Northern Iceland!

anna

Remember me telling you all about the sixty-five plus year old woman whose camper van we stayed in? Her name was Anna and she was such a lovely woman. She and her dog Shnorty (I know I’m mangling that spelling) live in a small town and host visitors every evening. Her front yard was twinkling with tea lights when we arrived and she showed us the amenities before leaving to great her final guests for the night as they arrived.

The van was comfortable and reminded me a lot of ours in New Zealand. The biggest difference being, we were told this one, “doesn’t move.” Just in case we wanted to get crazy in the middle of the night. So I got to experience once more the fun of climbing over Marc to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night and trying not to wipe out on the very slippery lader. There were tons of horses hanging out in the front yard, but the little stallion made sure no one got any love from me.

Didn’t take us long to get our stuff together and hit the road again. It also wasn’t long before we were stopping for another gorgeous waterfall. Got a nice little hike in through a well-worn sheep trail to get a little closer to the falls and traded taking pictures with some of the other folks.

waterfallWe continued to drive on through a landscape that became less and less green and more and more rocky. The mountains resolved into individual volcanos and the grass finally disappeared completely.

volcanos

It Looked Like This

Every so often, we would see little pools of toxic looking water either off in the distance or next to the side of the road. We kept going as we were starving. The potato chip supply began to dwindle. Our destination for the night was a homestay in the second largest town in Iceland, Akureyri. Before we got there though, we had to stop at a hot spring  everybody had been telling us about. Myvatn Nature Baths  are unique because there is a sandy bottom and the water itself is full of beneficial minerals that leaves your skin feeling silky smooth. The water stays at a comfortable 96 to 104 degrees and they warn you to take off any brass or silver before you enter as the water will literally turn them black during a visit. These pools were so amazing for lounging around in and people watching. The cafe was rather nice too and it meant we could lay off the chips for a while.

myvatn2

myvatn

Aftermath. Do we look relaxed, or what?

Marc had to drag me out so we could leave, but getting changed presented its own challenges. Although we had the option of renting towels, we decided to rough it. How do you dry off without one? Easy, after the shower… you use a hairdryer mostly all over and use paper towels for the delicate bits. Worked out pretty good actually and soon we were back in our seats and on the way to Akureyri.

Our hosts Paulina and Samuel showed us our room inside their beautiful home. Everywhere we looked art works were on display and it didn’t take long for us to find out Paulina and her husband (whom we didn’t get a chance to meet) were artists. I took many pictures inside their home.

paintings

I also took many outside their home as Akureyri had cool stuff to see everywhere we looked. Paulina’a husband we were told, teaches art in town and there was an art exhibit going on during our visit.

1917

Cute Little House. Not Our Homestay Though.

door

The Door of Akureyrarkirkja. A Prominent Lutheran Church.

art1

Paper Mache Monster from the art show

Our breakfast was included the next morning and it was neat to experience what an Icelander might normally have for breakfast. Of course, I always bring our own tea, but otherwise, we did as the locals do and enjoyed soft-boiled eggs, cucumbers, red pepper, oranges and banana’s and granola. Marc  even got to try a little of the local yogurt.

breakfast

Satiated, we did a little more poking about before we had to take off again. Just as well since Akureyri had more tourists and simply more of a sheer mass of people everywhere than any other place besides Reykjavik. After seeing the wild and wide expanses of nothing from the safety of our little car, being shuffled along with throngs of people palled quickly. Besides, we had another homestay lined up in Dalabyggo to get to. Off again we went!

end

This is how you know you’re leaving town… if it isn’t already obvious.

 

 

 

 

 

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Iceland! The Golden Circle and Points East!

Breakfast Spot (1)

We got an almost early start our third day in Iceland, having to stop briefly for fresh croissants to eat in the car. The intention was to begin the drive around the ring road and hit the sites that  are highlighted along The Golden Circle. If you go for a tour, the buses do a loop out and back to Reykjavik that covers about 190 miles. We just went out and kept going.

Our first stop was premature, but we did finally locate Pingvellir National Park. The mass of cars and tour busses in the parking lot giving it away. This beautiful spot is where you can see a clear boundary between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic plates. Literally! There is a nice walking path but prior research had informed us that it’s also possible to skindive and see the break between the plates from underneath the very cold, very clear water. We chose the hike option. Lol.

PingvillierPlates

The path is directly between the plates

It wasn’t too far to the next stop but before we got to the Geysers, we had to stop so I could pet some horses. We saw so many horses in our travels around Iceland and it’s hard to believe that most of them are for riding. One of our homestays, has a hand in the industry and they educated us that it’s just the foals that are eaten, and the rest are used for riding. The horse I met seemed unsocialized, and I  well believed it could end up on a plate somewhere. No judgements here. About 10% of me wanted to try it but the majority said no and we didn’t actually see it on too many menu’s anyway.

Horses

Sorry, I have nothing to feed you. Let’s just say we’re even!

The next spot featured two geysers. One of which, Geysir, seems to have stopped erupting after an earthquake years ago. The other one though, is quite active. Stokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes and it was fun to stand outside the rope barrier along with 100 other people all going, “oh! oh!” every time the water would heave upwards. It always seemed to fake us out too, which led to much laughter.

After enjoying the show, we ended up climbing the small mountain behind the geysers for a little exercise and a different perspective. Quite beautiful from up there and you could seriously see for miles. TopOThe World

Our last interest point of the day was Gullfoss waterfall. This natural wonder is just an amazing site for tourists and even from a good half miles away, you cold feel the power from the rushing water and a definite drop in temperature from the spray hanging in the air. I understand that Iceland considered using if to generate power, but settled on just maintaining in as a tourist attraction instead.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss

Marc and I found our accommodations for the night pretty easily, but had a bit more trouble figuring out what to buy at the local grocery store for dinner. It’s hard to do when everything is in Icelandic and pictures can sometimes be misleading. We ended up with some pork ribs (they may have been heavily preserved, tasted like it) and some potato salad. Our digs had a hot tub so we had a great lazy evening of soaking, reading, having cocktails and dinner. The best part of the day, I cannot show you though. Marc woke me up and hurried me outside to see the Aurora Borealis. I had read that the earliest it could be seen was August 20th and so I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up, but there it was! A faint green glimmer in the sky that moved very fast and was gone in less than 10 minutes. How cool is that??!!

I’d like to say we got an early start the next day, but who am I kidding? After a breakfast of leftover croissant, bread and tea, we gathered up the trash, packed the car and took off. The sun was brilliant and the roads were sparsely traveled. We got gas and then found our first interest point of the day. Seljalandsfoss waterfall was beautiful and  is the location for a lot of wedding pictures. You can also hike up behind the falls and with our rain coats on, we were up to the challenge!Waterfall

Does anyone remember that volcano that erupted in Iceland back in 2010? It disrupted air travel for weeks and really brought attention to the whole country as newscasters tried (and mostly failed) to pronounce Eyjafjallajokull. We found it! Seems the buildings at the base all needed to be rebuilt, but a truck rumbling over the cattle gate and scaring the hell out of me seemed to mean that life was pretty much back to normal there.

eyjafjallajokull

How’d you like to live here? The offending volcano in the background.

We motored on and stopped when I saw this cute little house in the side of a mountain. Turns out, this is one of about 200 man-made caves that can only be found in the south of Iceland. This one is pretty deep and was used to store hay. It’s so deep, that another cave runs perpendicular to it and was used as a forge. We didn’t go in, having too many miles to go, but it’s really picturesque, eh?

Rutshellir

Tour buses led us to our next destination. The black sand beach  called Reynisfjara  is close to the southernmost tip of Iceland  and we were totally surprised to round a corner on the beach to see the basalt sea stacks  under the mountain. A small cave undercut the mountain and little sea birds called Puffins were constantly flying from the cliffs above out to the ocean.

BlackBeach1

BlackBeach2

Near the mouth of the cave. Good geological formations everywhere!

