Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Volunteering Adventures Continue



Coquille River Lighthouse

Our time here at the Bullard’s Beach State Park in Oregon as Lighthouse Hosts has come to an end. WOW, did this month go by fast! We had a lot of rain over the past week, with some rain everyday and heavy at times. However even in the rain people come out to tour the Lighthouse.

Last year when we were in Florida, we visited the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Kathy bought a pair of lighthouse ear rings that looked just like the St. Augustine Lighthouse. She noticed that there weren’t any Coquille River Lighthouse ear rings in the lighthouse gift shop so she decided to make some. She has made several pairs and have donated them to the Oregon State Parks to sell, helping raise funds for the on going restoration projects. As soon as she put them on display she sold the first pair.

Coquille River Lighthouse Earrings 

If you are interested in ordering a pair of your own checkout Kathy’s Web site: Crystal Creations by Kathy

Note from Kathy: these are made with tiny Delica beads, so they are only 1 inch by 1/2 inch wide, this is the enlarged view.

Fellow full-timers Gordon and Juanita are staying down the road in Port Orford. We first met them in Alaska in 2008. Like so many RV friendships we stay in touch through reading each other’s blogs and with emails. They came up one morning to get a personal tour of the lighthouse. Gordon claims that he is NOT a rain magnet, but it has rained everyday since his visit. SmileWhile Gordon and Juanita were at the lighthouse, a fellow came in and was surprised that the only three vehicles in the parking lot had Escapee stickers. It turns out that Michael Fousie is a volunteer for Fish & Game and is doing video & photo documentation of the restoration of the Bandon Marsh NWR. In his past life he was a camera man for a TV station. He has been returning here for 3 years but has also volunteered in the winters at Zion National Park and Arizona’s Kartchner Caverns State Park. If you take a look at Mike’s Web site: Light Curve on the Road. You will see that he does a lot of 360 degree panoramas. He asked Kathy and I if we would be in a 360 panorama of the view from inside the light tower. Follow this link to: 360 panorama Coquille River Lighthouse.

Mike also took the picture below of Kathy and I in the lighthouse tower. 


Here we are in the light room of the Coquille River Lighthouse

We almost met some mystery blog readers. The morning shift Host said that a couple from New York had come by asking for us and said they read our blog. Unfortunately, they couldn't stay or come back when we came on duty at 2 PM. They signed the guest book,  neither one of us knew their names. We have met blog readers after exchanging emails before, but we seem to have more cases of people meeting us and then they start to read the blog. This is the first time that we had unknown followers just drop in. Jessica and Ken we are sorry we didn’t get to meet your!

As you would expect we had a very busy Memorial Day Weekend. On Saturday of that weekend, the morning shift had 83 visitors and we had 95. Considering that the shift is only 3 hours that is a lot of people. I did a record number (for me) 28 trips up and down the stairs doing tours.

Bird Notes:

We have recently seen: Brown Pelican, Purple Finch, Downy Woodpecker, and Wrentit. We have also had some very nice lighthouse fly by from the Bald Eagle and the Osprey.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Volunteering Adventures–Week 2


Coquille River Lighthouse

During our second week as volunteers we are beginning to understand why some people return to the same location year after year. The campground is very quiet, the view from the top of the lighthouse is ever changing, the people are friendly and town is just big enough to have a few places to eat and get groceries.

We had to attend the monthly Safety Meeting. It was kind of funny to sit through. It was a flashback to so many "mandatory meetings" back when we had real jobs. The rangers were there because they had to mark it off a checklist that they had their monthly meeting. They really didn't have much to discuss but, they were trying to make it sound serious for their audience (us volunteers).

We had some fairly busy days at the Lighthouse in that we have averaged 30 visitors a day. The morning shift on Thursday had a school group of 80 junior high kids came through so, their total for the day was 105 visitors. I am glad we missed that.

