Posted by: GeekHiker | September 27, 2007

Oregon Trip Day 9: A More Civilized Life: From Camping to a Chateau

Something I rarely do on a camping trip is have a morning campfire. Usually I’m more interested in getting a warm breakfast and heading out to do the hike, museum, or whatever else I’d planned to do that day.

The chilly morning at Cape Blanco begged to differ, and JaG and I had a nice roaring fire going by 7:30 to help warm ourselves.

Breakfast had and cars packed, we headed back out to the Cape Blanco Light Station to take the tour.

Day 09 - Cape Blanco Light Station

Cape Blanco Light Station

The neat thing about lighthouses, of course, is that they all have their own unique story, and Cape Blanco is no different. It’s on the most westerly point in Oregon, the highest light above the sea, had Oregon’s first woman lighthouse keeper, and is the oldest continuously operating light in Oregon.

Unlike the previous lighthouses on the trip, Cape Blanco actually allows visitors into the lantern room. This allows a close view of the gorgeous Fresnel Lens.

Day 09 - Cape Blanco Lens Bullseye

Cape Blanco Lens Bullseye

Day 09 - Cape Blanco Lens Top

Top of the Cape Blanco lens, rainbows in the prisms

After a quick impulse buy of a book on the histories of the Battery Point (more info here) & St. George Reef (more info here) lighthouses, we headed off down the road.

Occasionally, of course, we had to make a stop, such as at this beautiful beach:

Day 09 - Oregon Coast Panorama

Oregon coast beach panorama

Driving on, we drove straight into the coastal fog, so common at this part of the coast, stopping for a somewhat chilly picnic lunch at Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

Heading across the line into my native state and Crescent City, we stopped at the Redwood National Park visitor center and picked up a map. JaG hadn’t seen the redwoods since she was a kid, so we were looking for a quick trail on the way to our next destination. Luckily, there was one right off Highway 199.

Before leaving Crescent City, we drove out to view the Battery Point lighthouse. The tide was in, so there was no tours, but if you ever get a chance to go, by all means do so. Battery Point has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.

Heading inland out of the fog, we stopped and hiked through the Simpson-Reed Grove.

Day 09 - Redwoods

Redwoods in the Simpson-Reed Grove

I’ll have to post more about the Redwood Coast on a future visit, but let me just say this: there’s something deeply profound about standing next to a tree that has stood for 2,000 years.

JaG commented on the wonderful smell as well. There’s something about the piney smell of a redwood forest that’s incredibly relaxing, but utterly indescribable.

The smell of forest still with us, we continued on, back into Oregon through narrow canyons and wide flats as the highway followed the Smith River. Reaching the little town of Cave Junction in the Illinois Valley, we turned right down the dead-end Highway 46.

Day 09 - Smith River Along Highway 199

Driving along Highway 199 and the Smith River

The 18-mile, narrow roadway climbed out of the valley and into the mountains to reach our destination for the next two nights: Oregon Caves National Monument and the Oregon Caves Chateau.

I’ve never stayed at a historic hotel: usually they’re far too expensive or booked up months in advance. The Chateau is off the beaten path and reasonably priced, especially when you have a cool travel buddy like JaG along.

Day 09 - Oregon Cave Chateau Entrance

First View of the Oregon Caves Chateau

Checking into the hotel with the friendly Leo, we headed downstairs to make a dinner reservation. The main dining room is small, only a dozen tables.

After unpacking the car and taking showers to get that campfire smell off, JaG and I headed down for dinner.

JaG had the salmon and I, on a whim, decided to try buffalo loaf which was, well, okay.

Still, all of the food used at the Chateau is, whenever possible, locally grown or raised, which is a good thing.

Desert made up for it: caramel-apple pie for JaG and lemon cheesecake for me.

Feeling quite full, we came back to the room to do a little reading and relaxing. And now it’s time to settle into a couple of comfortable beds and be lulled to sleep by the waterfall outside the window…



  1. I have almost the same picture of the lighthouse taken while you were, erm, indisposed.

    You’re a cool travel buddy too!

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