A word about food…. by now, we had a goodly supply of interesting potato chip flavors and we were trying to stay stocked up on apples, but we hadn’t quite clued in yet to the whole you can drive for miles and hours and never see a restaurant or a gas station. So we had a lot of lunches featuring paprika or Mexican peppers and cream chips or Doritos cool American  (read ranch flavor) chips. Dinners were usually much better! We were aiming for dinner in Hofn that night, as they are known as the best place for langoustines in the country. We just had to get there first.

Stream

A beautiful stream in the middle of nowhere.

After that pretty stream, we drove through some of the most monotonous countryside I’ve ever seen. Take rocks, cover them with moss, and then put that on both sides of the road for a couple of hours. Relieve the monotony by spotting the occasional big black bird perched on a rock but otherwise, that’s all there is. They even warn you somewhat on the maps. There is a big swath of green from the black sand beach all the way up to the Vatnajokull glacier. This is what it looks like in person:

Nothing

I never want to see this again and I’m pretty sure Marc feels the same way.

We did finally drive out of it and our attention was distracted by the massive glacier that loomed ever closer. We got out to stretch our legs and take a closer look at the first turn off we came to.  There are warnings posted to be careful and a plaque honoring two young Germans who went missing years ago and were never found. We picked our way over a rough path besides the glacier for some cool pictures.

Glacier

From there, it was another good hour or so to Hofn and that wonderful dinner. Then, another two hours or so to get to our stopping place for the evening. Thank goodness it doesn’t get dark until 10:30 or so at night. We were able to check out the mountains and the scenery almost until we arrived. Marc had booked a unique/ nostalgic spot for us and our host was this wonderful 65+ woman who seems to make her living as a homestay. Anna was great and so were the digs! Especially after the drive we had that day!

Hofn dinner

Langoustines with salad and potato. Marc chose the ‘Duck & Dive’ which included duck confit.

Camper:Eidur

Feeling great after a good nights sleep. Kind of like being in NZ again. Thank you Marc!

Pacific Coast Dreams: California!

Glass Beach1

Our last two days involved a LOT of driving. We had the option of taking it a bit more leisurely and not getting to see much of San Fransisco, or doing a push and spending a whole day there.  Ultimately we, or rather I, chose the whole day. I’d not been and really wanted to check it out. Unfortunately though, that meant other things got a bit tight.

We stopped in Fort Bragg in late afternoon. Inside MacKerricher state park is a beach known as Glass Beach. In the early 1900’s they used to use certain spots off the cliffs as town dumps. When one spot filled up and fires wouldn’t reduce it further, they’d start a new one. They did this until 1967 when  it seems they realized what a horrible thing they’d been doing and they cleaned up the beaches. They removed the stuff that wouldn’t break down and left the glass behind as it was of no harm and kinda pretty. Now, the place gets  a ton of tourists every day and while they ask folks not to collect the glass, everyone does. The stuff that’s left is  usually not much bigger than grains of rice. Nice beach though, and still fun to look.

Glassbeach2

We saw the most beach glass at a little place right outside of town called (appropriately enough) The Sea Glass Gallery and Museum. Run by a salty old dog named Captain Cass, he makes jewelry, leads the occasional tour and hosts a free museum displaying a wide variety of sea glass with informative displays. Marc and he really hit it off and they chatted for a bit while I gawked and snapped pictures. He also sells chunks of half tumbled glass that people can buy to chuck into the ocean as a reseeding effort. Due to the constant grinding action of the waves, and people’s tendency to want to take home a few souvenirs,  the amount of glass on the beaches is being reduced  all the time. Made me want to start collecting glass shards to throw overboard the next time I’m at the beach. How cool would that be to be part of someone else’s lucky find?

Glassbeach3

Vaseline glass. It glows under black lights.

We managed to get a couple of tramps to lighthouses in on one day. Our first was to Point Cabrillo lighthouse. It was a nice half mile walk mostly down a slight slope to get to the isolated station. The only sounds, the occasional cry of a gull or the far off bark of  a seal. The view was amazing and we even got lucky enough to spot a couple of seals relaxing in the sunshine offshore.

LighthouseCoast

PointCabrillo

Can you see the seals?

Can you see the seals?

