Supai/Havasu Falls Trip – And How We Survived the Flash Flood of September 2015

Dear Diary,

There are moments in time that forever alter the course of your life. Some are planned, some sneak up on you like a thief. This one was the latter, but what this thief took was all of my preconceived notions about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), judgments of other peoples based on my own lifestyle bias, what a vacation may or may not be all about, and left me awash with a much different perspective. The chain of events leading up to our struggle for survival started out predictably.

Pre-Trip – We spent the night at Hualapai Lodge on Route 66 which is the last bastion of creature comforts before heading out the 60 miles of Indian Highway 18 to the Havasupai Hilltop Trailhead. Three notable things happened this night.

  1. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make a Native American smile back at me, or even acknowledge me passing through their world. I assumed they are still angry at Caucasians, and rightly so.
  2. There was an extremely loud and obnoxious group (hiding a little barky dog in one of their purses) staying at the hotel and I hoped they were not going down to Havasu Falls.
  3. My husband bought a hat at the gift shop and while checking us out, the Hualapai Native gave it an old Indian blessing that nothing bad would ever happen to my husband while wearing it. He didn’t really pay attention to it while I thought it was incredible, and took in every word and gesture. I was mad at him afterward for not taking it more seriously.

Day 1– We checked the weather one last time and noted a 30% chance of rain, with only a 10% chance the next day. We added rain gear to our daypacks.

We drove the 60 miles to Havasupai Hilltop early in the morning to try and get a jump on the desert heat. We had a 10 mile canyon trek ahead of us (8 miles to the Supai village, and another 2 miles to the campground) and had to drop off our backpacks at a designated area to be hauled down to camp by mules (there are no roads). We had daypacks full of water, food, and other essentials that wouldn’t fit into our backpacks. We were not traveling light as we felt it necessary to plan for any contingency during the 5 nights and 6 days we would spend in Havasu Canyon, which is on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon, a world away from convenience stores.

Us at the trailheadTrailhead2

The trek down was long, hot, and humid (it rained a little along the way), but incredibly beautiful. I was so glad we had not opted to take a helicopter flight down. The vastness of just this arm of the Grand Canyon is so magnificent, you begin to get a small glimpse of how insignificant a human is on it’s truly grand scale.

On the trailTrail1

From research on other blogs…I knew to be aware and steer clear of the mule trains that traveled back and forth along the trail. It is the only way for supplies and mail to be delivered to the village (some supplies are taken by helicopter).

One of these mules would be swept away and drown the next day (I learned from the owner/driver of this train who took our gear out later in the week).

Muletrain

We got our first glimpse of the blue-green water in which the Havasupai get their name before entering into the village. It is a part of nature that defies being accurately captured in any photograph.

The blue-green water (natives don’t say turquoise).

BlueGreenwater2

My hubby entering into the village just ahead of me. hubby into village

Did I see the animals described in other blogs? Yes. Horses/mules so painfully thin that every bone in their body was evident, and I wondered how they were still standing. It haunts me still. But I also saw well fed horses and mules. I saw a young man intentionally trip a black dog that was at a full run and it went tumbling along the road for at least 6 feet, but got up and kept running unhurt. I tried not to be mad about it. I’m still trying.

Did I see the trash others described in their blogs? Yes. But I also saw neat and tidy homes. I intentionally did not photograph either what I thought to be the good or the bad, as photos tend to capture only a tiny fraction of what may be a bigger picture. More on this later.

The landscape kept getting more indescribably beautiful as we hiked past the village. Waterfalls were everywhere.

Little Navajo Falls on the way to the campground. Littlenavajofalls

Next was Havasu Falls on the way to the campground. We stopped and refreshed ourselves here. Despite the photo I was able to capture with no people, the place was quite crowded. We all eyed each other as interlopers on a personal dream. In other words…not in a friendly way. Along with the landscape, this would change drastically in just a day.

Havasu Falls in all of it’s spectacular glory pre-flood. Havasufalls

The campground was much more crowded than I expected for mid-September, but we were able to get one of two adjoining campsites creek side. We left our daypacks there to hold it and hiked back up to the campground entrance to wait for our backpacks to arrive by mule train.

While we waited, the obnoxious group arrived (just as loudly and with much fanfair as in the morning at the hotel) and headed into the campground. I knew it. The most I could hope for now is that they would not be within earshot.

Our backpacks arrived and we headed back to our spot with our gear and to set up camp. Who had set up camp right next to us? You guessed it, the obnoxious group. The cigarette smoke was noxious, barking of the little yappy dog was endless, and the incredibly loud voices ensured the conversations of the 6 people would drown out the sound of the babbling creek.

I was really mad about it and vowed to find another campsite the next day. How could I know that every decision being made this day and the next would mold the fate of each of the people making it?

Our camp taken from the side so as to block the OP (obnoxious people).

ourcamp

That night I slept with an awareness of rain off and on all night. The next morning we awoke to a glorious cloudless sky. The rain from the previous night had left not a trace of change to the landscape, and this contributed to a false sense of security of events in our very near future.

Day 2 (Flash flood day) – We dressed for the warm weather and for our 7 mile round trip trek to both Mooney and ultimately to Beaver Falls. I emptied my daypack of the ten essentials (except water and a water filter for some inexplicable reason) for the first time all summer as I was tired of carrying a load from the day before. A mistake I was soon to deeply regret and will never make again. Luckily my hubby did not follow suit.

As we headed out I noticed a campsite was still available that I had found the day before (when this photo was taken) in the middle of where the creek split that was perfect and far away from the OP. me on the brdige

I knew with new people arriving this day (Monday, September 14, 2015) it wouldn’t last long, but my hubby objected at the amount of work it would take to move our camp. I was mad about it, but to placate me he said we could move if when we got back from the day’s adventures it was still available.

Another fate molding decision to be sure. In just a few hours the people that were on islands would have to be rescued by both Supai and federal rangers. The bridge I was standing on would be tossed aside by a raging river.

As we started out on our trek my hubby snapped this photo. I would have you note the deceptively blue skies.

trek

We proceeded onto the vertical corridor of various gangways, each slippery and requiring a different skill set. The warning should be duly noted by all proceeding down it’s treacherous throat.sign

I proceeded with the necessary caution especially due to the wet conditions from the waterfall mist.

MF1

And down…

MF2

Note the still cloudless blue sky…MF3

 

And down…

MF4

Finally we reached Mooney Falls. Taller than Niagara Falls, this is as close as we dared get.

Mooney Falls

We didn’t tarry here but to take the photo and we were on our way to Beaver Falls another 3 miles down the narrow canyon. We were blissfully ignorant of the clock already counting down on a wall of water headed our way.

Onward we went, crossing the creek several times throughout our little trek. Fatefully I snapped this photo of the place that would be impassable in short order, and trap us in the canyon for over 15 hours. This shoreline would disappear under a seven foot swell that would roar and rage as swiftly as an over fueled freight train. creek crossing

We stopped to take photos of flora and fauna along the way, had a leisurely lunch near Beaver Falls, not knowing that every one of these moments would waste what little time we had left to make it out of the canyon.

Big Horn sheep trailside..big horn sheep

We finally made it down to Beaver Falls where we talked with two other groups…one group would leave the area slightly before us, and one group of 5 beautiful young Asian Americans we would pass as they made their way to Beaver Falls as we were headed back. I would worry myself sick about these 5 people all night, not knowing that they were rescued by helicopter, along with the group that had left before us. We alone would be trapped in the canyon.

This is a photo of me being all dumb, fat, and happy in Beaver Falls. The first clap of thunder and our first indication of a storm would occur just after this photo was taken. We hadn’t noticed that the sun had quite suddenly disappeared. Beaver Falls

How could we know that it was already too late.

We took off running as the skies were lit up with bone chattering thunder and blinding lightening that seemed to happen simultaneously. The rain poured down making every step muddy and making the trail increasingly harder to find.

running

Then we saw brown muddy waterfalls forming all along the canyon walls, and terror gripped me as the full realization of what was happening hit. In the same millisecond I took in how narrow the canyon was.

canyonwater1

We ran faster still clinging to futile hope that we could make it out. The canyon walls became monstrous spouts of water.

We were becoming surrounded by brown water as seen in this photo. canyonfilling

A rescue helicopter passed us several times and at some point I knew they saw me, but never stopped. I didn’t know they were busy with the 5 downstream. What we did know at that point is that it was up to us to save ourselves.

My hubby’s inner boy scout kicked in and we made our way further upstream where there was higher ground, but not high enough. We reached a point where we had to cross the rising water to get to a knoll my husband has spotted. I would not be more terrified than when he directed me to a point that he felt was safe to enter and I dropped into a hole with water up to my neck.

As I struggled to get my footing and felt the water taking me with it, I screamed for my husband and he was able to grab the hand I had held out and pulled me back and up to where he was while I got footing to keep following him. We held hands to steady each other and finally made it to the other side. We later learned from a Supai ranger that we should have held onto each other’s shoulders. Swift water rescue was not something I had learned for my summer of backpacking.

We reached the high point and settled for a minute to watch the water below. It continued to rise until nothing was recognizable. As it rose it started foaming like a mad horse charging blindly through the canyon. Then we saw debris. Lots of it. Huge logs and tree limbs and even cut lumber (later we would realize this was parts of picnic tables and bridges).

We sat there helplessly watching as the world transformed. I’m not sure if I withdrew into my poncho to retain body heat or to distance myself from the grim picture before me. ponchome

Always a person of action my husband suggested we move further down the trail to see if the water was passable.

When we came to the water’s edge, I stuck my six foot stick into the water and it disappeared. The waters edge kept collapsing into the roiling brown river that moved up and down like a swift moving canyon serpent devouring everything in it’s path.

To enter into it would have been suicide.

We returned to our vantage point and took stock of our situation. We looked for anything to take shelter under. Even though it had stopped raining (temporarily as it turned out), the river kept rising.

My enterprising hubby had noticed an animal den and we went back down to find it and see if we had to fight an animal for it

Luckily it was empty and we proceeded to move in and make it our own. It would be our home for the next 15 hours. And even though we were wet, cold, hungry and tired, we were thankful to have it.  caveme

I had 15 hours to think about the events leading up to this moment. We had made judgments about a 10% chance of rain based on our So. Cali knowledge (which means no rain), and we were paying for it.

I said prayers for God to preserve our stuff so I could someday have warm clothes and food. Then I realized that our ordeal was not over and I prayed for the rain to stop and the water to subside before I had to spend another night here. Then I just prayed that we would live. I also prayed for the animal that lived here to not return. It didn’t.

Our view before it got dark…cave view

At some point during our long night it did stop raining. We had to exit our cave about once an hour to stretch our cramped legs and to check the sky.

I pondered if the Indian blessing my husband’s hat played a part in our being able to survive thus far.

At one point I noticed that there were little points of light twinkling in the jungle outside our cave. I realized I was seeing fireflies. I hadn’t seen them since I was a little girl spending a summer with my Daddy in Oklahoma. I had forgotten about them since then. For a moment I was transported back in time and was with the Daddy that I miss so much. Such a magical gift at such a frightful time. I will remember it forever.

It was a long night and my hubby and I worked hard to make little jokes in an attempt to make the other laugh. Like me telling him I was looking forward to my spaghetti being rehydrated by the time we got back. We shared two packages of cheese crackers my hubby had squirrelled away in his daypack. God bless him.

Finally, the sky began to become light.

Day 3, 4, and 5 – When there was enough light to make out footing, we headed back up to our vantage point to check the water levels. In another answer to prayer, the water had receded but was still muddy.

We used our staffs to check water levels and made our way back to Mooney Falls and the vertical jungle gym that was now muddy in addition to wet.

We were tired so it was tough going back up, but we did it. I had imagined during the night that the whole camp would erupt in applause when they saw us making our way out of the canyon. We would be reported as missing by the OP when they noticed we had never returned.

The reality was much different.

There was a Federal Ranger filming the canyon at the top of Mooney Falls where we made our grand entrance. He was nonplussed at our appearance and seemed much more concerned with the landscape. We told him about the 5 young people we were worried were still in the canyon and he made a note of it.

Later I would put together when I heard that 9 people had been rescued out of the canyon. That would account for the party of 4 that left before us, and the 5 youngsters downstream from us.The ranger still sent down 2 others to double check that nobody else was left between Mooney and Beaver Falls.

He said, “The flash flood happened so quickly.” I thought that was curious and still wonder why he would tell us something that was so obvious we already knew. Don’t get me wrong…everyone entering the back country needs to take responsibility for their own actions. Period. But after I returned home and read that seven canyoneers  were killed by a flash flood in Keyhole Canyon “despite Ranger warnings of imminent flash flooding” I thought back on what the ranger said.

Were they really warned though? I wonder. I can’t help but doubt they would have gone in knowing that flash flooding was imminent. We wouldn’t have.

As we made our way through the campground we didn’t really notice the destruction as much as we noticed it was eerily empty. I dreaded seeing what had happened to our campsite.

Another prayer answered. Our campsite was one of only a couple creek side that was left untouched. The flood waters had eaten up shoreline before and after our tent but mysteriously went around our tent. Not mysterious to me. God had answered my frivolous prayer.

The OP’s had been also spared but were silently and quickly bugging out. They obviously didn’t report us missing as they never even looked our way. I didn’t care anymore if they stayed or not. I was just happy to be alive and to be able to get into dry warm clothes and eat!

This is how close the water came.closeness

We spent the rest of the day eating and sleeping. A few die hard campers returned and we learned that the camp had been evacuated and most campers bugged out that morning.

The route to Beaver Falls was closed for the duration of our stay.

The next day we offered to the Supai Rangers to clean up the trash around Havasu Falls, and from then on worked with the humble, hard working Ranger Ron who taught us the proper swift water rescue technique.

Here he is already at work on repairs. The two rangers to everything by hand.

Ranger Ron

We cleaned up Havasu Falls and then took a dip in the waters that were slowly turning back to it’s normal color. As if nothing had happened. The black dog I had seen being havasufallsafterabused earlier found me and we became fast friends.

As I watched Ranger Ron and other natives interact, I realized that I had completely misjudged their “niceness”. Their communications are quick and direct. Not filled with niceties or superfluous language. Nor do they feel the need to apologize for it.

We walked around the camp and took in the devastation. The zip line was still up from rescuing people from the island where I had thought I wanted to move. zipline

The campsites like ours just downstream from us. damage

The rangers have their work cut out for them for awhile…

damage2

My hubby’s victory pose over the flash flood of Havasu Falls Sept. 2015.

victorypose

On day 5 we rose early and took the helicopter out to the “hilltop”.

I left a much different person than who I went down the canyon as.

FOMO (fear of missing out)? Never again. Each journey is the one we are meant to travel, not the dream we build from other’s experiences.

As I sat in the helicopter waiting to take off I couldn’t help but wonder, how would we fare if our lives/community were laid bare for hundreds of travelers a day from all over the world to judge us based on their egocentric standards? I doubt that our lives would be as picturesque as we would like to think.

We don’t have the right to judge other peoples here or anywhere. Their world is not ours, and if we have been granted the privilege to travel through it, we must focus on the experience it leaves us with, not the one we bring with us.

As we parted, Ranger Ron told us we were welcome on Havasupai land anytime.

I had an incredible experience and it was a value added bucket list trip for sure, but I think once was enough.

Until next time dearest.

 

Shoal Bay East – A Dream Within a Dream

Dear Diary,

I’ve saved the best for last. Shoal Bay East. On an island full of beautiful beaches, this one rises above the rest. With it’s impossibly white powdery sand, warm aquamarine water that gently kisses the shore, an absence of footsteps but our own, and a shallow area of reef for snorkeling, this beach has it all.

Shoal Bay East

As I went through the images that we took there, I realize anew that photographs are the windows to which we can view our memories. A moment forever frozen in time. A tiny time machine that can transport us back to that place and be relived as often as we desire.

This is one of my happy places. This moment in time with my family on the most beautiful beach in the world. This window to a memory where I am always on vacation, my daughter is forever a child, and my husband wears a perpetual smile.

FAMILYMAN

Along the 2 mile beach, there was a place we stopped to eat. A local man was there resting his freshly broken arm. He was very friendly and I found myself in conversation with him immediately. He asked me about LA and seemed to relish in my description of life in Southern California.

I asked him how he broke his arm. He told me another local had broken it the night before. I was more than a little taken aback. I couldn’t help but ask him why someone would do that. He simply replied, “because he doesn’t like me”.

He went on to write down his name and address on a little index card he pulled out of his pocket. When he handed it to me he said, “Please think of me now and then when you are in your Southern California paradise”.

I realized then that this man was desperate to get off of this island. This place that I had saved so long to come to, this place that I was trying acutely to drink in every minute, to remember every sound and sight of.

One man’s paradise is another man’s hell. How many of these cards had he handed out?

It had gotten awkward.

We politely moved on, but the man still haunts me from time to time.

We spent the rest of the day walking, laughing, swimming, snorkeling. I couldn’t bear to leave it. But we had to, so I thought of something I could do to help me remember this place.

It was just a simple thing. I just wanted to take a little of this powdery sand with me to have a tangible reminder of paradise. If anyone ever doubted how perfect this sand was, I could whip out my little sample and let them ooh and ahhh as they ran the tiny specks of heaven through their own hand.

So I took out the only thing I had on me to gather sand in, an empty Pringles container. I filled it half full and took my prize with me back to our room.

I reluctantly packed our bags to leave. It seemed like just a memory already. The post vacation depression was already setting in and I hadn’t even left yet.  RendezvousBayview

Early the next morning we left our perfect beach that I had come to know as my own. I was a little mad that it didn’t care that I was leaving. It would go on being indescribably beautiful to someone else. Or to nobody else. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t be here ever again, which struck me sullen.

At least I was bringing a tiny piece of it back with me in the Pringles can that was carefully packed in my luggage along with a couple of shells. Such a small token of what loomed large in my memory…and still does.

We retraced our travel back the way we came. We didn’t have to fly with chickens or an overweight plane this time though. Thank goodness.

We arrived in Puerto Rico where we had to claim our luggage and go through customs, which was on the far side of the airport. The airport in Puerto Rico makes me feel a little like a zoo animal. It is floor to ceiling glass on a single level, with everyone outside pressing their faces to the glass to get a look inside.

We dutifully picked up said luggage, made the long walk to customs and took our place in the queue to be inspected. I looked behind me (as everyone Mom does to make sure we hadn’t dropped anything) and to my absolute horror noticed on the dark floor a powdery white line all the way across the airport to my suitcase.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I pulled my suitcase forward to try and distance myself from it, but since it was coming from my suitcase, it just continued to follow me.

My face went red hot. I broke out into an immediate sweat as if I had just run a marathon.

I felt like a very bad drug mule that was clumsily trying to smuggle cocaine into the US.

I don’t do well in these kind of situations, I immediately go to worse case scenario.

Locked Up Abroad.

I knew I looked guilty. I couldn’t help it. I don’t normally smuggle white powdery sand into the US, so how was I to know how unreliable my Pringles vessel would be at transporting my stash?

Damn that Shoal Bay sand for being so impossibly fine and white!

I tried to get my husband’s attention without drawing any to myself, but he was focused on placing his luggage on the conveyor. It was too late. All I could do at this point was hope he would get a good lawyer so I could come home again.

It was my daughters turn to put her little SpongeBob rolling case on the conveyor and they waved her through.

Good they were through…hopefully they could behave as though they didn’t know me when the customs person nodded to the policia and they took me down.

I set my suitcase on the conveyor and braced myself. No matter how I set it, the sand just kept coming. All the saliva had left my mouth. My face was tomato red and I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I handed over my passport.

I stared at my husband and daughter waiting for me, memorizing their faces.

The attendant hands me my passport and tells me to pick up my suitcase.

Just like that I am through customs.

Thank you God! Thank you, thank you God!

When we finally got home and I opened that suitcase, let me just say I have never seen such a mess in my life. It’s like I threw a few cups of flour in with my clothes, not quite sure if I was baking or traveling.

It took me a week, but I managed to salvage some of that sand with a paint brush. It now resides safely in a bottle in a shadow box along with other little baubles I picked up, and a photo of my daughter and I walking along the beach in Anguilla.

ShadowboxA window to a beautiful memory.

As for my smuggling career? Well over my friend, well over.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes Something Real?

IMG_1028[1]

Dear Dairy,

You know I don’t normally start my posts with a photo. I feel like photos are there to help illustrate a story.

But not today.

The photo IS the story. It’s the pile of crap I have begun to amass for The Next Big Thing. As the pile gets bigger, so does the feeling that I am a fraud.

So I keep asking myself, is The Next Big Thing real? The answer is always yes.

Unfortunately, I find I am surrounded by skeptics. Oh they don’t say much, except when I bought a ridiculously large knife with all kinds of survival gear tucked into the handle, and my Eagle Scout of a husband scoffed and said I had fallen for a gimmick.

I defended my choice while unloading the fishing hook, matches, compass, and showing him how I would defend myself against a bear. What I got was an impatient and curt reply, “If a bear gets that close to you, you would already be dead”.

I was afraid of that.

And this will be why the dreaded bear canister will be the last thing I buy to complete my backpacking ensemble. Because that means if it is really real, I will have to face my worst fear…bears.

And that’s also why I now know that this 57 year old (just by a couple of weeks mind you) city girl whose only real survival skill is finding parking in LA, will be backpacking the Lost Coast of California alone. The look on the Eagle Scout’s face said it all, he is beyond humoring me on this trip.

This is not new.  But guess what is new…nobody’s skepticism makes this bucket list item less real for me, in fact it hardens my resolve.

But let me tell you why.

This is the first time I have dared ever make a decision for just me. When I wasn’t running away or to something, when I wasn’t traumatized into or out of my comfort zone.

I am doing it because I want to…but somewhere else is the unrelenting desire to do it because I have to. Because I can’t back down. Not to the skeptics, but most of all…not to myself.

Not break the promise that I made to myself every time I was in the Grand Canyon, or Lake Powell, or Kings Canyon or Sequoia National Park or Zion or Bryce, or any other place in nature…that I would be back when I didn’t have to rush home to the cement jungle to be at work Monday morning.

Rush home because I couldn’t ever take off more than a week. It was too grueling trying to get caught back up on emails, meetings, payroll, budgets, deadlines, etc.

But I don’t have those constraints now. For the first time in my life, my time is my own.

So are my decisions.

My decisions for the last 57 years were made with the best interest of my parents, kid(s), husband(s), sister, nieces, and whoever else was most dominant in my life at the time. Unfortunately, the last person on my list of important people to consider was me.

Until now.

So the pile in the room we loosely call the office (loosely because nothing really productive happens there remember) keeps growing.

I have to start my training from ground zero again. The hip injury from my overzealous conquering of the Ice House Trail healed rather quickly, compared to my injury being an excuse to throw myself into the holidays and making it perfect for family and friends.

There I said it. I know what my true weaknesses are

But the holidays are past, and my overdeveloped sense of responsibility to be all things to all people is temporarily sated.

So bring it skeptics…this $&*! is real because I said so.

Until next time dear diary.

A Bucket List Value Add – Ricky and Lucy Buy a Harley Davidson

 

Dear Diary,

I am an excellent driver. Excellent driver ( I can never say this without thinking of Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man). But I am, especially when compared to my husband.

He uses the braille method of driving, letting the raised roadway markers do the work for him. I believe we are the only people on Earth who have been pulled over for swerving at 9:00 in the morning.

And what was my hubby’s response to the nice highway patrol officer who asked him why he drives in such a manner while sober? “It’s my lane, I like to use all of it”. Oh God help us.

So why would I climb onto the back of a two wheeled machine with Mr. Magoo at the helm? It was too late to reason it out…I was already hooked on the ride.

While still in the afterglow of surviving my death sentence, my amazing coastal adventure, and my first Harley experience…when he said let’s go to the Harley dealer I gleefully obliged.

We were just going to look, that’s all.

I know my husband better than he knows himself. When he says he is going to look at something, what he means is he is going to buy something. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that kind of commitment, but when I climbed onto the back of the Night Train and it roared to life…my reservations evaporated into pure adrenaline.

It was a 45 minute ride to the dealer, and when I got my head out of the clouds I noticed a strange new phenomenon. Whether it was a nod, a hand motion or sometimes only a couple of fingers….every biker acknowledged us and we back.

Not my photo but says it all…

just-ride-292x300

Oh My Gosh….it’s like being a member of the cool kid club. I’m in for the new bike now…I’m all in.

When we walked into the Harley dealer I felt like a full fledged Son of Anarchy, I mean stepson of Anarchy, er stepdaughter of Anarchy…well something of Anarchy, but not Gemma Teller, definitely not Gemma.

ANYWAY, we walked around all those new shiny metal steeds with the Hub as my tour guide, and like any other herd of volatile horses…one stood out. It turned out to be a 2014 Street Glide FLHX in Daytona Pearl Blue. Other bad asses might like the matte black…but I must pop with color. That’s just how I roll.

Daytona Blue

After hours of waiting for my hubby to finish squaring off with the sales manager, we say goodbye to the Night Train…Hello bagger.

Wait…what? Bagger? And to think up until now I have always battled saddle bags.

This bike is quite a bit larger than my husband’s softail (I just learned that, I don’t know what it means but it sounds cool) so I immediately run into my first rub.

I have no idea how to get on it. Thank God I have long legs and my ridiculously clumsy mount is not as bad as it could have been (I guess).

My hubby starts the engine and we are ready to ride off into the sunset on our new stallion.

Oopsy…not so fast.

He accelerates but fails to fully make the turn and we stop just inches short of running into a parked truck. A parked truck I say.

Had I not put both of my feet on the ground when he did, we would have dropped the bike. It took all of our four feet to keep it from falling over.

What happened to my ultra cool Harley husband?

Evidently a bigger heavier bike handles much differently than a smaller lighter one. How clever of us to get that out of the way right off the bat.

We still laugh about that. Well…I still laugh about it, it’s too soon for him.

I was fine with backing up and trying again, no harm no foul…but I’m afraid it was a fatal blow to my hubby’s confidence, what with that 21k price tag and the grimaces of his fellow bikers on the line.

I dismounted (really, really not a pretty sight) and he backed up the bike and finally executed that turn. Needless to say I was hesitant to get back on, but I did.

I kept my feet on the ground for insurance when he took off again, and clever me found out it wasn’t a good thing when they flew behind me like a rag doll’s. I had to use my nonexistent thigh muscles to get them onto the pegs without touching the fast moving ground under me.

Crap, we had a lot of turns between the dealer and home. The adrenaline was all gone and replaced with fear bordering on terror now.  What had I gotten myself into? How had we turned from Jax and Tara to Ricky and Lucy?

I don’t normally drink alcohol, but when we stopped at a restaurant to eat I bellied right up to the bar. Three shots of courage and I was all good again. Real good in fact. I’m a cheap date.

Maybe it was the Fireball, but our new baby sure looked good under the street lamp just waiting to roar.

1530573_10201143114200338_1283155430_n

I hope it has patience while we get acclimated, but I carry a flask now for good measure. I don’t normally imbibe, so when we get stopped by a friendly highway patrolman and he finds my flask…how will I explain?

I guess we’ll cross that bridge of irony when we come to it. Meanwhile, I’ll be having the time of my life.

When was the last time I was a flask carrying rebel? Um, never.

Don’t tell my kids.

This is the stuff that bucket lists with value add is made of, and I’m all in for wherever the wild ride takes us.  I still can’t believe it.

Until next time dear diary, Route 66 here we come. Be afraid, be very afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 6 – Gold Beach to Yachats, Oregon

Dear Diary,

I really couldn’t wait to leave Gold Beach, and ahead of me was the most anticipated accommodation on the entire trip – spending the night in the Heceta Head Lighthouse keepers Victorian bed and breakfast. I was very excited.

Little did I know that I would be spending the night with a ghost. Not just a bump in the night ghost, this one spent most of the night with me.

But that story in a minute.

The southern Oregon coast is a well kept secret. If I had my way, I would retire in some little house on this coast and live out the rest of my days in beach combing bliss.

oregon_isls

I finally stopped for a full meal. Even a greasy spoon tastes wonderful when your staple has been PB&J sandwiches. I followed 101 both alongside the Pacific as well as inland, although with the trees blocking my view of the sea, sometimes it was hard to tell whether I was inland or not.

I came upon Coos Bay Bridge, and what a marvel of engineering it is.

coos-bay-bridge660

As beautiful as it may be, like any other Californian I don’t like spending too much time either on or under a bridge. When you’ve lived in California for 50 years, unpleasant memories can pop up at the most inopportune times…remember the Oakland Nimitz Freeway collapse of 1989? Three levels of freeway reduced to one during rush hour?

I do. Just sayin’. nimitz-freeway-collapse1I had better get used to it though, Oregon has so much more water than Cali and the 101 will traverse many a bay, river, creek, and lake before I’m done.

I pass Florence and the Sea Lion Cave. I had wanted to stop there, but the reviews were lukewarm so I passed. Heceta Head Lighthouse was in my sites, and only about a mile away.

Please see Bucket List Value Added – A Ghost In My Room for a full account of this amazing place, the ghost that haunted me, and her suspected reason for doing so. The rest of this post will not make much sense without that reference I’m afraid.

After my night with Rue (also known as the grey lady) I can count her as one of the fascinating women I encountered along the Pacific Coast Highway, even if she was invisible and terrifying.

I took away far more than a ghost story from that night however. I was at total peace when I climbed back into my car the next day. I can’t say that the too tight twisted rubberband completely let go of the grief link, but I can say that it relaxed it’s grip on my soul.

I’ll never be ok with my Sister and Daddy choosing suicide, but I felt the weight moving off of me, like taking off a dark heavy cloak for the first time in a long time.

Rue also left me with a surprising truth.

We who persevere, who wake every morning and no matter how hard the day may be we endure (I always feel guilty when I say that, it’s not like I’m being tortured in an Iraqi prison, but so much is relative I guess). We who cherish and hold onto the hope of good times to cushion us when we fall on the despair of bad times. For those of us who trust in God even when it seems like he is nowhere to be found…we get credit for time served.

In the book of life it is noted that we lived our lives fully, we took the good with the bad and rode it out to the end. Our butterfly wings influenced the world in ways we will never know just because we kept flying.

For those who sought to end their strife/grief/pain in taking their lives, I think there may be a harsh reckoning in that they didn’t end anything. The ultimate price, for what did they pay? At least in Rue’s case, she was here a hundred years before I got here and how many hundreds of years after I’m gone?

There is tremendous merit in working through whatever it is that may be stealing our joy while we are still here on this beautiful Earth as mortals.

When I left this unforgettably scenic and mystical place the next morning, I took much comfort in knowing that we have a choice in which path we take, and the hard road reaps the most rewards.

I choose to stay and ride it out.

Thank you for indulging my ramblings, and I hope that by now my dear readers know they are really my diary. Until next time.

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 5 – Trinidad CA to Gold Beach OR

Dear Diary,

Setting Gold Beach as a destination was an afterthought. I had held off deciding to go there until well into this trip. I don’t know why I had such a hard time committing.

I suspect it was because I really didn’t want to go there. For my sake anyway.

Let it be a lesson to all when we do something because we think someone else would like it, things are bound to go awry.

But it started out magical.

Waking up in Trinidad was as good as going to sleep there. I had breakfast in the dining room of the B&B with the lovely couple I had met the day before at Patrick’s Point.

Back into my Mustang, and I was off to parts unknown. Well not unknown, just unfamiliar. I was armed with my maps and sketchy AT&T wireless GPS app service.

If I was on the East Coast, I would have been through 7 or 8 states by now, and finally today I would be leaving my beloved California.

But not before paying homage to my favorite trees, the California Redwoods. I set off for the Newton P. Drury Scenic Parkway which was 30 miles north of Trinidad off of Highway 101, 10 miles of old growth forest. Heaven on Earth.

Just before I reached the Parkway, I saw a sign that said Elk Meadow, home of a large herd of Roosevelt Elk.

Why not? I had plenty of time.

About a quarter mile down the road I had turned onto, I came upon the vast meadow. Gorgeous, but no elk. I went on to the day use area and parked the pony to take a look around.

My car was the second car in the parking lot. There was a group of people mulling around (obviously with the other car) that eyed me suspiciously. Well now…wasn’t that a switch? I was only wearing my pink Monterey wind breaker, not the whole Hello Kitty ensemble. It had to be because I was traveling solo, that was a kind of triumph itself.

An inviting path lead to an old growth forest. It was calling my name.

I grabbed some water and headed out. The first thing I came to when the path led alongside the meadow was this sign.

Wild ElkI really would like to meet the person who needs to be told; Danger, do not approach wild elk on foot.

Maybe I don’t want to meet that person, ’cause even a dyed in the wool city girl knows better. Besides, I make it a habit not to approach animals bigger than me – wild or not.

I followed the path into the forest, where I happily followed it along until I was completely surrounded by ancient redwoods.

Anybody who has stood in a Redwood Forest can tell you it renders one reverently speechless. When able to speak again, it is only while fighting the urge to whisper.

I had no need to talk. I listened while they talked.

As the breeze high in the treetops rustled their leaves, it’s as though they were whispering their thousand year old secrets to each other in a language that we mere mortals are not able to understand.

I was an audience to Ents in Lord of the Rings, except better because these are real.

There are some trees in what’s left of the old growth forests that are thousands of years old. It boggles the mind to think that they were here before the birth of Christ.

The carpeted forest was silent under my footsteps. Only the sound of the trees could be heard. The noise in my mind and the rest of the world disappeared.

I continued down the path and was rewarded with trees larger and taller. A few photos might help illustrate their size…or not.

The trail is about 3 feet wide.

Redwood1

I felt like Alice In Redwoodland (after shrinking) next to the roots of this fallen monarch.

Redwood 2

The trail is still 3 feet wide winding around the tree base.

Redwood 3

I came upon a small waterfall and babbling creek that was as surreal as the centurions surrounding it. I had to stop and breathe in it’s enchantment. Really breathe.

Redwoods4

I couldn’t help but think about how cavalierly I had pulled off the road to see this place,  no inkling at how magical all of it would be. No elk? No problem.

As I stood there lost in the moment, I heard a long, deep, and nearby GROWL.

Well now, didn’t this day just get value added.

The brain in fight or flight mode is amazing.  In a millisecond I had already (belatedly) established some alarming facts.

  • I had no weapon.
  • I had no cell coverage.
  • I had no idea how far away from the trailhead I was.
  • I had seen no sign of any other human being for at least an hour, so nobody would hear me scream.
  • Nobody would miss me in at least a week.
  • I do not have survival skills outside of the ability to find parking in LA.
  • I do not own a whistle.
  • I have no idea what kind of animal would make that sound except it is not small.
  • If they are a carnivore (what else would growl), they can already smell my terror so pretending to be a bad ass would be moot.
  • I must run for my life.

I also remembered my Mom telling me to never, ever turn and run from something that is challenging you. Good job brain indexer, you pulled that out from deep in the annals of time. I backed up slowly for about four steps and abandoned all good advice.

I turned and ran like the wind.

Did I say like the wind? Within a minute I was gasping for breath, my knees and ankles were protesting so loudly I was sure it was audible. Let’s face it, if whatever had growled really wanted to eat me, I’d already have been a Scooby snack with pink icing.

I made haste (I wish I could say I ran) toward the trailhead and the protection of my pony. I was outta there.

I will go back someday, but not without an Eagle Scout or equivalent flanking me.

I made my way back to PCH (here known as Redwood Hwy 101) and got back on track. I crossed over the Klamath river, and finally back to the coast.

My pony and I stopped for a north coast photo op and to put up the convertible top. Not sure why, maybe because I still felt a little exposed after my near encounter with who knows what.

No Cali PCH

I headed into Crescent City which was just as quaint as I had always imagined it. I used to daydream about opening up a B&B there (a guilty pleasure of mine is dreaming of opening B&B’s in places I choose on the map, don’t judge).

That was until I learned of the tsunamis. It happens to be the tsunami capitol of the US and was nearly wiped out in 1964 as a result of the 9.2 Alaska quake.

Crescent City 1964Poor Crescent City is basically at the mercy of any quake occurring in the Pacific Ocean. The topography of the sea floor near Crescent City creates a “funnel” that proves problematic for this place. Since 1933, there have been 31 tsunamis occur.

I would have loved to stay and explore the city’s lighthouses and other points of interest, but the only thing I stopped to enjoy is Starbucks. As if my poor little ticker needed any more stimulation after the events of the morning, but it was necessary to restore my sense of civility.

25 more miles and I bade farewell to California and hello to Oregon.

Norcalicoast

Southern Oregon is stunning. I am not accustomed to seeing the magnificent sand dunes transitioning into rocky shore line and back. It’s untamed, and this stretch of highway plays peak-a-boo with the sea behind groves of trees. The beaches are littered with drift wood, grass, dunes, and trees. Simply Gorgeous.

And cold. I’m used to temperate weather year round, and admit I’m spoiled rotten in that regard.

I passed through Brookings and headed still northward 30 miles toward Gold Beach.

Brookings, OR

and another stunner…

Brookings 2

I had an issue getting gas in Gold Beach. I didn’t know that you cannot pump your own gas in Oregon. The last time I saw a gas station employee pump gas in California I was barely old enough to see out of the window of the car in the back seat, so when I stopped and some little man came bounding out of the office and demanded my debit card, naturally I balked.

“Why do you need my debit card?” I asked, “I can pump my own gas.”

He replied with his hand still out, “Not here you won’t.”

By here I thought he meant this gas station. I groaned at the thought that I had picked a quirky place to fill up, but I had to go pee too bad to find another.

I handed my debit card over to a stranger…and for a moment I couldn’t let go even after I held it out and he took hold of it. I told you we in LA have trust issues.

I literally ran to the restrooms (this means I ran twice in one day…kind of a big deal for me), and as I dried my hands on my pants instead of the 50’s style cloth loop that went round and round over the sink (Ew), I was chuckling to myself about him not having my PIN so he couldn’t use my debit card. Silly rabbit.

When I came back to my steed, he handed me my card and told me to have a nice day. My tank was full and he charged my debit card without my PIN or signature? What episode of Twilight Zone was I in?

The lodge I booked was inland along the Rogue River. I didn’t necessarily have a burning desire to stay there, but my hubby has always been fascinated by the Rogue River mail boats of renown. I told him I would check it out.

Not the Rogue River mail boats was I checking out mind you, I have no desire to spend the day speeding up the river at 110 mph (not really, just seems like it) with my hair on fire. That is something we do regularly in Arizona on the Colorado River when Mr. Energizer Bunny is at the wheel of our boat.

I would check out the Rogue River on it’s shores from the room I had booked at the lodge. I had high expectations as this was the most expensive accommodation among the seven on the northbound part of this trip.

I checked in and was of course wowed by my room. I knew I would be, as I had seen photos of it online. Of course no photo is as good as the real thing. Tututon RoomAnd there it was, the object of my instantaneous obsession…the real fireplace with real wood for a real fire.

I suppose I should explain. I have only ever had a very rare occasion to have a fire (other than duraflame logs), and when we do my hubby insists upon doing the honors since I am fire-starting challenged.

Not this time kemosabe. The fireplace is mine, all mine wahahahahahaha.

It even had the firewood and kindling all set up ready to be lit. I just had to wait for nightfall.

The meal plan is quite pricey and a big deal at this place and most guests indulge since there is no place near to eat. Not me. Being in close proximity to strangers is exactly what I was trying to get away from. The gourmet meals and wine are served “family style” and just not my cup of tea. It seemed a little pretentious, and when I looked in while it was happening, I was right. But to each his/her own.

I enjoyed my PB&J with trail mix and water on my own veranda overlooking the river. It was beautiful, but not as placid as I had thought. There was a road just across the river (hidden by the trees) and I could hear logging trucks downshifting and Jake braking. The little dock in this photo is where the mail boats pick up guests for the adventure.

verandaview

The couple next to me had a small outside Jacuzzi and although I couldn’t see them, I could hear them just fine. They were enjoying a romantic rendezvous away from their respective spouses.

Awkward.

I took the opportunity to walk along the river which was lovely. I achingly missed my hubby for the first time in 5 days. He would love this place (except for the pretentious part). I got a little melancholy and went back to my room.

Rogueriverwalk

Since I had opted out of the meal plan, the office had given me a paper to fill out with what time I would like the complimentary coffee delivered to my room, which I was to fill out and hang on my doorknob where they would pick it up by 6 pm. Nobody ever picked it up.

I was starting to feel invisible.

I decided to take a nice hot bath. I had time to burn until sundown and was feeling a little sore from my “runs” earlier in the day. The drain plug wouldn’t work. Dang it all.

At least I had the fire to look forward to. I sat on the veranda and watched the sun set while it got colder and colder outside. Perfect. Finally.

I put flame to fire. I probably was licking my lips or something equally as compulsive while I sated the pyro in me.

The fire blazed into existence and my room started to warm up. I finally had phone reception and talked to my family sitting next to the warm fire overlooking the cold Rogue River outside. Queue the deer and bald eagle.

As the conversations on the phone wound down, so did my fire. I had exhausted the wood in the fireplace as well as what was provided in the little basket on the hearth. No matter, the receptionist said there was a wood pile on either side of the stair case.

I filled my arms and returned to my room and my fire where I stoked it back up and settled down in my comfy bed to check my bank activity, check in on social media, and my email.

I was appalled when I saw the $150.00 charge on my debit card for gas. I KNEW IT! My first day in Oregon and I get ripped off at the gas station? I was really mad. I couldn’t wait to call the bank in the morning. Argh.

After all of my online activity I stoked up the fire again and shut down the lights for a well earned nights sleep. The smell of the fire and the shadow of flames on the wall were delicious. I would have to stay in a room with real fire more often.

I don’t know how long I had been asleep when I awoke to the unmistakable ear splitting sound of the smoke alarm. It took me a second to get my bearings and jump out of bed to try and figure out what was wrong. There was definitely smoke in the room, so I threw open the floor to ceiling glass veranda doors and propped open the entrance door to get fresh air flowing.

The alarm was so loud I am sure I woke everyone in the entire lodge up. The damn thing just wouldn’t stop. I was so embarrassed I could’ve died right there. I certainly wasn’t invisible anymore, not in a good way.

After the alarm finally stopped chirping, I closed the entrance door to my room but was afraid to close the big glass doors to the veranda, so I left them open. I finally went to sleep with my teeth chattering hours later, not too long before dawn.

I still have no idea what I did wrong. When I told my husband about it, he laughed saying the flue probably needed cleaning or something. I still cringe at the memory.

I had a short driving day so I waited until all of the cars in the parking lot were gone to check out. I used that time to call the bank and raise heck about the troll that ripped me off. Customer service explained to me that the $150.00 was just to hold funds until the actual fee of $50.00 came through.

Oh geez, I’d wrongly accused that poor man. I still feel bad about it.

After I slithered down to check out (sans complimentary coffee), I felt compelled to confess to the receptionist while I waited for my receipt, “I was the one who made the fire alarm go off last night. I hope I didn’t disturb any of your other guests.”

She laughed and said, “Oh don’t worry about it, it happens all the time.”

God bless her.

Until next time dear diary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bucket List Value Add – Ricky and Lucy Houseboat Lake Powell

Dear Diary,

I thought I would revisit a “Bucket List Item – Value Added” from years passed. I call this one Ricky and Lucy Houseboat Lake Powell.

I play the part of Lucy which would make my hubby Ricky (and our daughter Little Ricky…let’s just go with it).

We try to take turns with our annual vacations of marking Bucket List items off of our respective lists. September 2000 was his year and Ricky decided we would rent a house boat on Lake Powell.

Lucy alrightThis was my initial response. Alright, let’s try it.

It turned out to be one of my favorite domestic family vacations.

But true to Ricky and Lucy fashion, we had a few hiccups.

Initially we rented the houseboat with another couple (that would make them Fred and Ethel) but at the last minute, they backed out. We decided to go anyway, with me as the co-pilot instead of our friend Fred.

Remember, we are city folk. Not quite the blind leading the blind but almost.

Off we go with a map of Lake Powell and its 2,000 miles of shoreline. We wanted to find a specific place that somebody told us about and was tucked back off of the main lake, supposedly very quiet and private.

LPhouseboat

After a couple of false starts, Ricky told me to jump on the Sea Doo (we were towing 2 behind the houseboat) and check out this particular inlet. In fact, I took this photo and then sped ahead of him.

Since I can go so much faster on the Sea Doo than the houseboat, I jetted into the inlet and sure enough, there it is tucked back behind a couple of hills and turns. I beached the Sea Doo and decided to run, swim, run, swim, run over the little bunny hills and across small chunks of water to flag down Ricky from the mouth of the tucked back spot.

I ran over hill, swam, ran over hill, and nearly collapsed. I couldn’t BREATHE! Whew, out of shape. I run up one of the bunny hills and try to flag him down…but he doesn’t see me.

By then he’s turning the boat around to leave.

Crap.

I run, swim, and barely make it out of the water to run again to the Sea Doo. Already I experience a near drowning and we haven’t even got the houseboat tied down yet.

Props to the aquathoners. I’m not one of them.

I get the Sea Doo back in the water, start it and off I go to try and catch him before he makes it out to the main channel.

I drive up to the boat and flag him from the side. I still can’t breathe.

He opens the captain’s window and says…”where have you been all this time? This is no time to go for a ride, we need to find that place.”

REALLY Captain Bligh (I hope he never finds this blog)? That’s what I thought, but I couldn’t get enough breath to force words out of my mouth. So I just pointed behind us.

Ricky turned the boat around and followed me in the somewhat winding passage into the back inlet, but O.M.Gosh. It was beyond words beautiful.

We finally get the boat tethered to shore and made ourselves at home in our little slice of Southwestern heaven.

SawyerCove2

You can barely see a couple of the hills (in my defense a couple are out of the photo) on the left in the above photo that I tried to run, swim, run, pass out.

SawyerCove

Doesn’t that rock positioned precariously look like a human bust? A large heavy bust. I thought about an earthquake but remembered I was not at home. Since it’s been up there for thousands of years, I reckon 4 more days won’t hurt.

We had dinner and our daughter (Little Ricky remember) fell asleep on one of two full beds that folded out. Big Ricky and I climbed to the roof of the boat and laid on our backs to see the millions of stars he had told me you can see in the desert at night.

Just one problem. No stars.

It was pitch black. I felt like I was on the inside of a cow.

Then it started. Lightening, thunder, and pouring rain. I mean like God opened up the skies and threw everything at us.

Remember, we are from So Cali. We don’t have rain, and on the off chance we do, it is not accompanied by all of this lightening and bone rattling thunder.

Ricky was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Snoring in fact.

I on the other hand, was wide awake. So was Little Ricky.

I climbed in her bed and we sat terrified every time the sky would light up (it seemed like it lit up in many places all at once) and then a clap of thunder would craaaaaaaack over top of us.

Lightening over Lake Powell

Lightening over Lake Powell

Lake Powell storms are legendary, but reading about them and living through them are two entirely different things.

Then I thought about the flash floods I’d read about in order to prepare for this trip.

Wait…weren’t we at the bottom of a very narrow wash between two high cliffs? I pictured us being buried under mounds of mud and water before we could even untether the boat from shore. What do you think happened here?

Sunken Houseboats

That did it. I woke Ricky up.

“We have to move the boat out to the main part of the inlet” I told him.

“Why?” he said.

RickymadI replied a little sheepishly at his tone, “Because we are going to be buried under a flash flood.”

This is the look he gave me and promptly fell back asleep.

So I stayed awake all night worrying and he slept. This is the nature of our relationship.

The next morning this is how it looked while I had my morning coffee. Like nothing had happened.MirrorLP

The next four days were bliss. We used the houseboat as home base and road the Sea Doos, hiked, and found ruins of Native Americans along the way. We went canyon exploring on land and cave/inlet exploring from the water. Pictures cannot do this amazing lake justice. Especially the ones I took pre-digital camera. I had a waterproof disposable I think. Not the best, but you get the idea. I’ve included a few that are not my own. Here is fearless Ricky blazing the trail inside of a water cave. So beautiful. Patcave

There is something to be said for being unplugged and watching the sunset from your own bow (or is it stern?).

Sunsetsawyercove

Little Ricky even caught her first, and last fish. She didn’t much care for it, and still doesn’t.

Shelbyfishing2

 

For all of its beauty, Lake Powell is deceptively treacherous. I had to ride the houseboat leaning over the front railing to watch out for rocks that randomly lurk just under the surface of the water.

The houseboat that came in just as we were leaving had a brand new Malibu ski boat that ended up just like this one on its first trip out to ski in the inlet. Sad but at least nobody was hurt, except the owner’s pride and pocketbook may have taken a fatal hit.

Lake Powell rocks

On our return trip back to the Marina, we discovered that Lake Powell wasn’t done with us yet. A huge storm came out of nowhere (I call it the Perfect Storm because the waves seemed as big as in the movie, though I know they couldn’t have been) while we were trying to cross Wahwheap Bay.

It seemed like we couldn’t get anywhere because both the wind and waves kept pushing us back. When I looked out of the sliding glass door in the back of the boat there was 3 inches of water above the sliding track.

I tried not to panic. I don’t do well in these natural disaster type of situations, I’ll be the first to admit it. My skill set is more around finding parking in LA. Not this. Not this at all.

Then one of those huge tourist boats passed us a bit close and the wake from this deep hulled boat literally went over our little bargain basement sized houseboat. We had to hold on for dear life to keep from being thrown to the floor and then battered as the boat rocked wildly.

Little Ricky was already laying on the bed coloring so thankfully she was good.

The wake wave was so big and powerful, it broke the CHAIN that held shut the swing door to the deck that you enter the boat when the gangplank is down (I don’t know what it’s called obviously. Sorry  excuse for a Captain’s mate, I know) . The water then proceeded to pick up the giant ice chest that resides on the deck and pulled it into the lake.

Ricky is a pretty thrifty guy, in fact, with all of our differences this is the area where we are pretty much the same and why our marriage has endured.

Except I was fine with letting the ice chest go and getting back to the Marina with our lives.

As we were watching this action off of the front of the boat, Little Ricky could be heard yelling – “Oh no, here comes the Sea Doos” from the back of the houseboat. That didn’t sound good. We looked back just in time to see the Sea Doos come riding in on another huge wave and slam into the side of the houseboat.

We were under attack by our own Sea Doos.

Even with all of the rain and wind and waves I could see one of the Sea Doos had sustained a large crack in its hull.

So now we are in a race to make it to the Marina before the Sea Doo sinks.

What does Ricky do now? He says, “Take the wheel and keep the boat facing this direction…I’m going in after the ice chest.”

Lucy scared“YOU’RE WHAT?!?!?!?!?!” I say with a shrill voice.

“I’m not paying to replace that ice chest” he replied.

And with that he was gone off of the front deck into the stormy water. I would have been mad about it, but he didn’t give me time.

I couldn’t even see him from my vantage point. I could see the ice chest and then his arm come over the top of it, but then the boat turned with another wave and wind.

I started up the engines of the twin outboards and tried to turn the boat in the direction he told me to keep it facing.

I had no idea he was under the boat at that point.

I was in a full panic now because I couldn’t find him. The ice chest was there, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Then I see him pop up and pull himself and the ice chest back onto the boat.

He fastened the gate with a bungee cord and back into the houseboat he came, like it never happened.

He said, “Why did you start the boat after I was pulled under it?”

I felt faint.

“You were under the boat?” I said.

“Yeah, I had a helluva time keeping myself from being sucked into the props.”

I couldn’t stand anymore.

I just hugged him while moving him back behind the wheel. Then I had to sit down and regain my composure without bursting into tears.

We hauled ass into the Marina. I mean literally into the dock.

They call it a dock, we call it an emergency stop.

Semantics.

We lived through our Lake Powell Bucket List Value Added vacation.

The houseboat didn’t have a scratch. The Sea Doo did not fair as well, but we had it repaired in time for the next summer.

I could go back there, but I think once might be enough.

Until next time dearest diary.

Bucket List Value Added – A Ghost In My Room

Dear Diary,

Since I am stuck here sidelined from training for The Next Big Thing, I thought I would regale you with tales from bucket list items I have recently been able to check off as complete.

Heceta Head Lighthouse was to be the crown jewel of two weeks of jewels. I had planned my trip very carefully (that’s part of the fun) and had amassed a rather eclectic collection of hotels, motels, and B&B’s with the only pre-requisite being that it had to be on the Pacific Ocean’s shore (the first week anyway, I took an inland route home).

Spending the night in a Lighthouse (keeper’s house) was a bucket list item within a bucket list item (the PCH experience). I had looked forward to it since leaving my home in Southern Cali, and just couldn’t wait to see it up close and personal.

It didn’t disappoint. In fact, pictures cannot do it justice.

A Room With A View - and a Ghost

A Room With A View – and a Ghost

This is the view from my room.

I had checked in fairly early in the afternoon so set out immediately to explore the area. I didn’t know much about the history before I got there, which is out of character for me. I usually do quite a bit of research upfront on travel locations. Maybe because I had so much to plan for the trip, I knew I wanted to stay here so I booked it and moved on.

I will never make that mistake again.

I made the short walk up to the light house, and again I had my breath taken away.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Coming from So. Cali., I am not accustomed to the ferocity of the sea battering the rocky Oregon shoreline. It is indescribably beautiful, but at the same time sends the message that it is in charge. One slip would result in certain death on the crags and rocks below, if not plunged fully into the ocean itself in which you would be battered to death within minutes. Whew, I almost scared myself there.Gold Beach to Cannon Beach 045

No guardrails or fences here. This snapshot was taken on the way to the lighthouse. It can’t be seen from the house or the lighthouse even though it’s between them. Only when you are up close to it and this is as close to the edge as I get folks. Falling from this height into the ocean is most definitely not on my bucket list and is a value add I will most assuredly not allow if I can at all help it.

The beach below my window (Devil’s Elbow State Park, hmmmm I should have known something was up) was my next destination and again, words cannot describe the beauty of the Cape Creek bridge, Cape Creek emptying into the ocean, and the ocean and shoreline beyond. There were more than a few caves along the beach which I would have loved to explore, but it was high tide and I am more than a little respectful of the sea. I know what it can do and I will not challenge it. Gold Beach to Cannon Beach 057House and Bridge

I went back to the Victorian.

There is no food at the Lighthouse Keeper’s B and B (except for breakfast), and both Florence to the south and Yachats to the north were a bit of a drive away. That was fine with me. One of many unexpected perks of traveling alone was I didn’t have to worry about who was hungry and what they wanted to eat. I just made myself a PB&J and a couple of handfuls of trailmix (from supplies I had in my car), followed by a water from my little ice chest and I was good to go.

There was only one other couple in the entire house. Mid-May is not tourist season, and in these parts (at least for me), it was dang cold. I sat in the parlor while they made their dinner in the guest kitchen.

I should explain why this particular Victorian is so unique.

It was actually the Lighthouse Keepers Assistant’s houses. A Victorian duplex if you will. The Head Lighthouse Keeper’s house was demolished in 1940 and the lumber used to build a café in Mapleton, Oregon. This photo was taken in 1900 of both houses before demolition of the foreground house.headkeeperhouse_1900

The Assistant’s duplex (background)was actually designed from a single plan and doubled in the interest of saving time and supplies since this place was so remote.

It is still off the beaten path.

Originally, the two identical homes were separated by a wall which was taken down by the B and B operators (it is actually owned by the State) to make a single dwelling.

That being said, there are still two identical kitchens – one can be used by guests, while the one on our side of the house was used exclusively by the chef. The proprietor was gone as soon as both parties were checked in. He mentioned that there was a woman on site that lived in the basement (accessible only by outside stairs), but that we wouldn’t see her unless we needed her (getting locked out, etc.).

We had the entire 6 bedroom, 2 kitchen, 2 living room, 4 bathroom house to ourselves.

I got to know the other couple. A thoroughly delightful pair from Canada (actually he was originally from Australia with his dreamy accent) who were there celebrating her graduation from medical school.

Heceta Lighthouse and keepers houseIn the above photo, my room is the right hand set of double windows on the second floor. The attic windows are the double set on the third floor. The lighthouse is in the background. The rocky coastline follows the road around to the lighthouse, and around behind where I am standing to take this photo. Heceta is a large outcropping of rocky coastline named for the Spaniard who discovered it in 1755, and evidently lived to tell about it.

After my new friends ate dinner, we started out sitting on the glorious front porch, but because of the cold moved into the parlor.  We lit a nice fire and chatted while they played a board game.

I must comment on the change in weather. While Oregon (at least for my trip) was not sunny So Cal by any stretch of the imagination, it had been partly sunny when I arrived. As the day started to wane, the waves had become even more violent, the sky ominous, and it became bone chillingly cold. Even though it wasn’t raining, everything was wet and slippery. Not a place I would hike in the dark that’s for sure.

I got a feeling for what a lighthouse keeper’s job really must have been like. Not as glamorous as I had imagined.

While we were chatting in front of the fire and watching the storm roll into our little slice of Pacific Coast heaven, the subject of the house being haunted came up.

WHAT?!?!?!?

Exsqueeze me….did you ask me if I knew the place was haunted? Ummm, no. I certainly did not.

The male half of this couple told me to not pay any attention to her, she was the type that if there was one shark in the ocean she would expect to get bit.

Oooooookaaaaay, but this house was a bit smaller than the ocean. This would be like a shark in your swimming pool. Pretty good odds of an encounter I’d say.

While this was slightly unnerving, I didn’t feel ominously threatened or that we were being watched or anything else spooky for that matter.

When I finally got home 2 weeks later, I googled it and is indeed considered one of the most haunted houses in America. Why didn’t I know that going in? Still a mystery to me since I am normally Miss Information. Not mis-information…nevermind.

The next thing we knew the caretaker from downstairs was in the room with us and explained she was only there to close the shutters on the front doors (to protect the delicate stained glass) in preparation for the incoming storm. Incoming storm? Funny, I didn’t know that either. I even had Yachats as a favorite in my Weather Channel app, oh that’s right AT&T…

We invited the caretaker to have a cup of tea and chat in front of the fire which she cheerfully did. We got through the niceties and I went straight for the heart of the matter by asking about ghosts.

“Oh” she said, “we only have one and she is a shy ghost. She is known as “Rue” and rarely appears as a visual specter, the only time we even know she’s here is when she  gets upset from spring cleaning and move everything around.”

I asked…”what do you mean by move everything around?” She replied, “When we close for a week and move everything to the middle of the house to clean and make repairs, sometimes when we come back the next day it’s all put back in its place.”

I wish I had a cleaning ghost like that in my house.

Be careful what you wish for…I know, I know.

I learned from our host the life of an assistant housekeeper’s wife was horrible. She would be subject to surprise white glove inspections and scrutiny by both her husband and the head lighthouse keeper’s wife. No wonder poor Rue is still at it.

This assuaged any fears of paranormal activity because frankly, who can be afraid of a ghost that doesn’t show herself and cleans?

A couple of hours later we had talked ourselves out and all parties bade each other a goodnight. The Canadian couple and I headed up our steep winding stairs and to our respective bedrooms.

This is my room pre-storm and dark.  No frills but who needs a TV or computer with a view like this? Room and View

As I laid down to read before falling asleep, I felt myself become melancholy which is not something I normally allow myself to indulge in. It’s a slippery slope, and I would prefer to dwell on happy thoughts whenever possible. And it’s always possible.

I chalked it up to not being able to talk to my kids for a couple of days (one of which was Mother’s Day), and although I had been able to talk to my hubby the night before, and our conversation was most pleasant, it was still strained. I updated that I was safe on Facebook (the B&B has wi-fi) and got their well wishes on my timeline, but it’s not the same.

Also it was my sister’s birthday, and while I usually try not to dwell on her untimely death (which leads to thoughts of the untimely death of her young daughter), maybe because of the storm and isolation my mood matched the grey turmoil outside.

I propped the window up about a half an inch. Call me crazy, but when you love the ocean as much as I do the sound of it crashing below your window should not be muffled or restrained. It started to rain but was not coming in my window so I left it open a crack.

I closed my eyes but thoughts of my little sister Susan persisted. A life so tragically interrupted (see Do They Know How Much I Loved Them for details). Because of the sudden loss of her young daughter, another life tragically cut short.

I tried to redirect my thoughts to what was on my plate for the next day, calculated where I was on my trip, etc. but the darkness on the edge of my mind was still there.

Then I heard music. Amidst the sound of the rain, the crashing surf, the thunder of the storm, I heard music.

Not music from instruments, but music as if a woman was humming a melody.

And it sounded like it was in my room.

That couldn’t be. There was an old dial up radio in my room but it wasn’t on.

I got up and put my ear to the vent thinking that it might be coming from the woman two stories down, after all old houses are like that right? Wrong, it wasn’t coming from there.

It was following me. It sounded like something a woman would hum if she were trying to put a baby to sleep. Very soft and soothing.

I know. Maybe the female half of the Canadian couple had gotten up to take a bath. The bathroom they used shared a wall with my bedroom. That had to be it.

I opened my bedroom door and stepped out into the hall. The bathroom door was open and the light was off. Nobody in there.

While I had stepped out into the hall, the humming had followed me and gotten even closer to my ear. Eerie, but I wasn’t going to panic because I was not out of options. It could be someone outside.

I highly doubted it on a night like this, but you never know. I stepped back into my room and grabbed the flashlight provided in case of a blackout. I opened the window all the way and shined it outside. Nothing but rain and surf. I shuddered and closed my window and locked it.

The humming continued, and moved when I moved.

Phooey, time to panic. I jumped in bed and pulled my covers up to my chin and shut my eyes so hard I squinted.

I had the overwhelming sensation that if I opened my eyes there would be a face within inches of my face. I knew someone was staring at me, and I knew it was close.

Let me say I am NOT one that has a great deal of experience with the paranormal. I avoid invisible drama. I have enough tangible drama in my life without this kind of thing, thank you very much.

I wasn’t alone in my room. I sensed the person walk around the outside of my bed and sit at the foot of the bed on the other side. I felt it move, and I was not moving.

I am frightened out of my mind at this point. I am not sleeping this night, that’s for sure. Adrenaline is pumping like high performance racing oil in my veins.

I sat up and said, “Rue if it’s you, I would like for you to leave.”

The humming stopped for a moment. It’s as if she was considering it. Then is started back up again, but never as close to me as before. About an hour later, the humming moved out of my room and out of ear shot. Finally!

I awaited dawn which was only a few hours away at this point, as I laid awake with my eyes as big as saucers I’m sure. She didn’t come back, but I was waiting and listening for any sign of company.

The next morning both the Canadian couple and I headed downstairs to breakfast at the same time (as it is served promptly at 8am). I told them about the night’s adventures.

Surprisingly, they had adventures of their own.

Evidently they kept opening their window to get air, and “Rue” kept closing it. Since it was a small wind out window, it was not possible to close on its own. At least they assured me it couldn’t.

When the husband balked at his wife’s suggestion that it could be the ghost, he was promptly held down in his bed without the ability to speak or move.

I’m glad I didn’t balk.

The chef overheard our conversation at breakfast (it is 7 courses after all), and when the Canadian couple left to pack, she approached me about my story.

She asked if I was in mourning or was sad about the loss of a loved one. I said I was, and told her about my sister’s suicide after the death of her daughter.

“Ahhhhhhhhh, that’s it”, she said. “That’s what?” I replied.

The chef said that it is thought “Rue” committed suicide after the death of her small daughter. Although there is no record of such history at the house, there was the grave of a small female child unearthed on the grounds.

I could see it. I can’t imagine having to deal with unbearable grief while being cutoff from the rest of the world.  And the sound of the never ending, nearly deafening crashing surf. While I love it, I think that it might become maddening without transportation to carry me away to silence once in a while, or iTunes and headphones. She would have had no options but to suffer alone.

The chef went on to say that “Rue” has been known to try and comfort those that grieve for loved ones, especially children. Just a month earlier she had put her ghostly hands on the face of a female guest grieving over the death of her son.

Was that what she was doing, trying to hum me to sleep? Trying to help me get my mind off of the loss of my sister and her daughter? Newsflash Rue…you are not conducive to sleep, but come to think of it, you did get my mind off of what I was thinking before you showed up. .

They say she stays in the attic during the day…I was in the house alone within the hour, should I explore it? Should I try to tell her I’m alright? OH HELL NO.

I’m not that girl. I was on my merry way within just a few minutes.

I would go back to Heceta Head Lighthouse in a hot minute with all of its beauty and history…but not by myself. Not without my hubby and an Ambien. Or two.

Until next time dear diary.