We had two couples come through that were from the San Francisco Bay Area. One couple lived less than 10 miles from us and the other couple lived closer to San Francisco. I was SHOCKED that neither couple had ever been to the Oregon Coast before.  I still can't get over how everyone wants to talk to us just because we are wearing the volunteer vest.

Sunday is our day as campsite maintenance host. This past Sunday was a day of watering trees. They don't have all three campground loops open yet, not that they need them anyway. They really have too many Hosts for this time of year. They have 4 yurt cleaners, 4 Lighthouse Host and 5 people to clean campsites on Sundays. The yurt and campsite maintenance people tell us that they have trouble finding things to do each day to get in their 4 hours per day. So, we were sent out to water the new trees they had planted in 2 of the campground loops. It took Kathy and I, 3 1/2 hours to water all of the new trees. It seemed strange to need to water trees with rain expected any minute, but the ground is very porous and the water just drains past the roots of the new trees. One thing we found out that the other loops here have more mosquitoes than our loop. 

Walking back from tree watering we heard a familiar bird call, one we couldn't place. One of those "I know that call, what is it?" We had heard it in the same spot the day before, this time we got a view of the bird and it was a Wilson's Warbler one of the brightest warblers we get in the west.

Hard to believe that we are already half way through our stay here. We would definitely stay longer if we didn't have another commitment and if they had room for us.  We got the official email yesterday from Kartchner Caverns in Arizona that they don't have a spot for us for this coming winter.  Most of their hosts return year after year.

Last Sunday was Raiders 9th birthday. He is showing his age in many ways.

When we did shift change Tuesday the morning hosts said that it had been a slow day. There was some intermittent very light rain. Our first hour was slow with only 8 visitors. However, it did include 2 Canadians one from the Yukon and the other from the little town of Edson just east of the northeast entrance to Jasper National Park. We had a great chat with them.

Shortly after they left we saw the great terror of all Interpretive Hosts - a school bus pulled into the lower parking lot and saw kids piling out of it. It turned out to be thirty-five 5th graders.That kept us busy for an hour  and a half as we can't take more than 3 people at a time up the tower.

We were about 2/3s of the way though with the kids when I looked out of the tower window and saw a Tour Bus pull into the the upper parking lot and starting to unload a group of adults. I am thinking that we will be here long after our 5 PM closing. However, the Tour Bus group was on a tight schedule and couldn't wait until we finished the 5th graders before starting tours for them so they left.

After that we attended the Volunteer's potluck and we met even more volunteers than we had met before. The potluck was fine, but after the busy day I just wanted to be at home with a Gin & Tonic.

Ever wondered what Lighthouse Hosts do on their day off?

They visit other lighthouses. Last week we went to the overlook to see the lighthouse north of us at Cape Arago west of Coos Bay, Oregon.


.Cape Arago LighthouseP1050665

As you can see Cape Arago Lighthouse sits on an island and is not accessible. Near by is Simpson Reef which has hundreds of seals and sea lions.

P1050671California Sea Lions charging to the beach

California Sea Lions charging to the beach

This week we went to the Cape Blanco Lighthouse south of us. It is the western most point in Oregon. The lighthouse is 50 feet tall, but it sits on a 200 foot cliff. It is a great view but, very windy. It is a great tour and a magnificent view. It is the only lighthouse that lets you into an actually working light room. The light is 7 - 8 feet high and the room is glass floor to ceiling.

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Cape Blanco Lighthouse built in 1870

View from the top of Cape Blanco Lighthouse

View from the top of Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

The light at Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Bird Notes:

There are still all kinds of birds here and we make sure that a least one of Raider’s daily walks incudes a walk down to the river to watch for eagles, ospreys, shorebirds and water birds. New birds for this week are: Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Wandering Tattler, Pacific Loon, Wilson Warbler and Banded-tailed Pigeon.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Volunteering Adventures–Week 1

Coquille River Lighthouse

Coquille River Lighthouse

This past week we started our first ever volunteer position as Relief Lighthouse Hosts at the Coquille River Lighthouse which is part of the Bullard's Beach State Park in Oregon.

So far we have learned the following about volunteering:

1. You get the site they assign not the one you would pick out for yourself. They definitely gave us a site I wouldn't have picked out today. At this state park they apparently assign  sites by what you are here to do. The Campground Host for circle A is in site A-1, the host for circle B is in site B-1 etc. The Relief Lighthouse Host get site A-36. A 90 degree blind back-in in a forest. We are not good at backing in. Since this site required us to back in to the right I was blind as to which direction to turn when. After about 45 minutes we got into the nice long site. I did, however, trim a bush with the side of the trailer. Fortunately, the campground was deserted on Sunday afternoon and we didn't have an audience.

2. Did I mention the forest? The site is surrounded by 15 foot tall rhododendrons. These are backed up by 40 foot pine tress. It is a very nice and secluded site.

3. We have one little window of sky to setup the TV satellite dish. We got it setup and had 70% signal for the 2 tuners. Minutes later the wind picked up and our signal went from 70% to 0% to 40% to 20% to 50% etc. After an hour of trying to find a place for the dish and lock on to a good signal. I gave up in frustration. The next day I was able to pull in an 80% signal in only a few minutes. That’s just how it seems to go setup the satellite dish.

4. We have 2 bars of phone coverage and so we do have Internet just not very fast Internet.

5. Bullard’s Beach is a lovely state park. It is off the main road and very quiet. It is also mostly empty on a Sunday afternoon. The weather was very nice all day today. Of course we now realize that we consider a mid-50 degree day without wind to be T-shirt weather. It may have reached 60 Sunday. The forecast for Monday mid-50 with a 60% chance of rain.

6. Monday it rained in Oregon! Who knew? Rained from 6 AM until about 10 AM but, not too hard and it has been nice ever since.

7. Oregon State Parks have their act together. They have at least 10 couples working here this month and they do Orientation over two days in two (2) hour segments per day. They have all kinds of handbooks to pass out and part of the training is a walk through of each function.

8. When I wear my official volunteer hat and vest, I look like an old man with too much time on my hands.

9. This is a very quiet campground, but if the wind is blowing just right you can hear the waves breaking and the fog horn that is 3 miles away. The waves have a nice soothing sound. The fog horn not so much.

10. There are birds everywhere.

11. They take Tsunami warnings VERY SERIOUSLY here. This past March when there was the Japanese earthquake they evacuated the park. They even have a special Tsunami Trail in case there is an earthquake here to get everyone to head up the trail to safety until they can find out if there is a local Tsunami.

12. There is a lot to learn about the Lighthouse, local history and landmarks. Tuesday was Lighthouse Host training. We met at the lighthouse and went over the opening and closing procedures. As well as how to conduct the tour. Where to stand and what rules to enforce and how. Then we learned the history of the lighthouse and the surrounding area. Next we went to the top of the lighthouse so we could learn to point out the local landmarks. All of this was followed with examples of things to talk to the visitor about. That was followed by some hands on exercises of how to used the cash register and their paper trail for cash, check or credit card transactions.

13. Lighthouses get VERY DUSTY and DIRTY over the winter months. On Tuesday after, lunch all lighthouse hosts came back to the lighthouse for an hour and half of cobwebbing, dusting, sweeping  and general cleaning.

14. Wednesday wasn't much of an adventure. It was our day off but, we went out to the Lighthouse in case there was more training, but all we did is put in the displays and stock the Lighthouse Store.

Friday was the BIG DAY! Our first shift was in the afternoon, 2-5 PM with the lighthouse open to the public!

We arrived a half hour early because we were excited to get started. That worked out good because the Ranger was there to help the morning shift balance out the register.

It was a gray misty day and during our first hour we didn't have any visitors. It was a little strange having the lighthouse totally to ourselves. Things picked up during the second hour when we had two visitors. They were wearing flip flops so they couldn't go up the tower and get the view or the tour narration by yours truly.

The pace really picked up the last hour when we had 4 visitors! Both couples wanted to go up the tower to the light room and I got to do my narration. The first lady asked how long we had been doing volunteering and leading tours. When I told her that they were my first tour ever she said "Really! You did a great job".

We closed the lighthouse at 5 PM and took 20 minutes to balance out the register and make sure everything was locked up correctly. Our total sales were 2 bottles of Blueberry Jam.

Yes, it is a grueling pace and we both slept in until 7 AM. We were back to the grind the next afternoon. Smile

Saturday after some early rain it cleared up and we had the best views yet from the top of the lighthouse. For the first time there was no wind to speak of at the lighthouse.

The early shift Lighthouse Hosts had 50 visitors and all but few wanted to go up the tower.

Our shift started off slow, but we ended up with 30 visitors and half went up to the tower. I am amazed at the number of people that show up in shorts and flip flops in mid-50s temperatures. We had just enough activity to make the time flew by, but not enough to make it hectic.

Sunday was our first day of Campground Maintenance Hosts. Basically we make sure that no one left any litter behind.

It turned out to be more fun than I had expected.  We started the day with rain, but by 9 AM it wasn't raining and by the time we were done we were just in T-shirts. I loved driving the electric Mule. It was like the Autopia ride at Disneyland. I was doing laps around the campground loop just for fun. I may take up golf just so I can drive the golf cart. There were only 6 sites checking out of our loop that day so, we really didn't have much to do to fill 4 hours. What we did instead was to check every non-occupied site for litter, rake any dirt areas and use the gas blower to get anything off of driveways. All of the sites here are paved. As it turned out 2 of the 6 sites renewed for another night and one didn't leave until 1:45 even though checkout is 1 PM.

We found out that everyone want's to talk to us when we are wearing our Volunteer Vests.

We took 1/2 hour out for lunch. Then the last thing I did was get the lawnmower from the equipment barn and mowed our site. It is ironic because we had a gardener at our sticks and bricks house and it has been 15 - 20 years since I last mowed a yard.

Somehow by the time we were done we had put in 4 1/2 hours.

When we were done with our Hosting duties we got Raider and went to the beach. It was his first beach run since we were at Morro Bay back in January. Although, truth be told he is feeling his age and didn't run very long. He turns 9 this month.

Raider the Beach Dog running down the beach

Raider the Beach Dog running down the beach

Raider the wore out Beach Dog resting on the beach

Raider the wore out Beach Dog resting on the beach

All of the fresh air must have done Kathy and Raider in both of them took a nap as soon as we got back to the trailer.

Monday we had the early shift at the lighthouse, if 11 AM can be considered early. We expect that the crowd would be light, but it turned out to be a busier time of the day. We were just busy enough to make the time fly by.

We had 25 visitors in 3 hours so I made 12 trips up the stairs to the light room. One person that came by was a hardcore lighthouse person. Like us she retired at the beginning of 2008 and is full timing in a Dolphin class C (one of those little Toyota trucks that was overweight when it was built). In her 3 years of travelling she has visited 417 lighthouses! Mostly along the gulf, east coast and Michigan.

Tuesday was our 5th day working and it was much like Monday with about the same number of visitors.  I would prefer working four (5) hours days rather than five (4) hour days. Once we have walked Raider before and after our shift, taken the time to get ready to go, drive out to and back from the lighthouse it really uses up most of the day.

Bird Notes:

There are birds everywhere around here. Tuesday as we were walking from the parking lot to the lighthouse a Bald Eagle came flying up the river. There is an active Osprey nest on the bridge where highway 101 cross the Coquille River. We have seen it fishing outside the lighthouse on a couple of occasions. Other birds we have seen include Red-necked Phalarope, Savannah, Fox, White-crowned, Golden-crowned and Song Sparrows,  Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, White-tailed Kite and whole lot of lightning fast unidentifiable “little brown jobs” or as they are LBJs.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crescent City – California

Our campsite in the redwoods at the Crescent City KOA

Our campsite in the redwoods at the Crescent City KOA

As we drove up the coast towards our May volunteer position as Lighthouse Hosts we had a few days until our site would be ready. We arrived in Crescent City, California on a very clear day with great views. However, once we stepped out of the truck we found out that it was only 50 degrees and there was a very strong cold wind. It has been our experience that Crescent City has only four kinds of weather: rainy, foggy, clear and windy, foggy and windy. None the less we decided to spend a few days in Crescent City among the Redwoods and close to the ocean. After our clear and windy arrival we had two days of rain, gray skies and more rain showers. What would have to be called typical April weather around here. (Although admittedly the day we left was the nicest day we have ever seen in Crescent City. Calm, clear and mid-50s all the way up the coast to Bandon, Oregon).

As you can tell in the above picture we had a well protected spot out of the wind. On our third day in Crescent City we had beautiful day with no wind. The prefect day to get some pictures of lighthouses. Our first stop was St. George Point to get pictures of the St. George Reef Lighthouse. As soon as we stepped out of the truck we knew that things were much different than back at camp. The wind was blowing 25 MPH!! However, being the intrepid photographers we are we hiked off to get our pictures.


Yes, the St. George Reef Lighthouse is 8 miles out to see!

St. George Reef Lighthouse

As you can see it is a concrete base built on a rock. It took 10 years to build this lighthouse and it was in use from 1892 until 1975. Remember my comment about the weather “only four kinds of weather: rainy, foggy, clear and windy, foggy and windy.”? This must have been a horrible duty station for the Lighthouse Keepers. Here is one quote about conditions at the lighthouse “an occasional fierce storm would generate waves large enough to sweep onto the top of the caisson, seventy feet above the sea, and send water over the top of the lighthouse.”. There are occasional tours of this lighthouse. You arrive by helicopter and the last published cost I found was $195 per person. Given the rainy, foggy and windy conditions even if they were doing tours this time of year we would have still passed.

Sea and Snow View - Crescent City. CA

Sea and Snow View from Point St. George

Battery Point Lighthouse

Battery Point Lighthouse sits on an island at high tide and is on a isthmus at low tide at the entrance to the Crescent City Harbor.Docents give tours of the lighthouse during low tide. Battery Point Lighthouse first started to operate in December of 1856 and is one of California’s original 8 lighthouses.

Battery Point Lighthouse

A closer view of the Battery Point Lighthouse

Crescent City Harbor that was damaged in this past March's Tsunami from Japan

Crescent City Harbor that was damaged in this past March's Tsunami from Japan

The Tsunami damage was described by a local Councilmen:

"The harbor has been destroyed," Crescent City Councilman Rich Enea said Friday, estimating the damage at millions of dollars. "Thirty-five boats have been crushed and the harbor has major damage. Major damage."

One person that went down to the breakwater to photograph the Tsunami wave as it came in was swept out to sea and drowned.

Bird Notes:

After our time in Pahrump and the few birds there, we are stunned by the numbers of birds we see everywhere. Last week in the Sierra Foothills there where large numbers of birds both by species and number all over the RV Park. Here in Crescent City there are even more! Although, we have not added any life birds to out list we have seen many that we haven’t seen in awhile. Most notable in Crescent City have been a pair of Winter Wrens and Fox Sparrow. Neither is “rare” just hard to find as they spend there time skulking in the shadows and underbrush. We haven’t seen a Winter Wren in California since 2002 nor a Fox Sparrow in California since 2004. Sorry, no pictures of either.

Whimbrels on the grass

Just to prove that we actually do look at birds here is a shot of Whimbrels on the grass.

More photos of the Crescent City area on the slideshow: