A stroll through vineyards – Alsace, France

We almost packed our trekking sticks, which are essential in the Swiss Alps or Italy’s Dolomites. At the last minute, to jettison some bulk, we left them in Oregon and I am thankful we did as this “hike” was really just a lovely country stroll.

Old and new directional signs. We are hiking a small portion of the 17km trail.

We started early from our base in Colmar. Isa, our personal taxi driver in Colmar, drove us to Riquewihr as the buses were very inconvenient. Arriving just after 9:30, the town was barely waking up. A busload of Japanese tourists had just landed and were snapping photos in the sunshine and buying up boxes and bags of macarons and other pastries. Walking the town took all of ten minutes so we waited for the tourism office to open and grabbed an espresso at a nearby cafe while the Japanese dispersed.

Clocktower, Riquewihr.

Leaving Riquewihr we are quickly surrounded by orderly vineyards. This path strings together the “pearls” of this part of Alsace, the Grands Crus vineyards.

Fortified with espresso (isn’t it wonderful that word is universal?) and armed with a map of the Sentier Viticole des Grands Crus, we set off through the upper gate of Riquewihr. We were immediately surrounded by vineyards and forest. There were a few men working in the fields and an occasional car or cyclist passed us. The birds were in fine form and we were alone.

Another view of Riquewihr from the trail.

Before we knew it, we were in Hunawihr, 32 minutes after departing Riquewihr. Sleepy does not begin to describe Hunawihr. Deserted is perhaps an apt description even in the late morning. We wanted to visit the Centre de Reintroduction which has participated in the restoration of the stork population for over 40 years. The birds had all but disappeared but now nesting pairs number 270. In some places, there are too many! The Centre also boasts populations of otters, hamsters (yes, same as the one you had as a pet, they do live in the wild in Europe), which they safeguard as regional species. From the website:

…it also tries to raise awareness of “unloved” species such as the Great Cormorant… also introductions of non-native species into the wild, such as the Florida turtle, the nutria or the Sunfish, and their harmful consequences on the environment.

At the Centre there are stork nests you can view at eye level from viewing platforms.

Talks and demonstrations — in French only — occur throughout the day at the Centre.

We have nutria in Oregon, but I have never seen them so close. The Centre had them in 5 colors.

The Centre was lightly attended and we enjoyed seeing the storks up close. They are free to come-and-go (it is not a zoo). The nutria, turtles, and other invaders are kept in secure areas.

Moving on from Hunawihr the segment to Ribeauville took only 36 minutes despite frequent photo stops. Ribeauville is lovely and I wish we had been able to pass more time there. We had a choice of a bus at 13:05 or not until 15:10 (the perils of depending on public transportation). We hustled down the main drag passing inviting shops and people lolling about at sidewalk cafes, vowing to return someday — with a car — to this charming region.

The three ancient castles of Ribeauville high on the hill greet you. To the left is Amritabha Castle, a center for meditation.

We stayed in Colmar (see Postcard from Alsace: Wine, Wisteria, and Storks) but would stay in Ribeauville if we returned.

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Easy hiking on the South Oregon Coast

Living in Lincoln City you would think we’d head inland for a getaway. Heck, our whole life is a getaway, but sometimes we like to go somewhere and have someone else make the bed, change the towels, and cook our meals.

So we headed south along the coast for a change of scenery, hoping for good weather, and searching for easy hikes. The weather was decidedly not bad. It was not perfect mind you (the cold winds of March but luckily, little rain), yet conducive to exploration and we got in enough exercise that we each lost a pound!

We have done many of the walks around Lincoln City but some of the trails here are really short (See Shorter hikes around Lincoln City). We also have Cascade Head to hike, but it is closed until July 15 to protect the Silver Spot butterfly. And there is The Knoll, practically in our back yard (See Out our back door) as well as Drift Creek Falls, which I have, as yet, failed to write up.

But we had never been south of Florence, Oregon. It was time to go!

Driving Highway 101 you are assaulted with opportunities to pull over and enjoy the view or explore a trailhead. State parks are abundant. We limited our travel day stop to the delightful Umpqua Lighthouse and a little walk, suitable for children, around Lake Marie and out to a viewpoint of the dunes.

Oregon Dunes, near Umpqua Lighthouse. ATVs are common, driving through the water, not so much.

Standing over a former Coast Guard station, the light is now operated as a private aid to navigation.

Tiny little Lake Marie, safer for kids and dogs than the ocean, especially when the surf and winds are high as they were this day.

As we had a four-plus hour day of driving, we did not dally too long. Pressing on to Bandon, we were there in time to take in some views and an orientation walk. The next day, we headed south.

Cape Blanco has a nice easy walk out to the lighthouse. In season you can park closer (it is open April-October) but this was a fine day to be on foot and completely alone. We had thought to hike up from the boat ramp near the Hughes House Museum, but the route along the beach was questionable due to high surf warnings. We settled for exploration near the lighthouse. This route of perhaps a mile roundtrip is suitable for small children, with no tricky footing. Even a stroller would be easy enough.

The Cape Blanco lighthouse, part of an extensive network of lights that once guarded the coast.

The view from the lighthouse base. Wish we could have gone inside. Only open April-October.

Not far from Cape Blanco is the tiny town of Port Orford. Beyond the barely existing business district lurks a hidden state park, Port Orford Heads, and a restaurant worthy of a much larger town.

We learned a bit about Port Orford when we attended a lecture by an Oregon State University scientist. She spoke about a gray whale research project she has been leading at Port Orford. And it was whale migration time so we hoped to spot some in transit. Port Orford Heads did not disappoint.

There is a web of interconnecting trails here. We chose an anti-clockwise path, first passing Nellie’s Cove where the Coast Guard used to launch their lifeboat. In those days (1934-1970) there was a steep staircase down the 280-foot cliff to the water, which these brave people would run down despite fierce conditions to launch into the storm-tossed ocean to effect rescues. We stayed safely on top, marveling at the beautiful water this calm day.

Nellie’s Cove. While the boat house burned many years ago and the steps we removed, can you see the pier between the rocks where the rescuers would have launched?

A level part of the trail, through the woods. Other portions are exposed, with broad vistas and benches for enjoying the view. Little elevation change.

Continuing, we found ourselves on the Headland Trail, alone but for two women sitting and spotting whales. We saw our first migrating whales of the season! The trail ends with a marvelous view out-to-sea and a henge-like formation far off-shore that underscores why navigating here was so dangerous before modern technology.

View from the end of the Headland Trail.

Looking north from Port Orford Heads, blue water and Garrison Lake.

Walking brings hunger and we satiated that at Redfish with a gorgeous view south along the coast at Battle Rock Wayside Park. Outdoor dining was an option, but a breeze kept us inside where our fish tacos would not get cold.

Bandon itself has some nice easy walks with to-die-for views. The Bandon State Natural Area along the cliffs to the west of town boasts wildlife and intriguing rock formations. The Cat and Kittens Rocks, Face Rock, Elephant Rock, Table Rock, and many more are home to 10 species of birds, primarily the Common Murre but also Grebes, Terns, and Brown Pelicans. Sea lions and Harbor Seals also are not uncommon. The easy trail at the Kronenberg County Park is paved and features a number of interpretive signs. it is perfect for children and beautiful for everyone. It is possible to access the beach with a steep but stable staircase.

Easy path. mostly paved, at Kronenberg Park. This path leads to the staircase to the beach.

Ric looks north from the Kronenberg County Park Nature Reserve.

Offshore the Oregon Coast boasts thousands of islands that harbor wildlife. Many are fanciful.

I highly recommend the books “Day Hiking on the Oregon Coast” by Bonnie Henderson and “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast and Coast Range” for valuable maps and insights.

Head on over to www.Girovaga.com where you can find a bit more about the trip.

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