Nothing Peaceful about the Pacific

Current location: Harris Beach State Park, Oregon  Clear and sunny predicted high 61F

shore birds at Harris BeachAs anyone knows who has lived near the Oregon coast, the Pacific Ocean in this part of the world is anything but peaceful. It is wild, raging, cold, and big.  Waves are monumental, even historical in some places.  The wind often blows relentlessly, the skies are often stormy, although we have been blessed on this trip with brilliant sunshine. 

I never thought much about this face of the ocean until I visited other places where the seas are gentle and the surf laps at white sands like a kitten at milk.  Last night when we hiked down to the beach, my first thought as I stepped onto the sand was, “Oh my gosh!  I forgot how dark the sand is here!”  Before our Florida visit, I never gave it much thought, it was simply ‘sand’.  Although as a sand collector, my jars of sands from around the world run the gamut from white to brown to gray to yellow to brilliant red, even black.  There is a black sand beach just south of here on the California Lost Coast, so I didn’t have to bring it from Hawaii.

evening walk down to Harris BeachThe winds in Brookings were howling yesterday afternoon, with a steady 20 mph blow.  The ocean as far as I could see was whipped up into a frothy frenzy, and the waves crashing over the rocks had long veils of wind-whipped mist.  It was beautiful, and energizing, wondrous to behold.  Not peaceful or necessarily relaxing.

There weren’t many people down on the beach due to the wind, but a few hardy souls braved the wild weather.  We saw a young woman get out of her car and climb the big rock overlooking the largest sea stack island on the Oregon Coast, Bird Island, also sometimes called Goat Island.  She stood in a few yoga poses, a rather amazing feat in that wind, and then I heard her voice against the wind in prayer.

woman chanting to the ocean at Harris BeachDown on the beach, a lone woman with gray hair to her hips was raising her arms toward the wild waves and chanting and singing loudly toward the sea, oblivious to us and our dog as we walked behind her in the wind. Crowds are definitely not a problem when visiting the beaches in Oregon.  It is always a bit of a shock to me to see people lined up arm to arm with umbrellas and towels on those beautiful white Florida sands vying for space.  Not here. 

Another difference:  both in Texas and Florida, along the Gulf Coast, we found beaches, long level gorgeous beaches where you could walk as far as you could manage.  There was nothing to make you actually turn around and walk back.  Here, walk one way and get stopped by cliffs, another way the jumble of rocks is too complex to navigate, or the tide has come in and there is another small sea stack blocking your progress.  I saw no tide pools in Florida, or in Texas.  I saw so many beautiful shells, but no agates or crazy weathered sea rocks.

north on Harris BeachThere are three major routes down to the beach from the campground.  The first route is a road, paved, but rather steep, and that route ends at a large parking lot.  There is an accessible paved trail down to the sand, restrooms, and picnic tables.  From this area, the beach can be accessed either along the paved trail, or to the north down a short rocky walk over huge driftwood logs to the north end of the beach.

wind whipped Mo at Harris Beach at the accessible walkwayThe second major route is called the South Beach Trail, another steep, but narrow path that has been partially paved to withstand the severe beach erosion that can destroy it annually.  We like the South Beach Trail, and Abby likes it as well because it leads outside the state park boundary and she can be off leash.  It is a bit more distant from our campsite, so last night we chose the road to get down to the beach.  Walking back up the same way is a boring long steep haul up. 

Instead of returning that way, we found the meandering path the winds over rocks and driftwood, and then up another steep and very narrow Rock Beach Trail that ascends an overlook with benches to enjoy the view. 

found the middle trail up to the overlookWe have hiked down this trail before, but going up was much easier.  None of these trails are particularly long, and ‘real’ hikers might get a bit bored with them.  We saw plenty of real hikers in the park, loaded down with backpacks, hiking the coast.  There are many beautiful, long, and strenuous trails in the vicinity, especially at the nearby Samual Boardman State Park, but we simply haven’t wanted to find them.  We come to Harris Beach to relax!  No matter how many times we visit, the beach is never the same.

up the Rock Beach trail at Harris BeachAnother fabulous feature of the beaches here is that they are dog friendly.  Some areas require leashes, but there are many off leash areas nearby where Abby can run, chase balls into the surf and hike the trails with us on her own.  After spending so much time trying to find dog friendly places along the Gulf Coast, it is wonderful to be back in the happy dog land of Oregon

For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, in spite of the high winds above us and around us, our little campsite on the northeast side of the campground was protected.  Our awning barely fluttered, and then only now and then.  After returning from the beach we couldn’t believe how still the air was in our space.  Mo built a nice hot campfire without a bit of trouble from the wind.  Above us, we could see the giant spruces whirling around, but the campfire smoke didn’t even go in circles as usual, it rose in a nice column straight up most of the evening.  Crazy, but welcome.Rock Beach Trail at Harris Beach State Park

Rock Beach Trail at Harris Beach State Park

It is Rhodie time on the Oregon Coast!

Current Location: Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon Sunny and 60 degrees F

Harris Beach_042If you try to plan a trip to the Oregon Coast to catch the rhodies in bloom, the season will almost always surprise you.  Either it will be too late or too early, with lots of buds and no flowers, or lots of dried up blooms.  With no plans for seeing the famous flowers, or even a thought of the magnificent rhododendrons on our minds, we decided it was time to get “home” again to our favorite Oregon Coast beach.

The four hour drive from home in Rocky Point, through Grants Pass, and west on the winding Highway 199 along the Smith River is magnificent any time of year.  This time, however, the closer we got to the coast, the more the steep hillsides were cloaked in gorgeous wildflowers.  We have traveled this route many times, but I don’t remember seeing quite the profusion of flowers that greeted us yesterday morning on our trip west.

Oregon boxwood shrubs were tipped in right red foliage that looked just like flowers, and the rocky cliffs were covered with blue penstemon and carpets of low yellow native iris. The closer we got to the Jedediah Smith redwoods, the more flowers we found.  Mo was driving, the camera was buried in its case and Jeremy was hugging my shoulder as he likes to do when the road is rough and curvy.  No photos of the brilliant clouds of pink flowers on wild rhododendrons that were sometimes more than 20 feet tall.

Harris Beach_018Neither of us could believe that it has been more than five months since we settled in to Harris Beach, with our last short trip back in early December before we left for the winter for warmer? southern climes.  The beaches were gorgeous in Texas and Florida, but as anyone who has seen it knows, the Oregon Coast is unmatched for wild rugged beauty, at least in the US.  For us, even the famous coast at Big Sur along Highway 1 in California isn’t as seductive, and definitely not as accessible as our beloved Oregon Coast.

We left Rocky Point in the rain, and were greeted with a mixture of hard rain, sleet, hail and snow as we drove over the pass toward Medford.  It was cloudy most of the way west, and with rain predicted for our few days at the beach, we were fully prepared to hole up in the MoHo and listen to the rain, play cards and do mostly nothing.  We purposely didn’t bring the bikes or the kayaks with plans for some real R and R, and a respite from house and yard work that has dominated the last month.

Harris Beach_041Surprise!  Not only are the rhodies blooming, but there hasn’t yet been a sign of a cloud in the sky.  The ocean is blue and gorgeous, the temperatures are in the low sixties during the day and high 40’s at night. 

With the view sites along the front row completely full, we settled into spot A30 and paid for four nights.  Didn’t seem too bad, although it was a fairly open site and the playground was right behind us.  We were also on a main walking route to the restrooms and the laundry and both last night and this morning were well entertained by the various kinds of people walking past.

Harris Beach_045For supper, the Chetco Seafood Company was our local fish and chips choice, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I talked to the owner and snagged some fresh cod and California halibut filets which he vacuum sealed and flash froze for us to take home to Rocky Point.  Yum!

It was good to sleep in the MoHo again, after a month of lots of space and a big bedroom and a bath more than 10 feet away, it was fun to be in the cozy space with just two steps to the bath.  Funny. As we settled in for the evening, a very tall class A parked next to us, with a clear open view of our huge yard and the firepit.  Hmmmm.

Harris Beach_031This morning we went for a park walk, oohing and ahhing over the rhododendrons in the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, and found a nice space open along Row A, but toward the quiet back corner of the park.  It looked inviting enough that we talked to the camp host about moving, and in a matter of moments we were slide in, jacks up, awning in and moved to the new spot.  We can still see the ocean, just a tiny bit, but things here are much quieter and more private.

Interesting, as we were moving, a front row ocean view site came open and we declined.  In spite of the view that we have enjoyed many times, the front row now has a lot more exposure since the park has cleared brush around the sites, and there is traffic from both the park entrance road and the main road through the campground.

Harris Beach_050Mo spent a few days last week getting our new VuCube working at home, and even though we had cable here at the site, she thought it might be fun to practice setting it up.  Fun wasn’t the word, with all sorts of strange glitches that we still haven’t quite managed to figure out keeping the thing from working correctly. There were too many variables, and that became our statement for the day.  In the end, it almost worked, but then we realized that the signal was getting interference and that was probably the main issue.  Trees.  For now, it is packed away again and we will fiddle with it out in the desert somewhere to limit some of the variables.  It did keep us at home for the day, which was the original goal. 

Harris Beach_017After a great chicken stir fry supper, we are relaxing a bit before heading for the beach for a sunset stroll.  Unlike Florida beaches, getting to the beach here requires a bit of hiking down and then back up the steep paths that lead down to water level.  Last night we walked to the overlook and watched the beach walkers below.  Plenty of time to hike to the beach ahead in the next few days.  A trip to Loeb Azalea Gardens, and who knows what else will keep us occupied. 

Of course, I do hope that we manage more sitting, reading, and napping than we usually manage on a trip to the coast.  Maybe if it rains in the next few days it will encourage us to actually lie around and do nothing except watch the sky.Harris Beach_051