12-15-2020 through 12-19-2020 Another December Escape

When winter comes, our best option for a short getaway is to head for the coast.  We had barely returned from our Thanksgiving trip when Mo said, “Can we make a plan to go somewhere again before Christmas?”  Ummm….took me an overnight minute but by the next morning I was ready to search Harris Beach for a reserved campsite.  Harris Beach is beautiful, and close.  Just a bit over 2 hours for us from Grants Pass.  I guess that is why you will see more photos and blogs about Harris Beach than just about any other location we have traveled.  So be it.  If you are bored…just move along.

With all the sites being full on our last trip, we didn’t want to take a chance.  Reservations are so easy, and for me personally it is much less stressful to know I have a place to land.  Especially when the weather is stormy I really don’t want to be wandering around hunting for somewhere to by dark.

The weather report for our four days at the ocean was grim.  Wind warnings, gale warnings, high seas and king tide warnings were many.  Still, we have camped at the coast enough to know that in between all these dramatic events the skies can clear unexpectedly and the sun will break through.  We planned accordingly.  I think I packed more outerwear and footwear than I have in a very long time.  Four days, four weeks, if it is cold and variable, I need all those alternatives to being wet.  Glad I did.

As we departed from home around 11, the skies were that gloomy gray dull that I like least of any, and the rain was spotty.  Just enough to be wet and boring, but the trip down the Smith River past the Jedediah Smith redwoods is a familiar one.  I usually like to drive home from the beach since the steep drop-off to the river is on the passenger side in the east bound lane.  Mo was happy driving to the beach that morning.  We switch off as needed, taking turns.  I function better earlier in the day so usually leave later trips to Mo.  We avoid night driving most of the time anyway and especially when traveling in the MoHo.  Lucky for me, Mo is still a great night time driver if need be.

Much of B Loop and part of C Loop are closed for the winter.  We are in A2

We arrived at our site in the A Loop and were delighted to see that most of the row was still empty.  I was relieved to see that unlike our last campsite at Harris Beach, the campfire ring was a decent height.  Mo had loaded up enough wood for four nights of campfires, in spite of the rainy forecast.  After settling in we put on our coats, including Mattie, and braved the inclement but still dry weather to go check out the beach.

It was just a little short walk to the overlook and we managed to walk down the path toward the big rocks before I had to give up.  Steep rocky stuff is out of my range now, especially when wet and slippery. 

Mattie did NOT want to turn around.

The view was great from that spot, and we could see that the beach was almost completely empty.  After walking back to the MoHo we picked up the car and drove down the steep road that leads to the main beach at the park. 

Mattie was in heaven, running wildly the minute there was space for Mo to let her off the leash.  The high tide had brought in some interesting tidbits that someone decided to arrange into a lovely still life that just begged to be photographed. 

Mattie ran and played and climbed rocks, her favorite thing to do other than running wildly in soft sand. 

Back home we settled in with some TV shows cast from the phone and a nice little steak on the BarB as the rain held off a few more hours.  By dark, the rain was coming steadily.  The rain drumming on the roof was as soothing as ever and we slept in much longer than usual the next morning.

We knew that Wednesday, the 16th, was to be the most intense day of the storm and we planned accordingly.  Snuggling in with hot coffee, some news on the TV and cozy sweats we enjoyed the indoor day completely.  I had come fully prepared with all my handmade Christmas cards ready to address and mail.  It was much more fun writing little notes and stuffing the envelopes in the MoHo than it would have been back at home. 

I started making Christmas cards back in the early days of COVID in the late spring.  The most fun is deciding which cards go to which friends.  The worst part of this is that if I make a similar card in the coming years I might not remember who got which ones the last time around.  I guess I need to keep better notes!

It rained all night but the next morning on Thursday the skies had cleared somewhat.  I decided to see if the Brookings Post Office was open and was delighted to find not a single person in the line and a friendly postmaster who checked each of my cards for weight and thickness. 

The skies were clear and beautiful as we piled into the Tracker for the short trip south to Crescent City and our favorite fish and chips restaurant, the Chart RoomWe stood in line with Nickie and Jimmy last September for our outside dining only fish and chips.

It was still outside dining only but the big difference was the weather and the lack of the long line of people waiting to order.  Although the sun was just as brilliant, the air was chilly and we wore coats.  Very few people in line and we had no trouble snagging a nice picnic table with a view.

We decided to check out the beach that we had attempted to visit last September.  At the time, it was too crowded and there was no place to park.  This time there was plenty of parking, but with the high tide coming in quite close there wasn’t much walking room.  We weren’t impressed with this particular beach, actually called Crescent Beach.  The sand is more like dark brown silt and while the surfers are fun to watch, the homeless tents and garbage strewn around was less enjoyable.

After lunch we drove north of town along the coastline to the remote headland trails at Point St. George.  I have written about the amazing historical lighthouse that is just barely visible from this point in a previous story here. There were a few people parked but only a few hikers walking along the beach.  The beach was gorgeous, wide open and clean with big breakers roaring from the high tide to keep us company.

Home again to a lovely evening with the rain holding out long enough that Mo built us a great campfire to enjoy before retreating to the cozy MoHo. As usual, Mattie had to have her own camp chair and blanket for fire time.

Most of the next day was sunny and beautiful with enough time to walk the beaches once again.  We were surprised at how the temperatures moderated after the rain and the winds were almost non existent.  It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Mattie found many mini mountains to climb

For our last night in camp Mo once again built a beautiful campfire and we opened a bottle of champagne to enjoy by the fire and to drink with our truly delicious fish and chips.  It is great when a good dinner is enough to last for two great meals.  I am pretty sure that the Chart Room fish and chips at 14.95 each is one of the tastiest and best deals ever.

Saturday morning dawned gray and foggy once again and we took our time getting ready to leave. Even though we have an RV dump station at home, it is a bit easier to dump right there at Harris Beach.  It is a good dump with a perfect angle for a complete clean dump.  RVr’s will know exactly what I mean.  It is also easy to get to and rarely busy.  It’s the little things that matter when out traveling!

The trip home was uneventful, except for one minor detail.  In Kerby, about 25 miles west of Grants Pass, there is a fair style food booth with hot dogs, hamburgers, curly fries and yes, corn dogs!  Best corn dog I ever ate was at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in 2019.  Mo said, “Hey, want a corn dog ?”  I didn’t exactly slam on the brakes in the middle of the highway, but I did find a way to turn around and get back there.  Yup…Albuquerque quality corn dog.  Once every year or so isn’t that bad for some truly delicious junk food.  Then again, I might have to be sure to remember that place is there on our next trip to the beach!

11-24 to 11-27-2020 Bandon Thanksgiving and a night at Harris Beach

Don’t forget that you can click on any photo if you wish to see if full resolution in my gallery

Site A47 had more privacy than we

Between the time we made our reservation and our trip to the coast, COVID numbers began rising in Oregon and the governor once again shut down restaurants for indoor dining.  One of the reasons we chose Bandon over Brookings for this trip was to have an opportunity to spend some time in the little shops and restaurants that make Bandon so charming.  The weather forecast was for rain most of the week, so we wanted to have other things to do than walk the beach.

We traveled north via I-5 toward Roseburg and turned west toward the coast via Highway 42.  However, instead of following the Google Girl directions to stay on Highway 42 all the way to HWY 101 and then back south, we thought the quicker route along 42 S made more sense.  In hindsight, Google Girl sometimes gets it right and we don’t.  I spent most of the time hanging on while Mo navigated the very narrow, very winding road toward Bandon.  It was not fun for me, but I think it might have been for her.  She used to drive a TR7 among other sports cars.

Don’t try this route in a motorhome

It rained a bit along the way, but the afternoon was dry enough that we had time to enjoy a walk along the beach after we settled into our site.

The campground is about a mile from easy beach access at the Coquille River Lighthouse

We were a bit disappointed in the condition of the lighthouse

Adjacent to the town of Bandon, the Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The river extends inland a great distance and was a natural link to the virgin stands of timber in the area, but the bar at the mouth of the river, formed by the interaction of the river and ocean, was a major obstacle for ships entering the river. At times, only a few feet of water would cover the bar, but vessels still attempted to navigate the river in hopes of reaping the rewards that lay upstream. In 1880, Congress passed a bill funding the construction of a jetty on the south side of the river’s entrance that created a deep channel, resulting in a rapid rise in the number of ships entering the river.

A lighthouse at the entrance to Coquille River was the next logical step for improving navigation. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the project on March 3, 1891, but it would be four years before land was purchased, plans were solidified, and the construction crew was assembled.

In 1939, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for Coquille River Lighthouse and decided it was no longer needed. An automated beacon was placed at the end of the south jetty, the dwelling was disassembled, and the lighthouse was abandoned. The lighthouse stood neglected for twenty-four years, until Bullards Beach State Park was created on the north side of the river. The grounds of the original eleven-acre light station were included in the park, and the park assumed responsibility for the lighthouse.

Over the years there have been several attempts at restoration, since park funding isn’t sufficient to maintain the old lighthouse.  In normal years, the lighthouse tower is open for visitation from May through September, however at the moment the old lighthouse looked quite sad.

The air smelled so incredibly fresh, and the surf was loud enough that we could hear it in camp across the dunes at least half a mile from the beach where we were camped. 

There were high tide and surf warnings posted for the next couple of days so one evening we drove through town in the dark to the south jetty where we could watch the huge noisy waves breaking over the jetty rocks.  Lots of warnings for “sneaker waves” kept me alert and when a big one came roaring in I immediately jumped back into the car.

It rained off and on that first night and the next morning dawned cloudy and wet. We settled into the MoHo for a cozy morning before driving the a mile south to Bandon to explore the small town.  The rain came and went all day, usually with a downpour at just the moment we would head for the car after visiting a shop.  About half the shops in town were open, with masks and social distancing, and we especially enjoyed the beautiful Second Street Gallery, Winter River Bookstore, and the Coastal Mist Chocolate Boutique, where we had two tiny cups of creamy drinking chocolate, to go of course. 

This photo is from last year when there was still inside service

The rain poured down as we ran to the car with our little cups of chocolate. I also purchased my first ever macaron (not a macaroon).  I wasn’t impressed, although I do think that maybe the high humidity at the ocean makes it hard to make a light crispy meringue cookie. Who knows.  I don’t have to try again.

We then meandered around the famous Cranberry Sweets.  The store has been in Bandon for more than 50 years and specializes in all sorts of cranberry confections.  I learned that more cranberries are grown around Bandon than anywhere else in the west. Although Bandon is referred to as “The Cranberry Capitol of the World”, more research informed me that most cranberries come from Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Five states grow almost all of the country’s supply of cranberries with Wisconsin producing more than half of all cranberries in the US.  Massachusetts harvests another third, and New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington produce most of the rest.  So much for “Cranberry Capitol”.

Still, the shop was charming and old fashioned, with lots of candies and confections behind the counters.  The hostess told me that they usually had lots of samples around the shop but due to COVID we had to settle for a little bag of free stuff. 

I decided it was time to get some fish and chips to go and tried out Tony’s Crab Shack where I was politely told that Tony didn’t fry ANYTHING, and perhaps I might like to try to fish tacos. Made with fresh caught crab and halibut, they were delicious.  Everything in town was take-out only, with all the restaurants closed for inside seating. We returned home in the pouring rain and it continued to rain all night long.  Funny how wonderful rain on the roof of a motorhome can sound, especially when accompanied by the roar of the ocean.  Great for a good night’s sleep!

The next morning was Thanksgiving, and we woke to beautiful clear skies.  I had precooked much of our dinner, and simply had to reheat the turkey, bake the sweet potato, mash the potatoes, cook a pot of Stove-Top stuffing, and open a jar of gravy.  It wasn’t gourmet, but was completely and totally delicious for the two of us and our socially distanced Thanksgiving dinner.

On our first day in camp I discovered the tsunami evacuation trail.  The path is narrow with signs leading to an area high on a heavily timbered hill behind the campground where people are instructed to assemble if the tsunami warning horns go off.  It would do no good to attempt to drive out of the campground in that situation since most of the highway is in the tsunami zone.

It was a lovely little trail, with moist moss, and lots of mushrooms in the duff under the trees. 

On this beautiful morning it was a perfect time to share the trail with Mo.  Mattie loved the trail and we enjoyed walking in a place where there were no dogs or people around.  Mattie gets so excited when she sees other dogs and always wants to “play”.  That entails lots of energy and training time, trying to get her to sit and calm down.  Walking around the campground can be challenging sometimes when all I want is a nice simple walk.  The trail was perfect for that.

It was surprising how full the campground was on this holiday weekend.  By the time Thursday rolled around, all sites were full and everyone seemed to be having a great time celebrating.  We even saw an outdoor TV broadcasting a football game. 

After our early afternoon dinner we went for another great beach walk, and were amazed that the weather was so perfect.  There was very little wind and the temps must have been in the 50’s.  Beautiful day. 

Home again to the MoHo where after many years of hearing about it, I actually figured out how to cast the phone to the TV with the included app on my Samsung phone.  We turned on Netflix on the phone, and with our unlimited Verizon plan we were able to watch movies and even live television on the big TV with the right apps.  My daughter Deanna told me about this capability a long time ago, but I never managed to figure it out until this trip. On a chilly evening having some TV was great entertainment.  The Verizon signal in the park was perfectly adequate to stream a movie.

Bullard’s Beach State Park has some beautiful picnic areas

On Friday morning we took our time with a lazy breakfast, a little bit of news, and some reading time before packing up.  Checkout time wasn’t until 1PM, and we only had a little over two hours to travel along the coast south toward Brookings and Harris Beach State Park.  I didn’t make a reservation for Harris Beach, thinking that winter on the coast would be open without a problem.  We planned to arrive around 2 in plenty of time to snag an open site before evening.  Things have changed in the camping world!  When we arrived the park was completely full except for one site, the only ADA site in the park, number 37 in the B loop.

I must say I was grateful for once to have my little blue disability card to hang from our windshield.  We settled in to enjoy our last evening on the beach and Mo built a nice big campfire.  Only problem with the campfire is that the ADA site has a very tall metal fire ring, I suppose so that it is safer.  It took a very long time to get that metal warm and I spent campfire time in LOTS of clothes and blankets trying to warm up.

One of our favorite holiday treats are the wonderful lights at Azalea Park in Brookings.  We knew that this year the big light show wasn’t happening, but the city of Brookings was attempting to do something at least and made arrangements for businesses that usually displayed their lights at Azalea Park to put lights up on both sides of Highway 101 and down into Harbor.  We hopped into the Tracker at dusk to go check out the show.  I must say that it was a bit of a bust.  There were a few nice lights near Fred Meyer, but the rest of them were scattered along the road with lots of space in between displays.  Oh well, at least they tried.  We heard the next morning that someone had stolen one of the big displays on the very first night of the show, the 4 piece Dragon.  So sad.  Maybe that is why so many businesses chose not to display their lights in the unprotected lots along the highway.  Eventually the dragon was recovered.

Here is a photo of the dragon from the park show last year

The next day we didn’t have to check out until 1PM and with no rush to get back home we enjoyed every last minute of park time.  I took Mattie around the campground, and walked out toward the overlook that has such a beautiful view of Harris Beach.  I felt no need to climb down to the water. 

There were so many people on the beach I was amazed.  More people and dogs running around on Harris Beach than we have ever seen even in summer.  I guess as many people have said, RVing is the great COVID escape and everyone and their dog or dogs is on the road and filling up the campgrounds.

We left in brilliant sunshine, driving as far as Cave Junction about 30 miles west of Grants Pass before we encountered the fog.  Grants Pass is often foggy in winter, sometimes without any lifting in the afternoon.  This was one of those days.  I always say, if we must have fog, we might as well have it at the beach.  It was nice to get home to our cozy house, the steamy hot tub, and TV without having to figure out the casting thing.  It was a great four days of ocean time, and a perfect way to handle a quiet Thanksgiving for just the two of us.

06-08-2015 Blowout on the way to Brookings

Current Location: Rocky Point, Oregon Sunny and warm at 79 F

Ah yes, every RV’rs worst nightmare.  Believe it or not, it wasn’t nearly as terrible as you might expect. 

blowout on 199 (4 of 10) Finally, after a couple of months of working on projects, preparing and recuperating from surgery, and enjoying our little Mattie, Mo and I headed for the beach.  We wanted to go to Harris Beach State Park for several reasons.  We love it there.  Judy is volunteering there this summer.  It is only a 2 hour drive from the Grants Pass cottage. 

As soon as I knew when Judy was going to be working, I made a reservation.  That was two months ago, and it is a good thing I did.  Seems as though Harris Beach is fairly popular in the summertime.  I realized as I looked back that we haven’t actually visited very often during the summer months.  Both of us know that the coast is often just the opposite of inland when it comes to temperatures, and summer fogs are common.  I warned Judy about that.  When people refer to Brookings as the “Banana Belt” of the Oregon Coast, they are usually talking about those gorgeous sunny days in December that can sometimes reach the 80’s while the rest of Oregon is cold and rainy.  Mattie at the Beach (13 of 22)

Summertime, however, is a different story.  Hot inland, cold at the coast.  Chilly inland, warmer at the coast.  Oregon was in the midst of some record breaking heat last week, so we expected it to be cooler in Brookings.

The day we drove west, however, last Monday June 8, was hot and gorgeous just about everywhere.  We left early enough to arrive around 1, even though check in time is technically 2pm.  blowout on 199 (5 of 10)

The winding drive from Cave Junction to Hiochi along Scenic Highway 199 next to the Smith River is impressive.  Lots of curves, drop offs, gorgeous views of turquoise pools far below the cliffs adjacent to the highway.  The very narrow highway.highway 199

BOOM!!  on a curve, with a vertical cliff upward on the passenger side, and another vertical cliff down to the river on the driver’s side, that boom wasn’t something we were expecting.  It was LOUD.  and SCARY.  Adrenalin pumping, Mo had no trouble keeping the rig going forward and we realized that the blowout must have been an inside dual.  We slowed way down and crawled to the closest turnout, which happened to be on the other side of the road going the opposite direction.   tire 1

No cell service.  Not a hint.  Nada.  Sure does make us appreciate that we have a toad!  Mo unhooked (this surgery recuperation thing is a true pain, I can’t lift the hitch for another couple of months) and I drove off west to find a spot with a signal.

blowout on 199 (2 of 10) Calling AAA wasn’t a problem until the dispatcher (someone somewhere in a far off state with a very difficult accent) said that AAA can’t change an inside dual, and that we would have to be towed.  Where did we want to go.  I told her several times I didn’t have cell service, but it didn’t click and she kept saying she would call me to keep us updated.  Nope.

Instead I drove back a few miles to Mo and the waiting rig where we were conveniently parked in the shade in one of the prettiest spots on the entire route.  Many times as we have passed this turnout we have wanted to stop, but usually it is full so we haven’t done it.  Shade, a view, no cell service, but who cares.  It is a gorgeous afternoon and we have a reservation so we can be as late as we need to be.  Whew. 

blowout on 199 (6 of 10) Within an hour a van pulled up, with a guy who said AAA sent him out to find us since they couldn’t reach us by phone.  He couldn’t change the tire, but he also said that we could obviously not be towed because we had a flat tire!.  He said that Les Schwab in Crescent City could do the change if we were willing to pay for the repair and then get reimbursed by AAA.  Sure.  Another hour went by and the Les Schwab truck showed up, but the guy didn’t realize that our hubs had covers on them and spent a very long time trying to find a lug wrench that would fit over the caps before we realized what he was doing and told him he needed to remove the covers to get to the lugs.

blowout on 199 (8 of 10) After a lot of work, he did manage to get the tire changed, but rather than straighten out the bent mud flap before putting the tires back on, he thought he would just pull the flap down.  Another half an hour went by before he decided he needed to take the tires back off, work at getting the flap untangled, and put the tires back on.  While we were waiting, I enjoyed every little moment of fluttering maple leaves against the brilliant blue skies.  It was an incredibly beautiful day to be sitting outside. By 3:30 we were once again on our way west. blowout on 199 (9 of 10) We at first couldn’t figure out why that tire had failed, and had failed so badly.  This set of tires was a full set of six that Mo got as part of a recall by Michelin in late 2013 just before we went on our three month trip to Florida.  What both of us had forgotten, however, is that back in Florida we had a flat, and the spare was installed in the inside dual position.tire 2 We didn’t find out till the next day in Brookings, when Mo bought a new Michelin tire, that that spare was one of the original tires from the MoHo with a date of 2005.  UhOh.  I guess a tire might fail if it is ten years old. 

We managed to get to Brookings by 5, a little bit worn out, and I walked up to Judy’s spot to let her know we had made it to camp. The next few days were great, with beach time and Judy time and some new places to explore in Brookings that we had never seen. 

But more of that in the next post…


Two Trails

Current Location: Brookings, Oregon 49 degrees and 100 percent chance of rain

At  the moment, it is raining and gray and we are comfortably relaxing in the MoHo.  Just a warning for all the blog purists out there who say they don’t want too many photos.  There are 20 photos in this post, more than I usually add, and yet it IS a photo tour of our trail walks yesterday.  If you don’t like photos, then skip it.  I made them big specifically for Nicki, who always requests the big ones so that she doesn’t have to click to get a bigger image.  You can’t please all the people all the time, but you can definitely please some of the people some of the time!

The predicted rain finally reached Harris Beach early this morning.  We knew it was coming, in fact it was expected to show up on our first day here.  Instead, we enjoyed three days of gorgeous sunshine.  Waking this morning to the sound of rain was soothing, and we actually slept in to almost 7:30.  Of course, it helps if someone gets up at 4:30 or so to let the dog out, give the cat a treat, and feed the dog.  Then they are ready to settle in and let us sleep.  Two Trails_156Yesterday, knowing that our sunny respite was soon coming to an end, we were happy for one more day to walk the beach and hike a couple of the trails.  I know that someday, when I am hopefully much, much older, I won’t be able to hike these nice little trails with their gorgeous views, and decided I wanted to do a “Sherry” and take you on a hike, and give myself a place to go when I want to remember just how lovely these walks can be on a sunny day at the ocean.

A short trail we sometimes forget to do is the Harris Butte Trail. The trailhead is just north of the entry kiosk at the park. The Harris Beach Trail also begins at this location and makes a loop around the tree covered butte, but Mo remembered that there is a lot of poison oak along that trail.  With the dog along, I get a bit paranoid about poison oak, so we decided to skip that route, lovely as it is.Two Trails_091

The short hike to the top has a few switchbacks, is a bit rocky in places, and a bit steep.  The hike takes maybe ten minutes at the most, but the view is wonderful.  The hillside is covered with thick vegetation, with only a few limited views of the beach below through the trees.  developed RAW copies

The viewpoint is a great photo site, especially in the early part of the day when the sun is in the east.  Sunsets viewed from this spot must be spectacular, but for no reason I can imagine, we haven’t hiked up here to view the sunsets.Two Trails_101

Below the cliff where we stood, was a great view of the Harris Beach State Park Day Use Area, the one we walked to Tuesday afternoon.Two Trails_105

This is the best spot to view Goat Island, and we noticed there was a kayak parked on the steep shoreline, with a few people (dots of color) moving across the slope.  It seemed as though they were monitoring vegetation or bird sites or something, with the faint impression of some kind of marking posts on the north facing grassy slope.Two Trails_106

With a bit of searching, I found out that Goat Island is the largest island along the Oregon coast. It was the first unit comprising the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1936. The island contains deep soils and a variety of native vegetation condusive to burrow-nesting seabird species.

Goat Island hosts 24% of the statewide nesting Leach’s Storm-Petrels and more than 109,000 nesting seabirds comprising 11 species. The island serves as a night roost for thousands of Aleutian Canada geese in the spring and a wintering area for a small group (40) of Dusky Canada geese.

In addition, it seems that the biggest problems for the nesting birds are boats approaching too closely, low flying aircraft, and “human trespass”.  I would imagine that the people we saw walking across the slope were supposed to be there, and that kayaking to the tiny beach and exploring the island on foot would be illegal.

Two Trails_129The second trail we walked was our favorite South Beach Trail.  This trail can be accessed directly from the big parking lot just west of Highway 101 near the entrance of the state park. Two Trails_125

In addition, there is a sweet little trailhead that begins at the southern end of the campground. This walk leads through deep spruce forest, and is lined with thick vegetation typical of the moist climate in the Oregon coastal forests.South Beach trail plants

Emerging at the aforementioned parking lot, the trail continues down the steep cliff to the beach below.

Two Trails_130With asphalt pavement on the steep trail, it is a joy to walk, either up or down, and there is a nice bench for a break if you need it.  On this spring day, we were surprised that the park staff has yet to do much clearing along the trail and the grasses and flowers were wild and overflowing and lovely along the path.Two Trails_132

At the bottom of the trail, there are a few logs to walk over, arranged conveniently into a rough step like configuration, and the beach stretches to the north and to the south.  Two Trails_142

We usually walk south, because with the tide out we can walk a greater distance before being stopped by rocky cliffs.  The beach shifts and changes with the winds and seasons, and we noticed that the ephemeral brackish water lake was gone, completely erased by tides and winter storms. The large pool was formed by a small stream, emerging from the cliffs, and the water was fresh enough that Abby could swim and even drink.  Two Trails_144

No more.  Now the stream crosses the sand, circumnavigating the large stacks and going directly to the ocean.Two Trails_158

My Keen Targhee boots did their job and I crossed the stream without getting the least bit wet.  It was just a bit cold for barefoot hiking and wading, so I was glad for dry feet this time.

As I was taking photos, I realized that we rarely do this walk in the early part of the day.  Most of my photos of the ocean from this part of the beach are against late afternoon sun.  It was a treat to have the sun behind me for a completely different kind of light.Two Trails_163

With low tide just an hour or so ahead of us, we saw only one red sea star, too far out to get much of a photo.  There have been times when we have seen more than we can count, along with green anemones.  It is never the same.

This time the most dramatic find was brilliant green moss on the rocks, soft as velvet, and many different kinds of algae covering the sea stacks, still dripping with seawater.Two Trails_179

Just around the corner from the rocky jumble that stopped our walk, is another small beach that lies directly below Mo’s former condo.  Sometimes we can negotiate the jumble, but this time it looked daunting so we didn’t bother.

Two Trails_167We spent a bit of time wondering at how it might feel to ascent this tram, and remembered climbing steps like these to get to the beach from the condo.  Two Trails_175

I am not sure exactly where the state park boundary ends on South Beach, but we assume that once there are homes along the cliff above us we are outside the state park and Abby can run and play off leash.Two Trails_150

Mo threw the ball for her until Abby finally refused to drop it.  I think that was her way of saying she was finally worn out.  For 12 years old she does great, and still loves to retrieve the ball, but she is getting a bit slower.  Makes me a bit sad.  Of course, I am slowing down as well, and that makes me a bit sad too.

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