The South Oregon Coast

13 Apr

Wednesday

A light shower early in the morning started a dreary day. We left Harris Beach State Park around 10am to drive around 30miles to Gold Beach with the intention of stopping off for a walk at Cape Sebastian.

The highway is still a good tarmac road and despite its ups and downs you can travel quite speedily. Here in Oregon the coast is littered with pull off points to view and access the beach, our first stop was to view Arched Rock, where the short trail looks out over sea stacks and arches both ways along the coast. We then decided to pull over for coffee overlooking the southerly view and watched the waves rolling in on the beach, we could also see the misty, rain filled cloud rolling in towards the mountain range and heading our way.

Back on the road we had a long slow haul up a coastal hill to our turning for Cape Sebastian followed by a much steeper climb through trees. haRVey didn’t get out of first gear or go more than 10mph up this stretch! By the time we reached the parking area, perched high on the ridge the weather was more threatening, so, Robert got out to see if it was worth the effort. The view from up here looked down on our coffee break spot and gave an excellent panorama along the coast, although the side to side rocking of haRVey in the wind was concerning. Two ladies and a small boy emerged from the trail end and offered the information that walking the trail was worthwhile and you did not need to go all the way. So with this I put on my top fleece (i.e. 4th layer) and shoes and we headed out.

Sure enough the path was easy and pleasantly sheltered from the wind, the wild flowers took my mind off the dampness and I spotted yellow and purple viola a lovely iris and a pretty lilac flower I need to look up to identify. Vista points along the way gave a view both along the coast north and vertically into the sea, the mist was quickly thickening but we spotted two small fishing boats bobbing up and down on the not so calm ocean.

Further on the path became steeper and eventually quite rough it also started to rain, we probably walked around two thirds of its one and a half mile total before we decided to turn back, the nice downhill slope now becoming a uphill trek! Back at haRVey and now quite damp as the rain although fine had wet us well, we were glad to be ‘home’ and able to warm up.

Turtle Rock RV near Gold Beach was our campground for the night, I was pleased to have opted for a river view as the rain, now running off the roof would keep us in the rest of the day. We could see from our site through the road bridge and out to the ocean where the tide was now in, right in front of us was the river where I was hoping later we made be able to spot some wildlife! (see goose on log pics in web album!)

Thursday

The rain stopped at some point in the night only to resume around 3.30am and continue the rest of the day. We pulled out of Turtle Rock with Roberts waterproofs dripping in the door well, unhitching water and electric is fairly quick but not quick enough when it’s pouring.

Gold Beach town looked fairly sleepy as we passed through and did not invite us to stop, we drove on towards Humbug Mountain State Park, we had intended to stay there for two nights to enable us to walk to the top of the 1750ft peak, we were beginning to have second thoughts before the rain as we had read that there were no views until right at the top, now, with rain and low cloud we decided it really was not worth it and would head for Cape Blanco instead a few miles further north. We pulled into Port Orford harbour to have lunch, there are lots of fishing boats here but instead of them being in the water they lift them out onto the dock and re-launch them from there. Some looked a little worse for wear and I am not sure how much of an industry still exists here or if it is mainly sport fishing. We sat and looked at the grey clouds swirling over Humbug Mountain and decided we had made a good choice to give it a miss.

Cape Blanco campground was fairly deserted and we were able to have a good choice of site. Almost all of them are 40ft ish long and tucked away from each other with trees and bushes between, we chose one not overhung by trees to avoid the drips and backed in. The rain had eased a little and we thought it a good opportunity to try and get a walk. From the campground a trail runs down (last bit very steep with a warning to only drive further in a 4×4 luckily we left haRVey at camp!) to the south beach and the tide was just right for us to potter a mile or so along its length, great piles of driftwood lie beneath the cliff face here, some of it huge tree trunks you would never think could be rolled by the ocean, the beach itself is sandy and flat and very clean, a pleasure to walk on but little of interest for beachcombing.

Arriving back in haRVey we put the kettle on and before it had boiled the rain had begun again and quite sharp, we were pleased to have got back in time not to get wet. A few hours later and after tea the sky cleared again enough to tempt us out once more for an evening walk. It was an easy walk crossing the grassy top of the cliffs toward the lighthouse, the sun was playing hide and seek with some brooding black clouds and the wind was cool but with top coats on we were warm enough and were able to take some decent photos of the lighthouse at dusk and the sea stacks. Again we got back to haRVey just before the rain, we were surprised we had managed the same trick twice, it would have been more likely for it to have poured on us!

Good Friday am

I was optimistic about the day from the beginning even though Robert seemed to think the bits of blue in the sky would not develop further. He cooked us American pancakes for breakfast, Roberts’ eaten with Maple Syrup, mine with far healthier lemon and sugar… so we needed exercise to redeem ourselves. The lighthouse is open 10 – 3-30pm and with high tide at 1.45pm we thought the beach walk should come first. On route to the beach we saw four large flocks of birds heading north and the sky was clearing even more, we presumed they were migrating with the changing wind but were not sure what type of bird they were. The waves were crashing in on the rock stacks today and we sat a while watching them and waiting for the tide to catch up with our toes.

Back along the beach and up the trail to the lighthouse and I wondered what it must have been like for the families who lived here when the lighthouse was manned. My questions were answered in the lighthouse museum as they had pictures of the family of the keeper who lived and worked at the lighthouse from 1877 to 1919. With two assistant lighthouse keepers and their families they lived in a not huge residence and shared the facilities, growing some of their own food and keeping a few animals too. A primitive access road could have carried some supplies in for them from Port Orford, others came by boat once a month. They had a separate wash house and with the high winds and poor weather the washing was all dried indoors but I would guess the heavy woollen regulation garments the men wore when on duty were seldom washed! By the time we had climbed the 56 steps plus a ladder to the top the sky had all but cleared and the sun shone on the lantern inside so it hardly needed the bulb to make it reflect its light every 20seconds.

What a difference 24hrs makes around here. This time yesterday it was grey and miserable, today blue sky and sunshine has bought out other campers and we have a few neighbours but it is such a lovely private setting we could still be on our own. The wildlife has appeared too. An American Robin came to visit while we had lunch, first almost flying in through the open door, he then took up perch on the wing mirror. I did not expect him to stay still for me to take a picture, but he did…(look in the web album) not sure if he was expecting crumbs but we make a point of not feeding the wildlife and eventually after about 5minutes or so he flew off. I am hoping to take pictures of a Stellar Jay, a lovely blue bird with a crest but they are far less co-operative than the robin and keep flying away, it’s a challenge!

pm

Having become a pair of beachcomber bums and low tide being the best time to walk the beach, we headed back down for a late explore. The path to the north beach is equally as steep as the south beach but on grass rather than tarmac, probably about three quarter miles walk from our site to the beach, which we had done once already today. I realised not long after we started I felt a little weary, when Robert pointed out the rock stack he wanted to walk too I felt even more weary! However, its amazing how far you can walk when your mind is taken off the distance by your surroundings, the waves crashing on the sea stacks plus the ever present promise of beach treasure, meant we probably walked around a mile and a half along the sand, seeing only one other couple, before we turned around to head back. The uphill path back to the cliff path almost beat me, its not so much the distance but the extra effort of walking on the sand, and as I keep pointing out elevation adds at least a third to the distance…. Well it does for my legs!

Reaching the cliff top and heading back towards the campground, by now heading towards dusk we spotted three deer on the path ahead but not before they spotted us or maybe got wind of us, they stood heads alert listening and watching, even though we stood very still they quickly took off bobbing up and down like Bambi into the thick woodland just along the cliff top.

Back again at haRVey I was pleased I had pre prepared our evening meal so that within a short time we could sit and eat watching the darkness roll in.

Saturday

It being Easter week-end we had taken the precaution of prebooking two nights at Bullards Beach for Saturday and Sunday just in case it was busy. The 101 was fairly quiet when we turned onto it and the drive to Bandon just before the State Park was fairly uneventful, there is no view of the ocean on the drive at present the road has been built off the coast for it’s protection and access provided at relevant points from the Highway101. I can understand why after the erosion we witnessed in California on the coast. The necessary work to continually repair the roads must cost millions, making a road inland will certainly avoid some of these issues but as a traveller it isn’t nearly as interesting or challenging for the driver. OK so I am missing my thrills!

Oregon certainly makes better provision for RV users, we have now had sites on four Oregon State Parks and are very impressed with the lay out, facilities and the charges which are considerably less for far more. Bullards Beach sits on the north bank of the Coquille River; the campground is a mile and a half from the dunes and access to the beach and three miles from the lighthouse. After some lunch we went to explore. The road to the beach runs along the river and a trail sits just to one side giving an easy route, it was mostly sheltered until we reached a stretch with open aspect to the south where the wind stopped us in our tracks. The dunes were perhaps the easiest we had come upon to traverse, a quick uphill climb then an even quicker downhill slither and we were on a beach, flat and very long with a very strong wind blowing across it. The tide appeared to be coming in, however we discovered later, from the tide table it should have been on the turn to go out and I still can’t work out why it was very obviously climbing the beach. We walked with the wind to our backs but of course at some point you have to walk the other way, a bit like walking down hills the opposite has to be covered too and turning around proved to be far colder and we soon made our way back to the shelter of the other side of the dunes!

Back at camp we resurrected a fire which had been left smouldering when we arrived and sat for a couple of hours with a little sun on us too. haRVey attracts considerable comment and I think because Robert had given him a wash in the morning he was looking quite spick. Our neighbours had passed comment as soon as we arrived how smart he was and enquired his age etc. Whilst we sat a fellow camper came to chat again giving haRVey verbal pats and commenting on his colour scheme enquiring about chassis and horsepower and things technical which ‘The Driver’ obviously enjoyed discussing!

Easter Day

The six mile round trip to the lighthouse was our target for the day, now having consulted the tide table we decided to walk out on the sand as the tide would be low and walk back on the access road.

When we got to the spot near the river where the wind had caught us the night before we realised today it was even stronger, that did not prepare us however for the southerly blast when we got over the dunes on to the beach itself. The wind was blowing the sand straight at us. Initially it was mostly below knee height but when large grains started stinging our faces we had to give up, retreat back over to the other side of the dunes, and continue the rest of the walk battling the wind on the access road. We were grateful for a little shelter from trees and drift wood when we arrived at the lighthouse which did not open for another fifteen minutes, we sat on a log and watched huge waves breaking at the mouth of the Coquille River and along the coast the wind whipping the tops off them as they broke making for an even more spectacular scene.

When we eventually entered the lighthouse and climbed to the top we stood looking at the same crashing waves from a tower which definitely was ‘swaying’ in the wind. This lighthouse was built in 1896 so much newer than Cape Blanco but had a much more flimsy feel to it, the two jetties which jut out in front of it reminded us of the Shields harbour mouth in miniature and when the volunteer at the top explained that the river had been dredged to allow big ships up the river and boatbuilding to take place there in years gone by the similarity was even more so. The Port of Bandon had been one of the busiest on the Oregon Coast at the turn of the century providing a link for taking goods to San Francisco. Numerous ship wrecks litter the river mouth and immediate coast (200 the volunteer told us) and details of 8 large ships in the mouth of the river alone were documented in the lighthouse exhibition.

Somehow the walk back was far easier, could be the wind, which we estimate to have been around 30 miles an hour, was pushing us along, or maybe the fact that it was well past lunch time and we were hungry!

I had started bread dough before we set out and after lunch made it up into rolls while Robert enjoyed some ‘play dough’ fun and made pizza bases! Before four pm it had begun to rain and the wind was now blowing across the campground too. We speculated what the waves would be like, but sat tight and enjoyed a lazy Sunday afternoon our pre recorded music from home coming in handy to cover the sound of rain on the roof.

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