Category Archives: Oregon

Caves, Waterfalls, Stagecoach Road and More

Hug Point State Park

Our last campsite on the Oregon Coast was in the lovely town of Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach has a popular beach and large haystack, but there are also great state parks with beaches not far from the town. One day I headed south on Highway 101 to check out two of them. The first promised caves and a waterfall which I was excited to see.

Stagecoach Road at Hug Point

Hug Point State Park has a cute sounding name but did not get its name as a romantic spot for hugs and kisses. Before Highway 101 was built, early pioneers had to travel on the beaches and at the point, a stagecoach road was carved into the rock where travelers “hugged” the cliff to get safely around. At low tide this “road” with its grooves can still be walked on to another beach. I didn’t want to walk around the point though because the waves were fairly close to the rocks and signs warned of getting stranded if the tide came up and covered the road way.

Beach view from Stagecoach Road

The waterfall at Hug Point State Park is small and did not have a lot of water when I visited, but it is always a delight to see a waterfall dropping to a beach and this was my first one on the Oregon Coast.

Caves can be found here, some that would be better for little ones as they were so narrow. One cave was fairly roomy and at the back had a large tree trunk that had been carried by the surf and pushed into a hole in the cave coming to rest against the wall. It was dark inside so I had to take the photo below with my camera’s flash. Although the surf was not close to the cave when I visited, inside it sounded loud and booming. I went out a few times to make sure the water wasn’t creeping up and I didn’t get caught by a sleeper wave.

Cave with tree trunk
Looking out from the cave’s entrance
Another cave with colorful rock at the entrance

The beach at Hug Point State Park has a number of cliffs with interesting and colorful rock formations like in the photo below.

After exploring Hug Point I headed several miles south to Oswald West State Park. Walking one half mile through the woods on a maintained trail brought me to Short Sand Beach. The walk felt like a stroll through a magical forest with trunks and roots of trees shaped into interesting formations. This would be a great place to take kids with so much to climb under over and through.

A magical forest

Oswald West is well loved by hikers, beachgoers and and surfers. I was surprised to see so many surfers walking by with their boards as well as plenty enjoying the surf.

Short Sand Beach
Surfer at Oswald West State Park

Oswald also has a waterfall dropping into the ocean. This one is thinner and taller than at Hug Point and if the tide had been a little lower, I could have walked to the base.

I walked on a trail above the beach and through a forest to capture the view below.

View of Short Sand Beach

I decided to continue on the trail and came upon many large tree roots. Walking over roots is a common occurrence on trails along the Oregon Coast due to so many old growth forests. One reviewer for this park commented that she fell and broke her wrist after tripping over roots. When she went to Urgent Care, the doctor told her she was the second patient that week with a broken wrist from hiking here.

it is hard to enjoy the forest scenery when you have to watch your feet all the time. I was fine with the roots for awhile, but when I kept encountering really muddy areas I eventually turned back and explored some shorter, less “rooty” trails.

On my walk I passed two different streams making their way to the beach. The stream in photo above was full of water and one of my favorite spots in the park. I spent some time here sitting on this mossy fallen log and enjoying the rushing water.

I loved both Hug Point and Oswald West State Parks. They were full of many interesting things to explore and simply gorgeous.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

A Walk at Sitka Sedge, Oregon’s Newest State Park

Sitka Sedge State Park

I was trying to decide if I should do a hike at Cape Lookout State Park or try out the trails at Sitka Sedge. After reading reviews, the Cape Lookout trail sounded gorgeous as it traversed a headland with commanding ocean views. But people mentioned having to walk over many tree roots, rocks and muddy spots. I decided Sitka Sedge would be more relaxing, plus it was only about three miles away. I also liked that Sitka Sedge has a variety of habitats including a marsh, lake, forest and beach access. Oregon has many state parks and this is its newest addition, having opened in 2018.

Sand Lake

The trail started out on a dike which divided the marsh between the fresh water portion and the saltwater. It traveled around Sand Lake which in season can be a great place to see waterfowl. During our Oregon travels I didn’t see as many birds as I thought I would as migration was over and the birds seemed to have retreated elsewhere to settle in for the winter. On this walk I did hear and see several Kingfishers flitting about which is always a delight and a flock of Mergansers gliding on the lake. The trail led to a barrier peninsula which protects the marsh from the ocean. There were several loop trails and I started with the Kinnikinnik Woods trail. The word Kinnikinnik refers to an evergreen shrub which was first recorded by the Lewis and Clark expedition when they were in North Dakota.

The Kinnikinnik Woods trail

A side trail from the woods traveled over grassy dunes to a beach which stretched for some distance. I only saw one other person walking on the shore and at one point a state park employee drove his truck by and waved.

