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Harris Beach State Park, OR

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Learning about tide pools

I was at my seabird observation station for an hour and a half this morning, before I packed things up and headed off for a tide pool hike. 

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I got to the South Beach Trail a little early so I could make my way down the steep decline to the beach without holding up the scheduled tour group.  The group had adult campers and young junior ranger program participants.  I went on the tour because I didn’t know a thing about tide pools and I was eager to learn.

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I was hoping to see and learn about as many of the species on the information board as possible.  Here’s what I saw.

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First up was a sea star and anemones.  Sea stars is their proper name.  I grew up calling them star fish, but they aren’t fish after all, of course.

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Now these sea anemones sure didn’t look like what I expected, but that’s because the very low tide meant they were high and dry.  They kind of curl up when they’re above the water and exposed to the air.

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This, and the next two pics show what they look like when they’re under water.  Now that’s more what I expected.

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They do come in a variety of colors.  I can’t wait to show them to the grandgirls when they come to visit in July.

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I learned something with this shot.  It’s better to take pictures of these anemones in the shade to show the true colors.  Aren’t they neat?

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That’s Cheyenne, the park interpretive intern, showing the little ones a sea star.  Funny thing about a couple of these would be junior rangers.  Two of them were on the tour with their grandparents.  Well, grandpa was constantly hounding them not to get their feet wet.  What??  You take two youngsters to the beach where we had to cross an inlet through the water, and you don’t want them to get their shoes wet?  In my opinion, that’s like asking pigs not to wallow in mud.  Lighten up, Gramps!

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          Of course, the sea star was returned to its original position in the sand to await the tide coming in.

Gooseneck Barnacles?

Did you know these are gooseneck barnacles?  I didn’t.  I think they’re kind of neat when you take a close look at them.

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The last big find of the hike was a gumboot chiton (I think).  They kind of curl of in defense.  The kids weren’t too crazy about this creature.

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As we headed back to the trail up the hill, we once again had to cross this inlet.  Good old gramps carried his young grandson over the water and set him down on the other side.  I had to laugh out loud as the young whippersnapper ran right back to the inlet and jumped in saying, “I can cross it myself, grandpa!” 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A different view of the beach

On Wednesday mornings, most of the volunteers at Harris Beach State Park and two other close by parks meet for breakfast at Mattie’s Pancake House in Brookings.  I may be a volunteer for the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service, but I’m stationed at an Oregon State Park, so I decided to participate.  I don’t think I’ve eaten out for breakfast since 2008! 

I was able to get a suggestion of where to get a hair cut.  There’s a lady barber in town that only takes walk-ins, is fast, very reasonable, and didn’t scalp me.  Can’t beat that.  A bonus of finding the barber shop was that I also found a farmer’s market just setting up.  I love farmer’s markets.  As I approached the booths, the fragrance of fresh strawberries was dominant.  You can bet I’ll be there most Wednesday mornings while I’m here.  I won’t linger on the homemade macaroons and jar of strawberry/balsamic jam that I also purchased…

It was back to work for me today, and I was set up under overcast skies by 8:30.  I had a few visitors, but by 11:00 a huge fog bank had moved in that obliterated any view of the island.  Time to pack up and go home.  This assignment is totally weather dependent.  If you can’t see anything, you quit for the day.  I can live with that.

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By the middle of the afternoon, the fog had backed off a bit so Emma and I went for a walk on the Rock Beach Trail.  There is a nice view of the bay from some wonderfully placed benches along the trail.  I’m thinking this may become my favorite spot during my time here to just sit and enjoy.

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The view near the railing gives a little bit different perspective of the beach.  You can see and hear the wave action, but you’re way up on topIMG_1050Looking to the right, you can see the day use area down below.  All of those rocks and islands out there are part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

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This is the first time I’ve tried using the ‘Paint’ program to point some things out to you all.  The arrow on the right shows the overlook area where I set up my scope to show folks the birds.  The arrow on the top left is Bird/Goat Island where the birds nest.  And the dot by the lower left arrow is, in my opinion, a crazy person out trying to ‘catch a wave’!  The outside temp is only in the 50’s, and I can’t imagine how cold that water is. 

