Friday, October 30, 2015

DESTINATION: Mena, Arkansas

We couldn't stay still for very long so we packed our bags and headed north-east for an adventurous three-day weekend.  Our destination, again, was Mena, Arkansas.   This time we decided to take Highway 259 through Broken Bow and Hochatown, Oklahoma.  Outside of Hochatown, we stopped on the side of the road to take a look at Mountain Fork River which feeds into Beavers Bend State Park.

Low water crossing on Mountain Fork

TK got a little excited when she spotted rainbow trout in the water!

Mena Mountain Top Cabins
Before leaving DFW we made reservations at the Mena Mountain Top Cabins and we were not disappointed! These adorable, rustic cabins sit on top of a sort-of-mountain and have breath-taking views of the Ouachita mountains. Each cabin has a kitchenette, living area, bathroom, separate bedroom and screened-in patio. 

Bear Den Cabin #6

Living Area

Us, outside our cabin

Visitors outside the cabin

After a good night's sleep in the Bear Den we headed southeast on Highway 8 in search of fall color.  Fall is a great time of year to visit Arkansas because it’s one of the best places to see fall foliage. Every autumn, nature paints the mountains and valleys of The Natural State with gorgeous hues of gold, red and orange.  It looked as if we arrived a little too early to see good color until we entered the Ouachita National Forest.  Sections of the forest were starting to pop.

Views of Quachita National Forest

Views of Quachita National Forest
Off Highway 8 we took a dirt road (SUV is a necessity in this area) and followed the signs to Little Missouri Falls.  This area is heavily used by ATVs so we had to be careful traveling on the narrow, twisting roads. Little Missouri Falls is a forested picnic area that has several hiking trails that lead to the waterfall's overlooks so that's what we decided to to.....hike to the falls!

No paved roads to Little Missouri Falls

Bridge that leads to trails


Little Missouri River

Little Missouri Falls

Little Missouri Falls
Little Missouri Falls
Leaving Little Missouri Falls we headed to Albert Pike Recreational Area.  This area suffered considerable damage an approximately 20 people lost their life when the Little Missouri and Caddo Rivers flooded in June of 2010.  We were sad to see that the campground was still in ruins and there is no overnight camping allowed.  From what we understand the National Parks Department has done nothing to revive this campground. 

Parking lot of closed campground

Armadillo crossing the road
Little Missouri River at Albert Pike

Rock Spring Cemetery within Albert Pike

We should have a bumper sticker that reads:  "Brakes for Cemeteries!"
Leaving Albert Pike Recreational Area we headed east on Highway 84 and connected onto Highway 70 arriving at the town of Glenwood.  It was somewhere in this area that TK spotted Bigfoot (have we mentioned TK's obsession?)  It seems Bigfoot was ready for a night of trick-or-treating - it was Halloween, after all! 

Ghost of Bigfoot?

From Glenwood we traveled northeast on Highway 28/8 through the town of Caddo Gap.  This town had such a resort feel to it that we decided to drive through the town and learn about its history.   

Caddo Gap is best known as the area in which explorer Hernando de Soto and his forces clashed with the Tula tribe, a band loosely affiliated with the Caddo Confederacy. The expedition described the Tula Indians as the fiercest they had faced during their inward journey into North America.

After this, the expedition turned back east, making it as far as the Mississippi River, where de Soto died. It is contested as to whether he died of fever, or from a wound received during the fighting. There the expedition had a secret burial ceremony and sent his body into the river.

A monument to this event stands in the heart of the small community, which now has a population of fewer than 100.

Caddo/Desoto Monument

With more knowledge about Caddo Gap we headed back to Mena and called it a day.  

The next morning we left Mena and traveled through the Quachita Mountains via the Talimena Scenic Drive.  Unfortunately the scenic drive wasn't very scenic due to a blanket of fog covering the mountains.  The fog was so dense that we could barely see the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge. 

Mountains? What mountains?

We stopped at the lodge to stretch our legs and hike a small portion of the Quachita Trail to a rock formation known as Lover's Leap.   The Lover's Leap trail winds through the woods to an overlook on the south face of the mountain. This is a place where an Indian maiden once took her own life--or so legends say.  

Trail markers

Quachita Trail marker

View from top of Lover's Leap

Sadly, we had to leave beautiful Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma and get back to our work week in DFW.  Goodbye Natural State - we will see you soon!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

DESTINATION: Twilight Eagle Santuary, Oregon

Shamefully we left Astoria and traveled east on the East Columbia Highway (Highway 30) back to Portland to catch the red eye back home.  When we passed the sign, we knew we had found what our trip had been missing so we turned the Blue Devil around and headed to the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary.

The Twilight Eagle Sanctuary is located within Cathlamet Bay, 2.5 miles east of Astoria, Oregon, and just downstream from Settler Point.  This wetland Sanctuary was established in 1992, and along with Columbia Land Trust acquisitions in 2009, now totals over 100 acres of old growth forest, tidal wetlands, and shoreline, and stretches nearly a mile along the Columbia River. The Sanctuary is just off of U.S. Highway 30. A viewing platform overlooks acres of mudflats, tidal marshes, open water, and islands. It is an excellent location to observe birds and other wildlife living on the lower Columbia River estuary. The viewing area has several interpretive panels about the wetlands, bald eagles, and the Lewis and Clark journey.

We were excited that our Pacific Northwest adventure ended with a view of these magnificent birds in the wild.  Sadly, we headed back to Portland to catch that long flight home.

DESTINATION: Astoria, Oregon

Leaving Fort Stevens we continued north east on Highway 101, across Young's Bay, and into Astoria, OR.  Starving, we made our way to Astoria's waterfront and into The Wet Dog CafĂ© and Brewery (Astoria's oldest brewery) where we ate a delicious lunch and enjoyed a local brew.

Astoria's historic waterfront

Old 300 Trolley still takes visitors along
Astoria's riverfront

The red building on the left is Pier 11

Astoria sits on the Columbia River just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean.  The city lines the south banks of the Columbia River, and the north banks of Young's bay.  Surrounded by water and tall evergreen Douglas Fir, Hemlock and Spruce trees, Astoria, is rich in scenic beauty, with a vista of the Pacific Ocean and its endless miles of sandy beaches viewed from a top of Astoria's historic Column.

The Astoria Column, in a wooded park
atop Astoria's highest hill, presents
a spectacular view of the historic city
and its surrounding rivers, bay, forest,
mountains, and ocean. The Column, built
in 1926, is 125 feet high and has 164
steps winding to the top.   We wanted to
take the 164 steps to the top, however,
the Column was closed for renovation
so we roamed the grounds and took in the spectacular views of the city from
the Column's ground level.

Indian Burial Canoe
located at the Astoria Column
         Symbolic Memorial dedicated by
Coboway's (Clatsop Indian Leader) 
descendants April 12, 1961

View of Columbia River and Young River

View of Astoria-Megler Bridge,
connects Oregon to Washington
Who can go to Astoria without visiting The Goonies House?  Not us!  We made our way to the house that sits on the hill at 368 38th St. and was used in 1985 movie about two brothers who go on an adventure to save their house.  Like all the other visitors we took a "selfie" in front of the house just as the home's owner drove up the hill, into the drive and disappeared inside.  Suddenly we felt ashamed of ourselves....a perfect time to head back to Portland.

DESTINATION: Fort Stevens, Oregon

With our Pacific Northwest adventure coming to an end we said goodbye to Cannon Beach and drove north to Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton, OR, on our way back to Portland.

Fort Stevens, WWII
Fort Stevens was once the primary military defense installation in the three-fort, Harbor Defense System at the mouth of the Columbia River (along with Forts Canby and Columbia in Washington). The fort saw service for 84 years, from the Civil War to World War II.   We roamed through what is left of this important installation.

Fort Stevens, today

Remnants of Fort Stevens

On the beach at Fort Stevens is also what remains of the Peter Iredale.  The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel bark built in Maryport, England, in 1890 and owned by British shipping firm Iredale & Porter. On September 26, 1906, the Iredale left Salina Cruz, Mexico, bound for Portland, where it was to pick up a cargo of wheat for the United Kingdom. Despite encountering heavy fog, they managed to safely reach the mouth of the Columbia River. Unfortunately strong winds and currents made the vessel run aground and the ship was abandoned without any injuries. 

Remnants of the Peter Iredale on the beach