There was a quick stop in Mendocino for lunch before we had to get on the road again. Gotta say the town was beautiful and we’re sorry to have missed seeing more of it. But here’s a quick picture of a beautiful repurposed church I took on the way out-of-town:Mendocino church

Next up was the Point Arena Lighthouse located on the Mendonoma coast. This point of land is the closest to Hawaii in the continental US and the lighthouse itself is the tallest on the pacific  coast. While we decided not to climb to the top, we did stay for the guided tour of the museum below and saw a beautiful Fresnel lens on display. These were used to reflect lights out to sea and  by  the series of light flashes, length of time between flashes and colors associated with the flashes, ships at sea  could figure out where they were. These lenses were made in France, shipped here and elaborately reconstructed in the towers.

FresnelLense

Got it! We like to play tag with lighthouses.

Got it! We like to play tag with lighthouses.

The rest of the day was spent in a nausea inducing drive trying to follow the coast the rest of the way to San Fransisco. Honestly, for anyone taking this route north to south, we would recommend not bothering. By this point, you’ve seen plenty of the coast and the roads through here are rough, very twisty and with big variances in altitude. Instead, take Highway 1 to 101 south and save yourselves some time. By pushing hard, we were able to make it to the Golden Gate bridge right as the sun was setting. It was very windy, but an amazing view.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 11.12.37 AM

It’s a good thing we did visit the bridge that afternoon. The next morning, the whole place was shrouded in a fog so thick it was hard to see five feet in front of you. In the morning, we went to a scenic overlook called Twin Peaks park that sits near the center of San Fransisco. From the top, we could see 180 degree views of the bay area. It was weirdly beautiful with patches of fog pushed by strong winds alternately revealing and hiding the surroundings. Nature playing peekaboo, if you will.

Twin Peaks, SF      Hunger was the impetus to move on to our next destination. The world-famous Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fransisco is a tourists dream. The  area is loaded with seafood restaurants, buskers,  charter boats and shops  of all kinds willing to sell you whatever you’re missing. We got really lucky to get a parking spot right in the middle of the craziness that validated with a restaurant visit. While it wasn’t the best crab cake I’ve ever had, it was far from the worst. What a first world problem, eh?

FWSF

Alcatraz lurks disturbingly offshore.

Alcatraz lurks disturbingly offshore.

One of the neatest things we found while walking around Fisherman’s Wharf was a place called Musee Mecanique. In a unasuming building right next to the water is this huge collection of antique penny arcade games gathered by the late Edward Zelinsky. He started collecting them in 1933 and there is an amazing variety of games of skill, fortune tellers, early peep shows and even matchstick artwork made by the inmates of Alcatraz on display inside. Best of all, everything works and you can play anything inside! I think the latest games I saw might have been from the 70’s, and there weren’t many of them.

Matchstick Ferris Wheel. Echo's of Seattle?

Matchstick Ferris Wheel. Echo’s of Seattle?

What was he looking at?

What was he looking at?

Palm Reader

The Magic Ray! My fortune read: You delight in high-minded pursuits, your love for domestic pleasure is pronounced in all your actions, you make a devoted companion. Those who deal with you must do so gently and persuasively….

We had three more destinations in mind for the day and we needed to get to them fast! First up was Lombard street. Known unofficially as the twistiest street in the world, it was eight switchbacks in a one block area. It goes one way only on red brick pavement and  seems to be constantly  navigated by tourists. Kinda feel sorry for anyone who lives there, but then again, you’d have to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Lombard Street

Lombard Street

We booked from there over to the old ruins of the Sutro baths on the western side of San Fransisco. Built by a former mayor of San Fransisco, these were the largest indoor swimming pools in the world for their time. Unfortunately, they never made any real money and closed in 1966. While they were being dismantled, arson was responsible for destroying what was left and the developer took the money and ran. Now, it’s a part of national park service and a home for all kinds of birds with hiking trails and a couple of small restaurants where you can sit and people watch and bird watch from a warm, non windy spot inside.  It’s also is a great spot for wedding pictures.

Sutrobaths

Our last stop was really special. We managed to hit the Castro district of San Fransisco on the first day of Pride on June 26th. The same day that the Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a right afforded to all people in our country, gay or straight! The atmosphere was jubilant and the energy of the crowd was amazing. People were walking around with the biggest smiles and the most outlandish costumes, hugging and cheering and just generally carrying on as you do at a Pride celebration.

Castro1

We had so much fun just generally being part of the celebration, people watching, doing a little shopping and getting some photos taken with other celebrants. What an amazing way to end an awesome trip.

wedding celebration

We wanted to find a place to eat in the middle of the chaos, but the lines were super long and in the end, we opted to leave the party and head back towards our hotel. We ended up at this cool little family owned taqueria near our hotel that had the most amazing food. Our last night was spent eating authentic mexican food and watching the San Fransisco Giants baseball team play a tight game against the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies won, 32 to 40 at the last minute and I think we were all a little deflated after that.  Still, the food was great and it was really neat to share that time with the family.

Our trip home was uneventful and the supershuttle got us home safe and sound.  I swear I needed a vacation after my vacation. LOL. Luckily, at that time I wasn’t working that much so it wasn’t too hard to get rested up again. Would we do it again? Definitely! Although next time we’re thinking of sticking to the Seattle area and participating in the bike ride and exploring Olympic National Park/ Forest.  There are so many places we want to visit and only so much vacation time to go around so we have to be judicious. But traveling with Marc is the best part of any trip. He sure knows how to fit a bunch of stuff in a short time and make the most of any trip. Looking forward to the next trip already!

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Bye all and thanks for following along with us on Chasing Summer!

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Dreams: Oregon to California

Mingus Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

Mingus Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

After a night spent sleeping close to the road. We woke up to a world filled with fog outside our window. We ate breakfast and watched the mist recede back across the bay while eating stockpiled Ranier cherries, apples and jerky. When it was clear to the bridge, we took off. Our first stop was a cute little neighborhood park. Mingus park is beautifully maintained and had an easy one mile trail around a lake with an open section guarded aggressively by geese and a beautiful wooded section with a Japanese theme and a few friendly cats smoozing for pets. What a great start to the day, eh?

MarcTyrano

Marc meets a Tyrannosaur at Prehistoric Gardens

Next up was  a kinda kitschy, but eminently cool roadside attraction called Prehistoric Gardens. Being located inside an Oregon rainforest gives this park of life-sized dinosaur replicas an even greater sense of realism and it was fun to compare ourselves to the models. We talked to the owner on the way out and she  told us about her grandparents building the park back in the 1950’s and her commitment to keeping it going. Needless to say, the kids we saw along the way loved it… and so did the adults!

Big brontosaurus and teeny me!

Big Brontosaurus and teeny me!

Pteranodon

 

I bet you’re wondering how much stuff two people can fit into one day. The answer is a helluva lot actually, when Marc is driving. LOL. I’m going to skip the last two stops for the day but suffice to say we saw another lighthouse from a distance ( missed the low tide window and didn’t want to wade through icy cold water). Also saw another cool rock formation at a scenic outlook, and crossed into California. Odd to have to go through an agriculture checkpoint from one state to another.

Day six was dedicated to finding Redwoods.  Marc headed us down the road toward Lady Bird Johnson’s Grove. On the way though,  we had to stop for a couple of photo op’s. I mean, how often do you come across gigantic statues of Paul Bunyan and Blue or wild elk?

Paul Bunyon and Blue

Paul Bunyan and Blue.See Marc underneath Paul’s foot?

Elk! They were wholly unimpressed with me.

Elk! They were wholly unimpressed with me.

We met our first redwood trees at a spot that felt almost sacred. Lady Bird Johnson was one of many people who realized early on that the Redwood trees were special and needed to be protected from commercial logging and timber industries before there was nothing left for future generations. This 300 acre grove was dedicated to her in 1969. It’s quite different from the Kauri’s in New Zealand. Here, a lot of the trees are hollowed out and blackened in spots from periodic forest fires that clear ground cover and new opportunities for life. Interestingly, fire  doesn’t necessarily  kills these trees because  their bark is a thickly insulating layer their sap is mostly water.  It was a beautiful tramp in an almost hushed atmosphere  with cool clean air brushing my cheeks occasionally as we investigated the forest.