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If you look to the left from the railing you can see the water filling in between the mainland and this big rock island as the tide comes in.  There’s a tide pool hike scheduled for Saturday morning that I think I’ll go to, and I believe this path leads to those tide pools.  I need to learn about the tide pool inhabitants so I can let visitors know about them.

As the holiday weekend approaches, the campground has already begun to fill up.  From what I’ve heard, there won’t be one empty site come tomorrow night.  Maybe I’ll have a few more visitors at my overlook this weekend?

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A sad day in Blog land

This afternoon I was shocked to read KarenInTheWoods’ blog to learn that fellow RV blogger Hazel had died early this morning.  It’s one of those awful things that take you by surprise.

I didn’t know Hazel well, but we had been reading each others blogs for quite some time.

IMG_1386She even came to take one of my bird tours at Imperial NWR last December.   She brought her beloved greyhounds with her, and they behaved splendidly in her vehicle while she went on the tour.

I think I’ve only met three or four other solo female fulltime RVers, and Hazel was one of them.  She also did a lot of volunteering at New Mexico state parks.  We had a lot in common, but she was obviously more fashion conscious than I.  Notice the matching boots and jacket?   I’m sorry to see her go before I could get to know her better.  Karen, highlighted above, wrote a very nice tribute to Hazel. 

I think Hazel was happy and lived her life the way she wanted to.  I can only hope I go as swiftly as she has.  Rest easy, my friend…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Settling in, and a trip back to California

What a surprise on Saturday night when I got a call from the DISH network installer guy saying he could come out to my rig on Sunday afternoon to install a new DISH.  And that’s just what he did.  It wasn’t easy considering all the huge trees I’m surrounded by, but at least now I’ve got TV for my three months here.  It took him two hours to get the job done since we had to scrounge up a wooden pallet to screw the tripod to so it would be tall enough and stable enough to get a signal in between all the branches.  My cost for this?  $40 total, and that was for the tripod.  The rest including the satellite dish, 50 mile travel time, and labor was covered by my service agreement. 

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When the sun finally made an appearance this afternoon in Brookings, I decided a little road trip was in order, so I headed south back into California.  After about 25 miles, I found myself at the headquarters for Redwood National Park.

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I had read online about the Stout Grove of Redwood Trees that are located in Jedediah Smith State Park, and thought that would be a nice afternoon trip.  What I read said it wasn’t the most popular place to go, so I didn’t expect much traffic on the lumpy, skinny, windy, up and down gravel road.  I don’t know when that information was printed, but it was busy!  I seldom even made it into second gear because of the condition of the road, and had to back down a hill on a steep grade so a pickup truck could get past.  Much of the road is single lane.  Yes, it’s surrounded by Redwoods too.

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After 6.8 miles, that seemed like 20, I found the trail head parking area, and it was full.  Sad smile  Being in my little Focus, I squeezed in along the side of the road.  After the harrowing drive to get here, I wasn’t about to leave.

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Of course once I got to California, the overcast skies rolled in and hampered good pictures in the forest.  After a relatively short downhill entrance to the grove, the loop trail is very flat and even. 

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When I wasn’t looking up, I enjoyed the designs in the trees’ bark.  Some I think are burls, and others appear to be from the tree sustaining an injury.  I was happy to see that most of the carving of initials that people seem compelled to do was located on dead, downed trees. 

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This was my favorite tree in the Stout Grove.  The 44 acres of the Grove were donated by Mrs. Stout in honor of her husband.  He was a lumber tycoon in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Thank you Mrs. Stout for saving this beautiful place.

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It’s hard to depict the size of these giants in a photo, so I grabbed another visitor and asked him to take a shot of me to give some perspective. 

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This is certainly a place where you could easily end up with a stiff neck.  I just couldn’t stop looking up.  Magnificent!

Today’s little adventure just touches the tip of the iceberg of Redwood National Park, but I’ve got the summer to make more day trips.  Giant Redwoods and the Oregon Coast.  What a way to spend the summer!

I leave you tonight with one last shot for Sherry and David:  Hugs to you!

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Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, May 16, 2015

First day ‘on the job’

Set up my station at 8:30 this morning for my first five hour shift as wildlife interpreter.  All the other volunteers at this Oregon state park refer to me as the Bird Lady.  Where have I heard that before?  I’m the only volunteer working for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.  Anyway, it takes some time to haul everything down to my site by the handicapped picnic table.  Should have gotten some pictures of my set up, but I didn’t.  Too excited I guess.  Maybe tomorrow.

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Remember this picture from yesterday when I showed you where I’ll be set up?  Well, several readers have expressed interest in all the photos I’ll have of sea birds and whales.  I just want to tell you that all the birds are around that rather distant island, and the whales don’t exactly come close to where I’m stationed.  All of these rocks and islands are part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and are protected.  That means no one can be on these islands or even closer than 500’ of their shoreline.  Not much chance of getting close-ups of their inhabitants.  My, and visitor’s, views of the puffins, other seabirds, and sea mammals are through a spotting scope.  I’ll try to show you what I can through my 300mm telephoto lens.  Here’s an example:

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Believe it or not, I spotted a grey whale on my first day!  I was talking to a visitor about Bird Island when I caught a glimpse of a spout out of the corner of my eye.  The whale surfaced about a half mile out several times over a ten minute time span.  Not an impressive photo, but what a thrill to watch!  A park ranger thought it was a female with her calf traveling with her in about 60’ of water.  I didn’t see the calf, but it almost looks like a small spout to me in the middle of the large whale’s back.  She’s on her way to Alaskan waters, and travels near to shore with her calf to try to avoid the Orcas (killer whales, that would like to dine on her offspring).

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From my perch, I can also enjoy all the folks that come to the beach.  Some come to contemplate, some come to surf, and some just come to have fun in the sand and water.  I watched two young boys construct a nice teeter-totter out of driftwood this morning.  Whatever the reason, isn’t it better than sitting in front of a computer screen or playing video games?  I’m thinking I’d like to document in photos how so many people find different ways to enjoy this place.

IMG_0393People weren’t my only visitors today.  These ground squirrels seem to be quite abundant running hither and yon among the rocks along the shore.  Despite signs asking people not to feed them or any other wildlife, they seem to have become quite good at begging for food. 

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I even had a black-capped chickadee or two flutter through.  Lots to look at and take note of on my duty stints.  Sure beats sitting inside of a VC!

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Here’s another example of my far away view of Bird Island.  Those are harbor seals on the sand at the base of the island.  Some females come here to have their pups.  They’re all just basking in the sun.

I’d also like to answer a couple of other questions that folks had about my time here.  Mike and Terry asked if the volunteer’s RV sites were separated from the general public.  Nope, my site is right in the middle of the state park campground.  That’s quite different from my normal assignments with National Wildlife Refuges.  And as expected, it’s turning out to be a lot noisier than what I’ve been accustomed to.

Donna Cave asked if there wasn’t something I could do about my lack of DISH reception.  I’ve investigated two things.  Tomorrow or Monday, I’ll be finding out if I can move to a different site where I think I could have access to the satellites.  With this being such a popular state park, I’m not sure how that will go over.  Secondly, I called the DISH closest support company, but talked to a rather rude man about them bringing me a portable DISH that I think would work at my present site.  I won’t go into all the details of that conversation, but it may be an option.

I’ll be back at my station tomorrow morning.  I’m looking forward to it, and the other minor problems will get worked out somehow.

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, May 15, 2015

A little preview of Harris Beach State Park, OR

I was packed up and on the road shortly before 8:00 yesterday morning, and headed south from Bandon to Brookings along scenic US 101.  At least I’ve been told it’s scenic.  There are enough curves and ups and downs that I could hardly enjoy the scenery.  I just had to pay attention to the driving.  I plan to do a portion of the drive again, but only in my car so I can easily visit all of the pull offs.

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A little after 10:00, I pulled into Harris Beach State Park and had to figure out where my site was.  The check in station was closed.  I knew I was assigned B4 as a site, but had no idea where that might be.  There are four different loops, and they all intersect with each other with several one way sections.  I finally just stopped dead in the middle of the road when I saw a man outside his rig.  Luckily, he had a map to show me where to go.  As it turned out, I ran into Angela, one of the state park rangers, and she led me around to my site.

The site is paved, but is certainly not level for a rig my size.  As you can see, we’re surrounded by huge trees, so my DISH on top of the rig has no chance of finding a signal.  Sad smile  The site does have a very private patio area which is good for Emma. 

Dawn, the volunteer coordinator for all six of the refuges in the complex, met me there just as I was backing into my site.  All I did was hook up the electric for the fridge, and then headed off for two hours of orientation about the park and my duties.

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After looking at the two possible locations for my outdoor station, I chose this one.  With the strong winds that can occur next to the ocean, this site is a little more protected than the other one.  I’ll be setting up a scope down near the picnic table and focus it on Bird/Goat Island that is across the bay.  That island is the largest one off of the Oregon coast and lots of sea birds nest on it. 

Today was spent orienting myself to the community of Brookings.  I drove down to Smith River in California to put in a wine order.  Prices for wine and other alcohol in California are almost half of what they are in Oregon, and it was only a drive of 11 miles.  I also got the toad washed.  It was a mess after being towed behind the rig’s exhaust pipes for a thousand miles.  Fred Myers is the grocery store in this neck of the woods, and I figured out where that is as well.

IMG_1927 On the way back from town, I stopped to get a few pics from the overlook I’ll be manning.  This is looking south.  It was hard to believe that people were out in the water swimming.  The wind was howling and I was chilly in my hoody and jeans.

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This is the view to the north.  A couple was out on the beach flying a kite.  I had heard that lots of folks come here to fly kites.  The winds were strong enough to lift the lady of the couple right up off of the ground.  She let out quite a shout as she became airborne for a moment.  It was fun to watch. 

I’ll be working both days of the weekend at the overlook.  My head is crammed with information about all the birds nesting on the island.  I have been warned though, that most folks stop here in hopes of seeing whales.  That’s okay.  I want to see whales too, and maybe I can introduce them to my avian friends.  Open-mouthed smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Two days of training done

I think my brain is on overload!  I’ve had two days of training on sea birds, whales, and sea mammals.  I’ve come into this assignment a true beginner as far as knowledge of these three areas of nature are concerned.  What a challenge.

Yesterday was all about sea birds.  These are birds that spend most of their lives out at sea on the oceans, and only come to land to nest and raise the next generation.  Puffins, guillemots, cormorants, murres, and such.  Being from the Midwest of the country, my learning curve about these birds is great.  I’m thinking I’ll learn more things working for Oregon Islands NWR than I’ve learned at any other refuge that I’ve volunteered at.  What an opportunity!

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I just had to go visit the coast around Bandon after the day’s training to help me absorb all the information I had been given.  The mesmerizing sound of the breaking waves was very calming.

Coos BayToday’s training was up on Coos Bay.  It was a day to learn about all the federal and state agencies that manage these wild areas as well as learn about the lives of whales and sea mammals.

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When I lived in upstate New York and Minnesota, I always had hanging baskets of fuchsias.  It was quite a surprise to me to see fuchsias growing naturally as a huge bush in the area where the training was taking place.  I don’t know if fuchsias are native or not, and to be honest, I’m too tired to investigate that.

I also have to admit that sitting through all these hours of training was a bit of a challenge.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to sit through hours of lectures, and my back was just killing me.  Although the whale and sea mammal topics were interesting, there were times when I had to jiggle my feet to keep awake.  Too much sitting, I guess. 

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I was thrilled to finally get to the point in the training where we went on an excursion to Simpson Reef to see the seals and sea lions.  Simpson Reef is those rocks that go across the horizon near the top of the pic.  The area is a popular ‘hauling out’ area for sea lions, and a birthing place for harbor seals.  Do you see that area of sand that looks like a landing strip in the top middle?

California Sea Lions

There were quite a few California sea lions basking in the sun there.  I was told that last week the entire sand area was covered with them.  There were also elephant seals and harbor seals and pups scattered around, but I couldn’t get any pics of them.

When we were finished with the training, we all headed back to the rigs and had a pot luck dinner.  Chef Jay made very tasty stuffed pork loin with some of my wild rice from Minnesota.  As I head out in the morning, I’ll be missing my times with Linda and Jay, but perhaps our paths will cross again somewhere down the road.

I’ve got about 85 miles to drive tomorrow to my assignment at Harris Beach State Park down in Brookings, OR.  I’m excited about it, but have some studying to do before I’ll be comfortable manning my station.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy