour, but another started shortly. This one was led by a patient and lovely lady ranger (Are you listening, Cyberduck? You need to make the trip) who led our group through these amazing caves and fielded questions from the mundane (what type of rock is that) to the more challenging (what is the species, habitat and name of the world’s smallest bat) and wrangled children (of all ages) all with effortless grace. Completely worth the detour and I recommend it if you ever find yourself in the area. The tour is about 90 minutes and moderately strenuous (low ceilings, descents, ascents) but not a belly crawl by any means. Anyone in reasonable health and no issues with darkness or enclosed spaces won’t have any problems.
Apologies in advance for the quality of the still photos below. I have zero experience with cave photography and was hampered by only have a small digital camera with built in flash (gear envy of the guy in our party with a Total Rig). I think they improve both in content and composition towards the end of the series, but you be the judge.
Still Photos[nggallery id=25]
After emerging back into the sunlight, I descended back down to 199 and bid my farewells to Oregon. 199 connects with 101, my faithful traveling companion, which becomes known as the Redwood Highway with good reason as it passes through three (possibly four) Redwood parks. These misty enclaves of ancient giants are humbling in a way I can not begin to express. Even an adolescent specimen dwarfs the largest trees I’d seen in my time in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. When you consider the eldest just barely escaped the chainsaw, you are even more grateful creatures of this scale and majesty still stand for us to appreciate.
Regrettably, in a typical oversight of mine I’d totally disregarded the fact that this was Labor Day weekend. I beg the forgiveness of my friends of a socialist inclination! The parks were packed to bursting point! It seemed like every square inch was filled with an RV, Tent or folding chair. No room for the long distance traveler. :-(
This trend continued down the coast, and intensified as I switched over to the Pacific Coast Highway (aka State Route 1). This winding road does its best to hug the coast as it takes you down the California seaboard. Drivers are treated to vista after vista of relentless waves, rugged rocks and nestled beaches. This and holiday traffic made for slow going though a few persistent folk seemed determined to put their vehicles through the curve-hugging paces. For the most part, myself and other motorists were glad to utilize the numerous turn outs and vista to let them do so.
As I approached the Fort Bragg area, I started to take stock of my options for lodgings and my unspoken fear began to materialize. One of the advantages of traveling like I am is that I’m not stuck with having to make X location by nightfall. One of the distinct disadvantages is that it is nearly impossible to reserve lodgings ahead of time with any accuracy. This was about to bite me in the butt. Hotel after hotel announced “No Vacancy”. I won’t tell you how far PAST Medocino or how late I drove looking for lodgings before I gave up. Suffice it to say that packing my substantial camping gear in the car instead of shipping it ahead turned out to be VERY useful and that the cool beaches of California and their crashing waves make for some great camping, planned or otherwise. :-)
Time Lapse Dashboard Camera Video
Next morning, one slightly scruffy but no worse for the wear traveler was on his way. The next leg will be a recovery day, short drive, no events planned, just getting in position for the next phase.