Spending a Day the Coastal Way

spying on elk - by Caleb

spying on elk – by Caleb

The fast part about waking up in a hotel is that there is no tent to break down (unless we have brought it in to dry it out). We are quick to let the dogs out of the cozy car to pee on the one bush and two fence posts nearest our parking spot before getting on the road. I will eat a partially ripe banana which is way better than any fruit not being ripe. I’ve had to learn that lesson the less tasty way letting my eagerness get the better of my taste buds.

There is a sign near the lagoons north of Patrick Point that warn drivers, and pedestrians, of possible elk sightings and road crossings. One of the perks of being up before the sun is not only seeing the usual three elk that like to stand in a ditch or lay in a field, but to see a herd of them amongst the trees, grass, and sand of the lagoon leaves us feeling luckier than a cat out of a bag. We are able to spy on them for a bit, but Caleb just had to have a certain angle and crunched one leaf too many.

a cloud forest

a cloud forest

They didn’t come stampeding our way. They know they’re safe here, but they got spooked and it took them from natural grazing to a weird huddle of paranoid looks. We backed away to let them resume their breakfast and were grateful to have spotted them in the first place below the bank in such a foggy morning. The fog covered the road, tree tops, and sand at the beach; it made for an eerie, yet beautiful sunrise on this dawn of Wednesday. And left us with a romantic feeling in the air – the power of love and travel.

We find it hard to not stop at every turn of the road offering us a different view of the forest and ocean and the cool temperature doesn’t help either. With a light jacket on I’m willing to put my toes in the cold sand and experience this moment fully knowing some people will never get the chance to be where I am now. It takes us three hours to drive from Eureka to Crescent City. Along the way we stop at the Palm Café and Motel for a pot of fresh coffee to refill our mugs. The man inside is happy for the business in the otherwise empty eatery. The city doesn’t suffer the same fate.

There are people walking their dogs and others seeing what the place has to offer as I’ve been able to do twice before. I take Caleb to the Whaler Island Groin and we both have fun climbing on the rocks looking for more starfish and other colorful sea creatures to photograph. What I didn’t expect to witness were some seagulls taking advantage of the fishermen’s scraps and fighting over the bloody end of a big-tailed fish, but since it’s nature’s course it’s more interesting than gross.

sea life in the groin

sea life in the groin

We drive to the other end of town. The first time I was here it was too late and dark to attempt to see the lighthouse up close. The second time it was high tide with an amazing view. This time it was low tide in the fog and we were greeted with blackberries on the boardwalk down. I’m excited to be seeing it and sharing this experience with Caleb while the dogs wait in the car. Upon crossing the rocks we will see the sign that says, ‘No Dogs’.

Caleb imagines that the tide gets high while we are on this side and that we are alone on an island…but his dream can’t come true today. There are three other couples exploring the tree with commercial-foam fishing floats, the picnic table with a bench facing a wall, and the lace curtains with lighthouses on them. It seems the keeper is home – perhaps working, or reading, or watching us. What a neat place to call home, even if only temporary.

Battery Point Lighthouse

Battery Point Lighthouse

We stop at the Beach Front Park so Caleb can throw the ball for Sparky while I eat a mango and let Piggy eat some of the skin. It feels good to have wet toes and sticky fingers. Then it’s off to an overlook south of Samuel H. Boardman State Park. We are the second car out of eight to actually take the path. The others pull in hoping for a paved stop and leave disappointed. The path starts narrowly between a sign post and a bush and widens among the trees. It narrows again as we walk by bushes and over roots and opens into a field overlooking the beach and the rocks and trees that live there.

We drive through Gold Beach, OR where Caleb’s grandma used to live until she moved to SeaTac, WA three years ago. We also remember the jet boat ride on the Rogue River we took in 2009 and smile as we pass Jerry’s office and loading dock. We stop in Port Orford for the outdoor restroom at a gas station and have to wait to get the key from the attendant. We meet a couple from Edmonton, Alberta that is surprised by this and not being able to pump their own gas, but with lower unemployment and more social programs Canada has less to worry about.

We talk for a bit and upon hearing our trip plans they recommend that we take Hwy 93 between Calgary and Banff for its view of glaciers and bears. We make our way to Bandon, a small town I’ve heard my dad mention before. As we walk around, I realize the many reasons my dad would want to live here – small population, ocean views, cheese factory, cranberry bogs, gorse fields, and large sea animals made of trash pieces.

Mr. Fucking Nameless Sally

Mr. Fucking Nameless Sally

Further north is the Umpqua River Lighthouse built in 1857, making it the first one in the Oregon Territory. The illumination was changed from oil to electricity in 1934 and its signal is visible for 19 miles. At the lighthouse is a pointed jetty that meets on a sandbar in the sea. On the rocks and in the water are hundreds of seagulls just sitting around not eating or mating, but planning their next attack meal at a local restaurant.

Before the trip we had written a few ideas of things to see or do or eat and Kentucky Falls happened to be on that list. We stopped at an information center to inquire about it and decided it would be too much of a detour for the rest of the day’s plans, but I would love to go back one day and enjoy two miles of temperate rainforest and a view of 85 foot twin falls. We will instead spend the day exploring dunes, a chasm, and a brewery.

Oregon Dunes - by Caleb

Oregon Dunes – by Caleb

The Oregon Dunes NRA is the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America. We have no chance of seeing all the sandy area today, nor to enjoy all the activities that kept this park from being managed by the national park service attempted in 1963. As we are making our way up there is a kid sliding down on his butt. He managed to climb the hill, but once noticing the height of it was afraid of falling down. I wouldn’t want a mouthful of sand either on my way to get pizza.

There were kids on the other side playing with their dad racing up and rolling down the dunes while mom took pictures. There are a lot of access paths and the vegetation looks healthy. There are other dunes for OHV and horseback and there seems to be more cars in the lot than people on the beach. We have fun feeling the softness and the strength of the sand between our toes and up our calves.

Last time I was up this coast it was low tide, which means no high-water action for Cook’s Chasm and Devil’s Churn, but today’s water levels were only medium – enough for a show, but not the reason for their namesake. We will walk the Captain Cook Trail and look at the different colored algae growing on the rocks and in the tide pools. I love that Oregon has forest and field so close to the beach offering a variety of ecosystems within walking distance of each other.

fruit of the dunes

fruit of the dunes

Devil’s Churn was definitely getting bubbly, but not dangerous enough that young boys couldn’t be traipsing across the rocks throwing pebbles or shells at each other. Perhaps one day I will make it back to see the life-giving water splash into the inlet and spray hundreds of feet into the air; but for now the yellow foam, neon green algae, blue and gray sky, and the brown rocks will have to suffice as this stops enjoyment.

It’s nearing dinner time as we drive over the Yaquina Bay Bridge on our way to the Newport Café when we see a big building with ROGUE on it. We realize this must be the same brewer that makes Rogue Dead Guy and think it will be neat to look around. We park as it starts to drizzle and make our way inside. There are a lot of beer tanks, brews, and people in line waiting to eat and buy t-shirts. We didn’t want a line without a tour – and that seems unlikely today.

at Cook's Chasm

at Cook’s Chasm

On the other side of the river we find ourselves sitting at the counter with drinks in hand as I wait on my veggie breakfast burrito and Caleb waits on his Reuben served on wheat with thick-cut meat – not the best he’s ever had, but the fries are enough to help us both through dinner and I will be getting half of my meal to go. We backtracked down the road to a local grocery store for dessert. I asked the old lady behind the counter for a German chocolate brownie square (reminding me of all the times my mom and I used to go to Vic’s in Florence, TX and get one the size of my palm).

I realized my brownie was topped with cream cheese at check out. The baker was going home for the evening, but the girl working in the deli was more than happy to exchange it for me. I would eat my treat with a smile while watching the rain fall on the windshield as we made our way to Hebo Lake Campground – 49 miles from Newport and only 24 miles from the Tillamook Cheese Factory that we will be visiting in the morning.

This entry was posted in Animals, Camping, Food, Photography, Places, Plants, Things, Travel, Water and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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