LBJPark

We drove on refreshed, towards Avenue of the Giants and Humboldt Redwoods state park. This is a thirty-two mile driving tour through groves of Redwoods that are named for the folks that paid to preserve them or the towns they’re inside. There are trails, campgrounds,  and overlooks with plenty of pull off spots and souvenir shops along the side of the road. We saw fallen giants and victorious survivors along the way and took plenty of pictures.

 

Fallen Giant

Toppled Redwood tree. Massive, eh?

The Immortal Tree. This tree has survived fire, loging axes, lightening, and floods. It's between 950-1000 years old.

The Immortal Tree. This tree has survived fire, logging axes, lightening, and floods. It’s between 950-1000 years old.

The Eternal Treehouse. Used at various times to house people, supplies, or livestock. Hollowed redwood base.

The Eternal Treehouse. Used at various times to house people, supplies, or livestock. Hollowed redwood base.

Just driving through

Just driving through!

Yes, I had to do it too

Yes, I had to do it too!

It got hot as we drove out of the forest. Amazing what those massive trees do to cool the temperature down. We kept our eyes open for a spot where we could reach the river for a skinny dip, but the one potential spot  we found without people we began to realize may have been being set up for an illegal pot growing operation and we got the hell out of there. Still, the scenery in the distance was awesome.

NiceView

Wow! No wonder I was tired when we got back home! Four posts into the trip and I think I should stop here so no one gets too tired reading all this at one time. One more to go. I’m sure of it now. Thanks for following me and see you again soon on Chasing Summer!

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Dreams: Oregon

Right, so last time we met, our heroe’s had just driven off into the sunset south towards new adventures. The first of which was a visit to the Astoria column. Marc had looked it up and it seemed interesting so off we went. It is the highest point in Astoria and is decorated with paintings on the outside showing different significant events in the history of the area, This is what we found when we got there

Astoria1

Look! It’s a giant condom  covered column!

This is what it's supposed to look like.

This is what it’s supposed to look like.

Gotta love city workers. Marc asked why they were still collecting a parking fee when there was nothing to see.  We were told our contribution actually made us park members for a whole year and we could come back any time with our receipt for free entrance into the park. *Laughs* Really guys? Still, it was a nice enough spot. You could see for miles and miles and it was a beautiful day. We moved on though as we still had miles to go.

AstroiaShipwreck

This is the wreck of the Peter Iredale. It sits inside part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historic parks network. It ran aground in 1906 on Clatsopt Spit due to a mix of foul conditions. Fog, a rising tide and a harsh squall combined to push the ship up onto the sands. They were going to try to  tow it back out to sea, but good conditions didn’t combine in a timely enough manner and the ship was sold for scrap. The Captain’s final toast to his ship,

” May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands.” I wouldn’t say they’re bleaching, more like rusting away, with less and less remaining every year according to one local we talked to. The kids love it though. Neat jungle gym, eh?

Haystack1

Things took a bit of a bizarre turn as we continued down the coast. Our next stop was Cannon Beach to visit Haystack rock. See that lovely sunshine up above? We drove through beautiful forests with the sun shining down through the trees and glimpses of beach off to the left as we got closer and closer. Then, we turned a corner and dropped into  something else altogether different.

Haystack2

Haystack Rock @ high tide

Fog, or a foggish mist that dimmed the sun and put a haze on everything in front of us. Haystack rock looked pretty cool. It’s 275 feet high ( 72 meters for my NZ friends) and  it really does dominate the landscape. At low tide you can walk over to it although we didn’t get that lucky though.  There are two large needles off to the left, but I didn’t get any really great shots of them. People were hanging out, walking the shoreline and a few kids playing at the water’s edge. Not really a beach day as I think of it, but then it is a lot cooler than in the summertime.

We holed up at a rather nice little place in Rockaway Beach that night called the Seaview Motel. It was a one-off place than nonetheless did not skimp on the fresh towels, or cleanliness. The town is known for steam engine rides and beaches that are great for building bonfires on. There was also a neat little geologic feature off shore:RockawayBeach

We got a somewhat early start  the next dayand continued south. I had been seeing signs for the Tillamook jerky outlet and since I know Marc absolutely loves jerky, we had to stop in. The outlet store is right next to their production building and man did they have all kinds of jerky. Heck, they had jerky I’d never even thought of, like turkey nuggets. Suffice to say, we bought our fair share.

TillamookFO

Marc pays homage

Next stop was the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon coast and a nice chance to stretch our legs for a short jaunt to the point. Cape Mears is not active anymore,  and was switched off in 2014. Now it functions as a  small park for the public and a learning and appreciation center for lighthouses. We actually got to go inside this one for free and the guides gave a nice little tour.

Cape Mears1

Winding our way upwards

Winding our way upwards

There is also a really amazing Sitka Spruce pine tree a short hike away from the lighthouse.  Called the Octopus Tree, no one knows why it formed like it did as they don’t usually grow like this. Some think that some native Americans trained the tree to grow like this, but it’s really all conjecture. Pretty cool though, eh?

Believed to be between 250-300 years old. The tree, not me!

Believed to be between 250-300 years old. The tree, not me!

We were on our way to a famous cave where all the sea lions like to gather when I spotted a whole bunch of them taking a nap on a sandbar. We stopped and grabbed the binoculars for a little wild animal gazing and probably ended up saving ourselves as little coin as this was free. LOL.

Lazy Sealions

Lazy Sea lions

We did one more quick stop for the day before quitting for the evening. I so wanted to do this tramp, but the stairs and steepness of the cliff was daunting so in the end, it was deemed easier to just take a couple of snaps. This is called Devil’s Churn.

Devils Churn

We stayed at this weird little motel right off the highway. The big draw was ocean views but it was more like we looked out onto the bay really. Did get to see a beautiful sunset though so it was all good.

OSunset

Gonna stop here for now so no one, including myself gets too overwhelmed.  Hopefully, I can keep it to one more post to finish up. Thanks for following along and see you next time on Chasing Summer!

Flooorida!

 

Cara4

Plantation Key

I have been so lame about keeping up with my travel blog. Sheesh! I’m wanting to post our trip to the West coast, but before I do that, I better dish on our Florida trip last fall. We’d been thinking about a trip to the Key’s for a while actually. Going all the way down to the very tip. Road trip, baby! So, that’s just what we did.

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale in late August and picked up the rental car at the airport. Marc surprised me with a convertible Mustang. Nice, eh? Our first stop was his Aunt Marie’s who lives right by the intercostal waterway. She was a gracious host and we had a lovely visit with a dinner at this awesome place that plopped a massive T- bone steak down in front of me that just dripped with melting Gorgonzola cheese. I didn’t think to take a picture until after dinner at which point she refused and questioned, ” why does everyone always want to do that AFTER dinner?” You’ re right Aunt Marie, nobody is ready for a close up after dinner. I shall remember that.

The next morning, we got an early start… after looking longingly at that leftover steak. We were headed south with the sunshine beaming and the top down! Our first stop was  right outside Key Largo. Tavernier is home to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center.  They have been rehabbing and releasing wild birds since the 1980’s and also providing a permanent home to those that can’t be released. Of course, bird’s aren’t fools. They will stick around if they might get a free meal now and then.

Marc1

 

They were so cool! Also totally disinterested in me when I didn't give them fish.

They were so cool! Also totally disinterested in me when I didn’t give them fish.

You can see forever down here

You can see forever down here

We also managed to stop at Treasure Village in Plantation Key for a couple of pictures in front of their thirty-five foot lobster. Big Betsy is something of a major tourist attraction for the Keys and once said to be the second most photographed icon. Our first night in the Keys was spent at a really nice plantation style resort recommended by a friend. With three or four pools and an additional saltwater pool, swim up bars and a free tram to take you anywhere on the property you wanted to go, it had everything. We managed to catch an hour in the pool after a long hot day and then a gorgeous sunset.

Duck Key Sunset

Duck Key Sunset

We got a somewhat early start again the next day and drove ever South on US 1. The highway is straight and  interspersed between the small towns and the flat, scrub terrain, are blue, blue waters sparkling and reaching towards the horizon. We stopped for a bit of a tramp and to give ourselves time to stretch our legs and enjoy the scenery at something under 55 miles an hour. Vaca Key is home to Crane Point Museum and Nature Trail. There are several beautiful walking trails, a wild bird sanctuary and also enfolds the remnants of the first black settlement in Florida. In 1890 the Adderley’s sailed from the Bahama’s to the Keys. They purchased land at Crane point and started to build their home. It’s notable for a couple of  reason’s. It’s the oldest surviving home outside of Key West and it’s construction method. George made it out of tabby, which is a Bahamian technique involving burned up shells mixed with lime and sand and water to make a concrete that was then poured into molds. I tell you, it still looks solid enough to live in today. The man had some mad skills.

going for a tramp

going for a tramp

 

Cara5

Tabby House

After we returned to our car and headed towards Key West, we could see storm clouds gathering in front of us and actual lightning and rain hitting part of the Keys. When the ground is that flat, you really can see a long way off. We debated whether to hole up somewhere close or drive on. In the end, we decided to keep going. We figured we’d miss the storm as it wasn’t truly in the way. Isn’t technology a wonderful thing?

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

Thanks to some fancy and quick phone booking, Marc got us a room at this cool little boutique hotel/inn called  NYAH.  Short for Not Your Average Hotel.We pulled up just in time for happy hour and were offered wine and cheese. The room was very interesting as it could sleep six to a room or eight if everyone is really friendly. There were little cabinets with individual locks that made me think they get a lot of backpackers. They also had 3 pools on a small property ranging from coolish (hey, it’s Florida after all), to kinda warm. They would also provide a nice breakfast every morning and towels every day. Lovely!

Hotel from the back deck.

Hotel from the back deck.

With the happy hours, we got to meet some of the folks staying there. Very much an international clientage with a polyglot of languages heard around the pools. We made friends with three Russians traveling together. It was supposed to be four, but one of the guys had a breakup with his girlfriend shortly before they left. Something about her not wanting to go. They were traveling for 3 months and wanted us to recommend a place in New York city. Unfortunately, we couldn’t help them with that.

But we could help them with the beer.

In our remaining time, we  checked out Key West. We walked through parts of the city. We visited Ernest Hemingway’s house. That was really neat. To hear about his ways of loving and leaving the ladies, see the desk he wrote some of his stories on and meet some of the descendents of his six toed cats was awesome. Did you know they actually employ a breeding program to get more six toed cats now?

They don't allow you to pick up the cats, but they can't tell the cats not to jump up on your lap for some love.

They don’t allow you to pick up the cats, but they can’t tell the cats not to jump up on your lap for some love.

We also got in line to have a photo-op with ourselves at the southernmost point in the United States. it’s like a thing there, everyone has to do it.  The line moved quickly though and everyone was really nice taking pictures for each other and talking about the best place to visit and to eat.

90 To Cuba

At night, we roamed the streets to people watch and try out a few places to eat. Of course we had to try Margaritaville. If you ever go, try the fish taco’s. They’re wonderful! They also seem to have live music every night. We had to check, the daquiri’s  were really good. On our wandering around the town, we also found the smallest bar in Key West, if not the world.

Getting arty with it. I think they have three or four barstools.

Getting arty with it. I think they have three or four bar stools.

As all leavings are, it was a little sad to have to leave Key west in the rear view for our drive North. We kept the top down as much as we could and rolled along with only a couple of brief stops for lunch and a small tramp to actually dip our feet in the ocean. For al the water we were surrounded by, we hadn’t really gotten in it. Beaches are fairly rare around there so when we actually saw one, we stopped. I think we both limited ourselves to wading as we were going to be sitting on an airplane in just a few hours.

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So, that’s the trip. Man, just writing about it makes me want to go again! One of these days we definitely will.

Bye!

Bye!

 

Thanks for following along guys! Hope to see you again through your own blogs, or in person!