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Trip Report Trip Report: SF to Seattle and back in 10 days, August 2009.

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We did our biennial trip to Seattle, stopping by Eugene to visit a friend. It was a 2000+ mile round trip in 11 days, 4 going up and 4 coming down. The ironic purpose of the trip, given our travel, was a 100 mile dinner at The Herb Farm. I’ve described previous trips, so I will keep this to a minimum: campsites and food.

Our first day was a very long drive (258 mi.) on US 101 to Prairie Creek State Park. A late picnic lunch on the Healdsburg Square and an arrival at 7 p.m. The campground, except for the first four sites, is wonderful. It is in the redwoods, with good separation between the sites. It’s at the edge of a prairie where the park service installed benches so that visitors can view the elk that come to graze in the prairie. Unfortunately, the price of a campsite has now gone up to $45 per day plus service charge for a reservation service which is essential in high season. The campground was full when we went up, but might not have been coming back down because school started.

We were hoping to have some elk steak that night, but it still was frozen; so we improvised. We used a Tonka toaster and made salami & Gruyere empenadas--better than it sounds, and fruit empenadas for dessert (that was our standard on this camping trip).

The next night we stopped in Eugene to visit our friend (266 mi.). The following day we drove from Eugene over the Cascades to Redmond, using the Old McKenzie Highway which I recommend for its volcanic scenery at the top (but it is slow) and then US 97 & 26 to a National Forest campground (Nottingham) near Parkdale on the eastern side of Mt. Hood (238 mi.). The campsite was beautiful ($12 per night, 6 for GA passport holders, but there were no envelopes to deposit the amount so we had it for free), but had no water facilities and the stream was gray with alluvial run-off--we were hauling our own 7 gallon water container. That night we had the elk steak, which was big enough for us to have some for lunch the next day.

The following day we drove to Seattle going via the eastern side of Mt St. Helens (it is slow going, 198 mi.). That morning we stopped for gas in Odell, OR. I mention it because this very small town in the middle of Oregon orchards had three Mexican restaurants and the general store that had the gas pump had signs mainly in Spanish. I would guess that it might be a good place to get a Mexican meal if so desired, and that it would be quite authentic. Portlanders might know better.

In Seattle we stayed with friends. We ate at the following restaurants: Poppy, Bastille and The Herb Farm. I would recommend all of them. At Poppy we shared three appetizers including delicious eggplant fries and then had their thali plate (for a sample, go to http://www.poppyseattle.com/thali.html). Our firends, who are serious wine connoisseurs, brought the wine. Our share of the meal was $140. I can’t give the price of Bastille (http://www.bastilleseattle.com/dinner-menu/), because the other friends we visited insisted on paying. But it is bistro cooking, where I would guess that our share with a bottle of crémant came to $120. But we went to Seattle for the 100 mile meal at the Herb Farm (http://www.theherbfarm.com/dining/themes.html), which was fabulous and interesting, but not cheap ($510, everything included when they present the bill). I’m not crazy about the decor and the spiel at the beginning of the meal, although this time the latter was appropriate. The decision had been to serve food that came only from within 100 miles radius with zero tolerance. No olive oil, but grape seed oil and they churned their own butter. Not only were the wine makers within that area, but the grapes had to come from within a hundred miles. They had to make their own salt, we had no pepper on any dish. They did find a wheat grower, but it was only winter hard wheat, which does not work with pastry. They made their own bread, but without commercial yeast. They found beet sugar and a a local grower of tea. I chose the madrone tea, made from the bark of the tree. This is the menu:

http://tinyurl.com/knhll5 (it’s the last picture of the series).

We left Seattle, picking up a piece of salmon and other items at the Pike Place Market (it’s expensive) and drove down toward Portland. Although it was hazy, the views of Mt. Rainier from I5 going south are incredible. At the last minute we decided to take the turn off toward US 101 in WA, and then drove south to Astoria. That was a mistake in terms of time. The drive from Astoria to Tillamook is not particularly scenic and is slow. It would have been better to drive to Portland on I5 and then cut off toward the coast. After 280 mi. we stopped for the night in a National Forest campground near Mt. Hero ($12 and no running water). The campground is around a small lake, a pond really, and is quite nice. The two negatives of our night there is that the camp host ran his generator for 6 hours until 10 p.m., and it rained that night and when we packed.

We stopped next at a National Forest campground upstream on the Rogue river from Gold Beach. Officially it was the cheapest campground of the trip ($6), and yet it had running water and flush toilets. On the other hand, it was not particularly attractive and was right by the road lumber trucks were using to go into the back country, which meant that we heard the traffic rumbling by at 6 a.m. or earlier. But it was hot and dry, which allowed us to dry out from that morning’s packing. The Gold Beach Harbor has an establishment that sells freshly caught fish, and we picked up a tuna loin ($7.50 a lb.), cut it up in chunks, wrapped each chunk with a slice of bacon and when the bacon is done, the tuna is cooked--ideally rare on the inside, but I cooked them too long.

On our way south we stopped in Crescent City but could not find any fresh fish for sale. We then stopped at a Co-op supermarket in Eureka and purchased a leg of lamb steak (around $6 per lb.). We were torn between that and the local grass-fed beef whose premium cuts cost $10.50 per pound, much less than in SF. They also had good local bread and their own brand of wine which was quite good. I mention this for those seeking supplies in the Redwoods area. The market is on southbound US 101 (the highway is split in two through the downtown area) on the right side of the street. The meat was beautiful and a deal, but the fruit were no better than at a standard supermarket. We intended to have the lamb that night, but on the road we passed a salmon selling store on an Indian Rancheria which had fresh and varieties of smoked salmon on sale. We purchased a fresh fillet, which we cooked that night. We saved the lamb for our meal at home.

Between our trip up and our return, campsite costs in California state parks skyrocketed. We were thinking of stopping in the Albee Creek Campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park , but decided that to spend $45 was a little much. The Burlington Campground in the same park costs $35 per night and was more on our way, although that meant that US 101 road traffic was a constant. The campground is among the redwoods and is otherwise quite nice, but with less privacy between the camp sites than in Prairie Creek or the National Forest camp sites. From there we drove home.

I gave prices for those intending to camp, to give an idea of what costs might be like. As in a previous report, I suggest that camping is an affordable way of touring the west coast outside large cities, and that one can equip oneself with camping gear for about $250-$300 (tent, cooking equipment, sleeping bags, air mattresses), which will pay for itself within a two week trip, even if donated to Goodwill at the end of the trip.

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