January Adventures Along the Oregon Coast

January in Oregon is usually very rainy, but occasionally there can be a sunny day. They tend to be absolutely beautiful when they happen and a recent day was no exception. So, I headed to the Coast looking forward to new/old adventures there. Was not disappointed as it was not only sunny, but not much in the way of clouds and gorgeous blue skies.

The Historic McCullough Bridge is picturesque from the Veteran’s Memorial Park. The bridge was restored some years back. They found the original molds for the concrete walls and used them for the restoration. At this time, they have aged and look like the originals.

First stop was the bank (with a long wait) in North Bend and then pickup curbside groceries. They tried to give me someone else’s order but I KNEW I didn’t order cottage cheese….got the right order and headed West into a neighborhood I’ve never been. I roamed around there for a while until I realized I was going to have to wend my way back to Newmark Ave and did.

Then it was an easy drive to the bay road with water views and lots of interesting houses and businesses along the route. Did my heart good to see some new businesses that had popped up since the last time I was on this road. It has been a few years.

My first photographable site was what turned out to be a new statue of Charlie the Tuna. He’s popular where he’s located in Charleston Harbor. Several years ago, the original Charlie was stolen by a couple of teenagers and damaged. They were found out, got into trouble, but Charlie was returned and repaired. He sits at the Charleston visitor’s bureau. This photo is of the newer Charlie which is stationed on the north side of the bridge as you cross to enter Charleston, Oregon. There’s actually a lot of fun things to do in Charleston but that’s for another time. We’re off for ocean adventures….

There aren’t a lot of ocean views until you reach the turn off to Basdendorff Beach which I did. Basdendorff is a state park and has a very nice campground up above the beach. One of our family members often stays there. I stopped up top for this photo….

….before heading down to the beach. There are a lot of younger adults that hang at Basdendorff and they were here. There were also surfers. I think it takes a lot of moxey to surf the Pacific Ocean which has a mean temperature of about 55*. But this is the middle of January!!! Beautiful day but chilly. Not sure their wetsuits are all that insulating. Ah, to be young!

Could not get enough of this beach…..

On down the road is one of our family’s favorite places, Sunset Bay State Park. When the tide is out, you can go tide pooling to see all the small creatures that live in the tide pools, including purple Sea Stars, Cucumbers, Turban Snails, Mussels and more. And we have. It’s quite an adventure out to the furthest point on the right. There are also picnic tables and the beautiful beach.

Birds abound in this small bay which is more cove than bay in this writer’s opinion. Gulls and Terns…..

And this Black Bird flew right in front of the camera to pose for this one….

Traveling on we pass Shore Acres State Park. It is a fee area so I skipped it today. Shore Acres is where the best Christmas light display anywhere happens when there isn’t any Covid 19. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen this year but hopefully in December 2021! There’s a viewpoint here that is toted as the best place on the Oregon Coast to storm watch because the waves crash against the rocks and shoot up many feet.

Past Shore Acres is another family favorite state park, Cape Arago. There is a lighthouse as this picture demonstrates, but it is closed to visitors. Still quite the photo op….

On down, or rather up as the road climbs at this point up to the cape. A stop to view Simpson’s Reef where the many Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions, Stellar Sea Lions and Elephant Sea Lions hang out at various times of the year. The Harbor Seals have pups here on the beach. If you look closely at this photo, you can see them on that beach out on the reef.

When there are more of the various varieties, the Harbor Seals are often in the cove. At low tide, this is another great place to go tide pooling. One year on the climb back up, we stopped to sit on a handy bench about half way up. A young family member spotted their first whale here. It was feeding just beyond the reef. Real excitement

On the way back up the coast I pulled into Eel Lake. It is a small, inland lake along the coast road. There is a large, public park with a beach, dock, picnic tables and boat launch. On the south side is a campground. But, my favorite part is the hiking trail that goes part way around the lake. It’s a beautiful place to hike with the lake in view all the way.

We never pass up the opportunity to visit the Umpqua River Lighthouse perched up above the Dunes and Ocean view. Just behind the lighthouse is another small, inland coast lake, Lake Marie. This is another great place to hike. A shorter hike than Eel Lake, 3 rounds are great exercise. Here, too, is a small beach and picnic tables. No motorized boats on this lake but a row boat with people fishing can often be seen and canoes and kayaks enjoy paddling along here. There is a lot of fishing from the banks, too. One day I was hiking along the north side of the lake when 4 fellas suddenly appeared out of the forest. It was an abrupt surprise. They were mushroom hunting in the forest. Many people do that to make some extra income.

Parked to enjoy the expansive ocean view, oyster beds and jettys where the
whales can be seen during migrations north and south, behind us is our favorite lighthouse….If you get to this part of the Oregon Coast, don’t miss the chance to visit these ocean places.

The Musketeers

I’ve been watching a limited series on Hulu titled“The Musketeers.” It is based on the characters of the Alexander Dumas historical novel, “The Three Musketeers,” written in the 1800s.

In watching this series, the term “swashbuckling’ repeatedly comes to mind with visions of Dumas’s Musketeers and the Earl Flynn movies of the 1930s.

The Dumas novel is the epitome of “swashbuckling swashbucklers.” Swashbuckling is described as “engaging in daring and romantic adventures with bravado or flamboyance.” Swashbucklers are described as “heroic protagonistic characters who are skilled in swordplay, acrobatics, guile and chivalrous ideals.”

“The Musketeers” is all of this and I highly recommend this series on Hulu. You will be transported to a time in history filled with good, bad, divine, ugly, faith and a lot of swashbuckling! I didn’t want it to end!

  Aramis Athos D’Artagnan Porthos
Santiago Cabrera Tom Burke Luke Pasqualino Howard Charles

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh, My….Part II

ZooLights at the Phoenix, Arizona zoo has new light displays scattered throughout the zoo grounds this year. They are totally awesome and are worth the trip alone. I will let them speak for themselves as the photos turned out well. Enjoy these great displays.

This could become an annual event on our holiday list. If you get to Phoenix during the holidays, don’t miss this one. It starts December 1 and runs through January 1.


Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh, My!


The Phoenix Zoo puts on a holiday light display that is second to none. Zoo Lights or Lights At The Zoo provides a spectacular array of light displays. We recently visited this night-time event at the zoo. I took 195 pictures, 57 of which will make it into 2 different blog posts! The first post here shows the colored lights creatively designed in oh so many ways.

This is the entrance to the zoo.

Many visitors dressed for the occasion with santa hats and lights that blinked, twinkled or stayed stationary. This photo is of a VERY young visitor being pulled in a wagon that is all lit up. She had a head band with 2 twinkling lights and was on the move as you can tell.

The lion and tiger here have tails that wave from atop this building.

This purple tree was spectacular and the photo can’t do it justice. It has shooting lights as well as what you can see.

Everyone walked through the tunnel of lights!

Entering the aquarium. A ‘jelly’ and a ray.

All along the paths there are moving/jumping/leaping light displays. I actually managed to capture this cricket as it flashed along.

The Saguaro Cactus is the Arizona state tree/flower and protected. They can be seen growing wild at a bit higher altitude than Phoenix. But, they are a popular plant in yards and gardens. Here on the Sonoran Desert you can see them in many landscapes. This time of year they are often wrapped in holiday lights as they are here at the zoo with a squirrel in the foreground.

There were a variety of trees wrapped or strung with lights. On this one, the lights rolled off and on. I somehow managed to capture it when the lights were at their best.

The next few photos just give you an idea of some of the many displays. The rattlesnake’s rattles rattle and the dragonfly’s wings flap. Can you spot Big Foot?


We are especially fond of Big Horn Sheep. The sculptures you will see are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever come across! I was actually taking a photo of the lizard and didn’t notice them at first.

Under the sea…

The humming bird’s wings flap….

There were reindeer visiting from California. Kids were fascinated. There was a set of reindeer horns for them to touch.

On one side of the lake light displays dance to music. And on the other side is this awesome sight…

The bees were definitely buzzing around their honey hive with flapping wings…

The Praying Mantis is a personal favorite. I used to play with them when I was a child.

Butterfly wings also flap….

Just a bunny and her carrot….

Watch for part II coming soon with this year’s new, different and awesome displays.











Oregon Coast Shore Acres Holiday Lights

We post about Shore Acres at holiday time every year but it is our favorite place to visit this time of year. Below is a repost of one of our visits. We never tire of this amazing place this time of year or any time of year. We hope you enjoy all the displays pictured here! Happy Holidays from Umpqua River Haven!

Shore Acres Botanical Gardens just outside of Charleston, Oregon on the coast is lit up for 30 days over the holidays. Starting at Thanksgiving time, this beautiful coastal place is filled with lights, light displays and decorated Christmas trees. The Friends of Shore Acres do most of the lighting work and man the cottage and grounds during December every year. Various groups such as the local Corvette Club decorate the trees.

We will start at the entrance to the gardens as we are greeted by the lighted tall ship.


 Just past the tall ship we find this display from under the sea.


Moving along the garden lights open up for a full view that is spectacular to take in.


This post is about the lights. Following are some of our favorite light displays.

As you walk in past the Under The Sea display these sea lions are diving into the water and will make a splash of light.


In the opposite direction are 2 whales. One leaps and the other one, a grey whale, spouts.



Continuing around the walk is a somewhat new lighthouse display.


 The plants here are filled with colorful lights creating their own display.


Continuing on you will come to the Puffins.


And next is the pond. I am just giving you an idea of the displays. You really need to visit here during December to take in the full beauty of all the various displays and decorated trees. The frog actually leaps from one side of the pond to the other creating a splash when it enters the water.


As your walk around the pond you will come to the place that makes the ‘Ribbit’ sounds. It’s a bit of a surprise when you hear it!


 The pond supplies endless, lighted views. The cranes and salmon are no exception.


Shore Acres sits up on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean a short distance past Charleston, Oregon. The core of this property originally was the home of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson who built a large mansion with formal gardens overlooking the ocean. The State of Oregon purchased the property in 1942 and added land as it became available. The gardens were let go until 1970 when they were restored even grander than before with flowers and plants from all over the world. One of our favorite parts of the gardens is hidden a bit. There is an area with rows of all kinds of roses!

The mansion no longer exists but there is an observation area where it once was where you can read all the history. However, the caretaker’s cottage survives and is now the Garden House. It, too, is filled with all things Christmassy and is on the tour.


Inside you can sign the guest book and then head on upstairs to visit the front bedroom, Santa’s bath and the back bedroom. You can sign up for the raffle to spend New Year’s Eve in the front bedroom with catered breakfast.


 There is a Christmas tree in the bedroom also.

And the view out the window is spectacular!


And don’t forget Santa’s bath.


As you pass from the front of the house to the back you are greeted by many volunteers giving out cookies, hot apple cider, punch and coffee which you can enjoy there or take out to the pavilion.


You can sit and sip and enjoy the evening’s entertainment. There are a variety of groups that play/perform/sing on any given night and there’s often a sing-a-long. One year this bell choir performed beautifully.


If you are on the Oregon Coast during the month of December do not miss the opportunity to visit Shore Acres Holiday Light Display! There is a $5.00 charge for parking worth every penny. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop on the way out. Shore Acres State Park, 80939 Cape Arago Highway, Coos Bay, OR


Happy Holidays From Arizona

If you are traveling on Arizona’s I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff, you will pass this unique tree. It is growing on the median between the north and south double lanes on I-17. It is up “on top” as you have climbed up out of Phoenix into the Arizona high desert country. Every year, apparently, Santa’s Elves decorate this tree. It is unknown who/how it becomes adorned with holiday decorations as no one is ever seen doing the decorating. Keep watch if you are traveling this route, but, you really can’t miss it! And it now has its own song–Scrubby (see below).

Northern Ireland by guest blogger Natalie Bowen

Dunluce Castle

The first spot my husband and I visited in Northern Ireland was Dunluce castle. Dunluce castle overlooks the coast and has been greatly affected by erosion and the harsh seaside environment. Our tour guide told us that rumor has it, the lady of the castle was having a party and due to a rock slide the kitchen and kitchen staff fell into the ocean. The lady did not cancel the event and they partied without refreshments. Divers have found parts of the kitchen on the ocean floor.

The tale of the Giant Causeway-

The tale of the Giant Causeway goes there was once a giant that lived in Northern Ireland. This giant lived by the ocean and looked out for that area. There was also a giant who lived in Scotland. The Scottish giant liked to call out to the Irish giant and talk trash. The Irish giant grew tired of the trash talk and challenged the Scottish giant to a fight. The Irish giant built a bridge from Ireland to Scotland so the giants could meet. As the Scottish giant approached the Irish giant realized he was outmatched for a fight. He devised a plan to outwit the Scottish giant. The Irish giant had his wife dress him up in baby clothes. The Scottish giant arrived ready to fight. The wife said to please wait her husband was out in town and would be back soon. When the Scottish giant noticed how large their “baby” was he decided he did not want to stick around to see how large the father was. Thinking the Irish Giant was a baby, he fled assuming he was outmatched. As the giant fled he tore up the bridge. The remnants of the bridge are unique  rock formations that can only be found in Ireland and Scotland.

Giant Causeway rock formations

According to BBC, the Giant causeway is made out of 40,000 basalt steps created by volcanic activity. Scientists say the geological marvel was created approximately 50 million years ago when lava cooled at different rates creating hexagonal stone like steps. It was so much fun to climb up the different levels of the natural made rock playground. We definitely looked out into the ocean and thought about the Irish folklore that went along with this beautiful  site. Note: That’s Natalie and Clint atop the rocks.

Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/naturescalendar/summer/honeypots/giants_causeway/giants_causeway.shtml

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge-

We could not get enough of Northern Ireland’s seaside views. Our next stop was Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The rope bridge was once used for fishermen who were catching salmon. It was said there was so much salmon they would fly up and you could literally catch them. The salmon swimming pattern has changed and now you might not catch fish, but you can still catch great views while swinging approximately 100 feet above the ocean. 

The dark hedges-

The dark hedges is a road lined with beech trees planted approximately 250 years ago. According to discover northern Ireland’s website, they were planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family. The dark hedges have been used in Game of Thrones as King’s road. The impressive road reminded me of something out of a medieval story. I definitely would not want to be there at night though. 


Dublin’s Cathedrals, by guest blogger Natalie Bowen

The most recommended cathedral to visit in Dublin is St.Patrick’s Cathedral. Every tour we were on mentioned the cathedral as a must-see. I loved the detailed stain glass windows and the colorful tile floors. According to St.Patrick Cathedral’s website, it is the largest and most visited cathedral in Ireland.

On the same street of St.Patrick’s Cathedral is Christ Church Cathedral which is the oldest church in Dublin. According to Christ Church Cathedral’s website the original Viking church was founded in approximately 1030 by the Norse king Sitrius.

An important relic in the Christ Church Cathedral is St. Laurence O’Toole’s heart. St. Laurence O’Toole is the Saint of Dublin so the relic is nicknamed the heart of Dublin. According to the Irish Time’s the relic was stolen in 2012 and then miraculously found in a park unharmed in a plastic bag in 2018.


Dublin, Part I, by guest blogger Natalie Bowen

One of the first attractions my husband Clint and I visited was Dublin Castle. According to the Dublin Castle’s website, the castle was established in the 13th century and was the seat of British rule from 1204 to 1922. We were able to explore the state apartments which held a banquet hall, throne room, grand hall and several other rooms filled with ornate paintings and royal trinkets.

My favorite part of the Dublin castle tour was walking through St.Patrick’s Hall. I could feel the history and imagined the grand ceremonies that have been held in this room. Dublin Castle’s website states that not only was this hall once a meeting place of knights, but also dignitaries such as Princess Grace of Monaco, Queen Elizabeth II and President John F Kennedy. The room still hosts ceremonies like the President of Ireland’s inauguration.

To take a break from the hustle and bustle of Dublin, you can take a stroll in St.Stephen’s Green Park. A lovely place to visit as a couple with a romantic stone bridge, beautiful fountains and a peaceful lake. The stone bridge and park were used in Amy Adam’s romantic comedy Leap Year.

The iconic book of Kell’s is housed in the Trinity College library. Unfortunately to protect the integrity of the book’s original ink you cannot photograph the Book of Kell’s, which Trinity College website describes as a 9th-century gospel manuscript. After viewing the Book of Kell’s you then walk through an 18th-century double-decker library with grand bookcases, marble statue busts and significant historical documents.


The Bridges of Ashtabula County

Annually, we go to Amish Country in Holmes County, Ohio. We visit Lehman’s Hardware Store (just to window shop!), the world’s biggest coo coo clock in Sugarcreek, Ohio, and always Der Dutchman for that great Amish buffet (hoping it’s peach season for some of their famous peach pie). However, there is fun Amish Country just an hour or so east of Cleveland in Ashtabula County. We found Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen (we always want that yummy Amish buffet!) and a couple of shops. We missed the Amish flea market which is only on Mondays.

However, Amish wasn’t what we went for. We were just happy to discover that the Amish reside here. We went to visit the 19 covered bridges of Ashtabula County. We only made it to 12 of them, but that gives us a reason to return—to see the rest of the bridges (and again find Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen). Following are pictures and some of the history of the bridges we explored.

Windsor Mills Covered Bridge was our first stop. It was built in 1867 and renovated in 1002-03. It is 120’ long and crosses a tributary of the Grand River, Phelps Creek.

Next was the Riverdale Road Bridge. This Town Lattice bridge is 114’ long and sits high above the Grand River. Built in 1874, the bridge had center steel bracing added in 1945 and the floor was rebuilt and glue-laminated girders added to the interior in 1981. This created a bridge-within-a-bridge and narrowed the width. In 1987 the road at the east end of the bridge was washed out. A new concrete abutment was then built.

The Netcher Road Bridge followed. It was built in 1998 and is one of the modern bridges. This “Neo-Victorian” designed bridge is 110’ long and spans the Mill Creek. It opened to traffic in 1999.

The South Denmark Road Bridge came next. Built in 1890, this Town Lattice bridge crosses the Mill Creek and is 81’ long.

We then found the Caine Road Covered Bridge built in 1986. This bridge honors the County’s 175
th anniversary. At 124’ long, it spans the west branch of the Ashtabula River.

The Graham Road Covered Bridge was built from parts of a bridge that washed downstream in the flood of 1913. The bridge is now part of a small park on the south side of the road.

When we come upon an old barn, we just can’t resist taking photos. While not a bridge, this old barn has weathered many Ohio winters.

Root Road Covered Bridge was built in 1868. It is a Town Lattice bridge and was raised 18” when it was renovated in 1982-83.

The Middle Road Covered Bridge was built over the Conneaut Creek in 1868. Conneaut Creek is a favorite of steelhead fishers. The bridge was renovated in 1984 with the aid of 7 volunteers. It is a 136’ Howe Truss bridge.

The State Road Covered Bridge contains 97,000’ of southern pine and oak. It was built in 1983 over the Conneaut Creek. This was the first covered bridge designed and built by John W. Smolen, Jr., County Engineer. It is 152’ long.

Creek Road Covered Bridge is 125’ long. This Town Lattice bridge is so old that there is no record of the date it was built. It is 25’ above Conneaut Creek and was renovated in 1994.

The Olin’s have owned the property next to Olin’s Covered Bridge on Dewey Road since 1873 when the bridge was built. This is a Town Lattice bridge 115’ long spanning the Ashtabula River. This bridge was renovated in 1985.

The last bridge we visited before we needed to head back home was the Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge. This is the newest covered bridge on the tour, built between 2006 – 08. There is a park that sits a short distance from the bridge, over-looking it. That is where these photos were taken. This is the longest covered bridge in the U.S. and the 4th longest in the world. The structure was designed by John W. Smolen, Jr. and the architectural design was done by Timothy J. Martin (the current county engineer). The bridge is on State Road crossing the Ashtabula River and is one of 17 drivable bridges here. The bridge is 613’ long (in 4 sections), has walkways on both sides, supports 2 lanes of legal-weight traffic, and is more than 93’ above the river. It cost 7.78 million to build and is on a main thoroughfare. This bridge replaced a steel bridge built in 1949 which had replaced the Crooked Gulf Covered Bridge built in 1867. It is expected to last 100 years.

Ashtabula County has many other adventures to offer such as the 23 stops on the winery tour winding through Ohio’s green, rolling hills. Then there are the 107 stops on the quilt tour (note one or two of the bridges has a painting of a quilt on it because it is part of the quilt tour also). To say nothing of the Lake Erie shoreline in this county. And then there’s Geneva-On-The-Lake, but, those are all other stories.

We plan to return to the covered bridge tour in Ashtabula County and find the shortest covered bridge in the U.S., along with the other ones we missed. And Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen!