The Oregon Coast

July 20, 2018

by Steve

We've never spent much time in Oregon. We had a night on the coast back in the 1980s when we lived in California, but that barely counts. I think we went from Vancouver to Los Angeles down the coast road, but we did it in about a week, so it's a bit of a blur. Plus it was 30 years ago. So we planned six weeks along the Oregon coast for this summer to see and experience as much as possible. We stayed in three different locations and took over 600 pictures, so selecting a dozen or so for this post will be a challenge.

We started with the first two weeks of May at Harris Beach State Park. This park is near Brookings, Oregon, which is just a bit north of the California border. It's in what's known as the "banana belt" of Oregon, where it tends to be sunnier earlier in the year. We had mostly sunny days, with just a couple days of rain. The picture above shows the beach at our park. Jane enjoyed countless hours of roaming the beach in search of interesting shells. We also got our best sunsets here.

From Brookings, we could easily travel south to Redwoods in California for day trips (We'll write about that later) and north along the coast for more spectacular scenery.

There's more coastline like this than you can imagine. It just keeps going and going...

In many areas, the rocks along the coast are shaped by the meeting of the earth's plates. As the Pacific Plate slides under the North American Plate, the rock layers get pushed up on a angle. In lots of places, the angle of these rocks is very visible and makes for dramatic cliffs.

And of course there are a lot of lighthouses, many of which are now open for touring. After we'd seen about a half dozen lighthouses, we decided that we didn't need to tour any more. They are all rather similar. Instead, we amused ourselves by reciting bits of what we knew would be on each tour: "This is a Fresnel lens, developed in France..."

Our next stop along the Oregon coast was near Coos Bay, where we stayed for two weeks at Sunset Bay State Park. Again, we had mostly sunny days, with only a little rain. Not bad for May. Next door to our park is another state park called Shore Acres. This is the former estate of Louis Simpson, who built a mansion on a bluff overlooking to ocean as a Christmas present to his wife. After 15 years or so, his wife died, and the mansion burned to the ground a few months later. Within 6 years, however, Louis had remarried and moved into a second mansion that he had built. Eventually he sold the estate to the state. The mansion was used as barracks briefly during World War II, and then razed in 1948 because it was in such bad shape. So now nothing really remains of the old mansions. But the state has restored the formal gardens, which are fairly extensive. Jane still misses her garden, so having these gardens right next door, with the freedom to visit as long and as often as she liked, was quite a treat.

Going north from Coos Bay are vast stretches of sand dunes known as the Oregon dunes. We had not expected to find extensive sand dunes along the coast. While not as tall as Michigan's Sleeping Bear dunes, these are probably longer, and a bit more wild. We hiked a bit in them, but hiking in dunes is slow going.

Further north we find Cape Perpetua, a section of coast where the ocean waves create water spouts through holes in the rocks. It also has some of the highest viewpoints along the coast.

But the real action is along the shore, where lava has met the ocean, creating fissures and blow-holes. The following two pictures were taking at the same spot, just 23 seconds apart.

Our final two weeks on the Oregon coast were at Fort Stevens State Park, near Astoria, right where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Here the coast is more beachlike, and people actually go swimming here. They don't swim long, as the water is cold, but the bottom is sandy and relatively free of obstructions, except for the occasion shipwreck.

Just a little south we find Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, which should have puffins nesting on it. Well, they might have been there, but we weren't able to see any. We'll have to write more on the search for the elusive puffin later, as this search has taken us from coast to coast.

Cannon Beach was having their annual sand sculpture contest on one of the days that we were there. So what does a small town do for parking when you have lots of people show up for a festival? Well, you park on the beach!  Just be sure to move your car before the tide comes in. (And don't you love it that they used a Dr. Seuss style font for the warning?)

The city of Astoria, which is right on the Columbia River, has a tower on a hill high above the town that affords a great view of the town and the river. The onsite gift shop sells balsa-wood gliders that you can sail from the top of the tower. While we were there, a local guy was giving away "used" gliders that he'd collected on his way up the hill.   

We thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Oregon. There's a lot more that we did and saw than what I can fit into this post, so if you're interested, ask us about it.

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