After a beautiful and peaceful walk on the beach I returned to the trail to go back into the woods and finish my loop. From the dunes I entered once more into a dense canopy of trees made up of Coastal Shore Pine. It was an interesting walk as the thick forest with short trees seemed dark and mysterious in places.

Trail disappearing into the woods

Taking another short side trail I headed out of the forest briefly for a view of the marsh from a small hill. The sky was so beautiful that day with big, puffy clouds.

The Kinnikinnik Woods trail featured Sitka Spruce trees covered in dense moss. Lots of red mushrooms carpeted the forest floor.

I finished my hike with a second loop called Estuary View before heading back on the dike trail to my starting point. Along the way, I stopped to take photos of beautiful bushes covered with red berries. I tried to figure out the name of the bush and berries but I am not yet certain what they are called. They were a lovely spot along the trail.

I was very glad I explored this park as it had great scenery with trails perfect for walking. Plus, it is always fun to hike to a beach and I enjoyed all the different habitats. Oregon continues to wow me with all their wonderful state parks! Until next time!

A Visit to Tillamook Creamery and Driving the Scenic Three Capes Route

Tillamook Creamery is a popular stop for tourists visiting Oregon. Located on the northern coast, the factory is very visitor friendly. Here you can learn about making cheese and view the process from large windows above the production floor. In addition, there are a number of exhibits and fun facts throughout the building. Other activities include sampling cheese, checking out the gift shop and eating in the dining hall. Seeing everything and having a meal can take several hours and we did just that during a busy afternoon one weekend.

We hit the cafe first before it got too crowded and the menu at the order counter was of course very cheesy. Mark had macaroni and cheese and a grilled cheese sandwich. I tried the tomato soup with cheese curds mixed in. They were both good. I ate some of Mark’s mac-n-cheese and thought it was prepared pretty well. A variety of other cheese related items can be ordered here such as tempura fried cheese curds and cheddar cheese fries. After lunch it was time for ice cream which may be the most popular item. It seems everyone was walking around with a cone or cup of Tillamook ice cream. I think their ice cream is good, but in my opinion they don’t seem to put as many mix-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, candies, etc.) as two of my favorite ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs.

Visitor Center entrance with stairs leading up to the factory viewing windows

I wasn’t sure if we would see anything happening on the factory floor during our visit, but we were in luck. On our self-guided tour we saw where milk is brought in through pipes, the stainless steel mixing vats and the different stations where the cheese is processed.

The 40-pound cheese blocks are sealed, boxed and travel to Cold Storage for aging.

From several windows we saw the process of cutting, weighing and then patching the cheese. Each block must meet a certain weight requirement, so those that are too small get patched with extra slices of cheese.

Patching some cheese for the correct weight

We viewed other sections including the heat shrink area which uses a machine called the “Blue Octopus” for fast vacuum-sealing and the quality control area. It was interesting to see a metal detector to be sure something not on the recipe didn’t make its way in. (We saw this again later at the Bob’s Red Mill grain tour, but that is another post). After our tour was the tasting section which was my least favorite part of the factory. It was small with only about three different cheeses to try and the pieces were tiny. I guess this is understandable as they have so many people come through on a daily basis.

Gift Shop

I love factory tours and seeing how things are made so I thought this one was definitely worth a visit. Actually, this was our second time here although it had been years and before they built the new Visitor Center in June 2018. I thought the design of the new building was beautiful and very roomy for the 1.3 million visitors the factory gets each year.

“Fall in loaf for the first time”

As can be expected, there is lots and lots of cheese for sale in the gift shop but we left without any. We love cheese, in fact we could probably eat it every day. But, cheese is not the most healthy thing so we don’t buy it all the time. Plus, there is plenty of Tillamook for sale in most major grocery stores.

After our “cheesy” visit we drove a different route back to our campsite in Pacific City. The “Three Capes Scenic Route” was supposed to be a not to be missed drive along the coast and it started just south of the town of Tillamook. And what is a “Cape?” It is a large headland that extends out into a body of water. Our first stop was at Cape Meares which has Oregon’s shortest lighthouse at only 38 feet. The lighthouse does have a commanding spot 200 feet above the ocean on a headland.

Cape Meares Light

There are several trails for visitors to walk and see the scenic vistas from the Cape.

My favorite view at Cape Meares – loved the dramatic cliffs
Scenic vista from Cape Meares looking south

Besides the lighthouse, Cape Meares also has one of the largest Sitka Spruce in Oregon called the “Octopus Tree.” This tree measures more than 46 feet in circumference and has no central trunk. Instead, limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before turning upward. It is 105 feet tall and estimated to be 250 to 300 years old.

Trail through a thick forest of Sitka Spruce to the Octopus Tree

The question is how did the Octopus Tree develop such a strange shape? It could have been natural events, but one legend is the tree was used for ceremonial purposes by local tribes who forced or trained the branches into a horizontal position to hold canoes and other ritual objects. Evidence points to Native Americans living on the shores of Cape Meares and placing their dead in canoes.

Octopus Tree

After leaving Cape Meares our scenic drive took us south past Cape Lookout where we stopped briefly at the State Park located there. And then on to the third Cape of our route – Cape Kiwanda which I wrote about in my last blog and where our campsite was located.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more to come!

Camping at Cape Kiwanda: Birds, Bunnies and More

View from our campground site

Although we often know a good deal of what our camping experience will be at each RV park, we usually find a few things along the way we hadn’t expected. A bonus at Cape Kiwanda RV Park in Pacific City was all the wildlife that came regularly to our site. We put out seed in our hanging feeder and a dish on the ground and immediately the Stellar Jays came calling. Since Stellar Jays live in the Western U.S., it had been awhile since we had seen them near our trailer. I always enjoy seeing their bright blue coloring accented with black.

Stellar Jay

We had a number of birds visit us including one we hadn’t had before – Northern Flicker. Another frequent visitor were the Dark-eyed Juncos (I like to call them the little executioners because of their black hoods 😊 ). A spotted towhee also made an appearance.

Northern Flicker
Dark-Eyed Junco

Seeing bunnies around the campground was also something unexpected. They looked more domesticated than wild and were all colors including pure black, black and white and tan. Toward the end of our stay I asked a lady working in the office how the bunnies got here. She reported that many years ago a man kept about 100 rabbits at the Thousand Trails Campground several miles up the road. For some reason he had to let them loose and they commingled and bred with wild rabbits, continuing to multiply.

This little fellow was our most frequent bunny visitor

The bunnies were more tame than most wild rabbits, probably because they are used to all the people at the campground, who I am sure give them treats from time to time, like we did with carrots.

This little deer came to see us a few times

There were a couple of benefits to staying at Cape Kiwanda RV Resort. The best part was its location right across the street from the beach. It was also nice to find eateries right outside the entrance and the RV Park also had an onsite market and gift shop. Next door was a pizza restaurant which Mark enjoyed because he likes pizza places with salad bars. My favorite was the bakery and two mornings I walked over there to get freshly made pastries and bagels for our breakfast. This is the first time in our RVing where we have been such a walkable distance to places to eat.

Stimulus Coffee and Bakery

By far the most popular eatery is the Pelican Brewing Company looking out over the beach. They brew their own beer and also serve meals. People love coming for the beach view, sitting outside to eat and drink when the weather is good. The Company states it is the only Brewpub located on a beach in the Pacific Northwest. Mark and I usually avoid the trendy places as we don’t feel they are a good value for the money and are usually quite busy. But after walking past the restaurant multiple times throughout the week I felt compelled to try it out. Inside, our table had a nice view of Haystack Rock, the most prominent feature of Cape Kiwanda. The Rock is located offshore and stands 327 feet above the sea, the largest haystack on the Oregon Coast.

Pelican Brewing Company
Haystack Rock

The Beach at Pacific City is well loved by visitors. I was surprised to see that vehicles could drive out onto the sand and park. I wanted to venture out but my driver wouldn’t have it. Later we learned that many people get stuck and a few locals make a living out of rescuing them.

The waves are noteworthy here and surfers are a common sight.

Surfer finishing up for the day at Cape Kiwanda

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see the famous Pacific City Dory Fleet. These flat bottomed fishing boats launch right from the beach and have to maneuver over the waves as they head out to sea. Visitors are warned to get out of their way when they return because they come in fast with the waves and are therefore unable to stop on their own accord. The Fleet has been a Pacific City tradition for over 100 years. During the warmer months there are probably more boats going in and out, but we were there in the middle of Fall with some cold days.

Cape Kiwanda

Cape Kiwanda State Park features sandstone cliffs that are known for strong wave action and at 240 feet, the highest sand dune on the Oregon Coast. I regularly saw people climbing up the dune on their hands and knees. I debated doing the climb, but it is steep and slogging through sand straight uphill is so hard, something I realized during our stay near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. I did head up part way and then veering to the left walked for awhile on the Cape. Much of it is fenced off though to prevent injuries. Signs warned of the dangers climbing or walking on the cliffs, with seven people having lost their lives falling into the ocean. In spite of the fencing and signs, people still regularly climb over and walk onto the cliffs.

View climbing up part of the dune
The fenced off Cape Kiwanda cove. I listened to the echo of the surf as it entered the cave on the left

As always, thanks for checking in and I hope you enjoyed a look at the Cape Kiwanda area!

Exploring Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Cape Perpetua’s Headland – the highest point on the Oregon Coast

Cape Perpetua on the Oregon Coast is an area of amazing scenic sights as this is where the forest meets the sea. I spent some hours exploring this special place known as having the highest point on the Oregon Coast. Captain Cook first observed this headland in 1778 and named it after Saint Perpetua. It features rugged coastal scenery, blow holes, tide pools and a Sitka Spruce rain forest. Come along with me while I show you my day on this part of the Oregon Coast.

View of Cape Cove Beach from the Visitor Center balcony

I had saved a visit to Cape Perpetua for a day when the weather cleared up. We finally had a sunny, clear day the day before we were to leave nearby Seal Rocks Cove RV Park. My first stop was at Devil’s Churn, a channel cut into the rock where the tide surges in. This is best seen at the highest tide which wasn’t happening when I arrived. Several sets of stairs lead all the way down to the channel for the closest view. When the water is high the waves put on quite a show crashing in. Below is a panoramic photo of Devil’s Churn as well as a second photo at the opening of the channel.

Devil’s Churn
Opening to Devil’s Churn

A trail from the Visitor Center led to another section of coast covered with lava. The Spouting Horn is located here as well as Thor’s Well, a depression in the rock where the water rushes in, shoots up and is pulled back down into the “well,” creating an interesting effect that photographers love to capture. Below is a photo of Thor’s Well.

I walked as close as I dared as I didn’t want to be caught by a sneaker wave. I so enjoyed seeing water forced through holes in the rock and then soaring high into the air. It was mesmerizing and I stayed for quite awhile taking in the power of the waves.

After some time near the water I headed inland to walk the Big Spruce Trail along Cape Creek. I entered into what looked like a rainforest where everything dripped and trees were covered with thick moss like in the photo below. But is it moss or lichen? I did some research and still don’t know and feel I should …. it seems the older I get and the more I see, the less I know. Oh well, it was thick, spongy and so nice to touch.

Sitka Spruce trees thrive on the Oregon Coast where it is cool, rainy and foggy. They are very large trees, the third largest after the coastal redwood and Douglas fir and live a long time, up to 800 years. Here is some new information I learned about them; the wood is great for making musical instruments including guitars, harps, violins and pianos. Today’s Native Americans still make traditional wooden flutes out of Sitka Spruce. The trees have had a myriad of other uses, one example is that nearly all of the airplanes of the Allied Forces in WWI and WWII were largely made from Sitka Spruce.

A forest of Sitka Spruce
Walking the Big Spruce Trail

The Big Spruce at the end of the trail is one of the largest on the Oregon Coast and is noted to be almost 600 years old, over 185 feet tall with a circumference of 40 feet.

Looking up at the Big Spruce

I am glad I decided to walk the Big Spruce Trail later in the afternoon after my visit to see the blow holes on the coast. The ranger had told me when I checked into the Visitor Center earlier that afternoon that a class of “well behaved” 3rd graders were n the trail at the time. The trail was so narrow perched above a creek that as I walked I was trying to imagine how a group of school kids would have fared single file on it. Perhaps they caught the trail closer to the end at the Big Spruce which was possible from the campground. Either way, when I did my walk I had the trail, forest and creek to myself.

At Cape Perpetua a road leads to the top of the headland, the highest point on the Oregon Coast with views that are supposed to stretch for 37 miles. I didn’t end up going for a couple of reasons – it was later in the afternoon and I wanted to get back and I didn’t feel that day like driving the truck up a windy road to the top. To be honest, I don’t really like driving the truck that much, well really at all. I guess I miss my Toyota 4-runner. Luckily, Mark doesn’t feel that way about the truck as he is after all #bethsdriver. Of course, now I wish I had as I knew the view would be stupendous and it was a clear day. The Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) that was started in the 1930’s by President Roosevelt built a shelter up there for checking out the view. They also completed trails, campgrounds and other improvements at Cape Perpetua. During our travels we have seen the result of many CCC projects and I am constantly impressed by this program whose efforts still provide so much to our country today.

Little Log Church by the Sea in Yachats

I have mentioned in past blogs how much I enjoy checking out historic churches on our travels. If I hear about one I always try to find it. I had read about the Little Log Church in the town of Yachats which is the closest town to Cape Perpetua. At first I had a little trouble finding the church, but was glad I made the effort. It is darling and even though it was not open, I could peek into the windows and see inside. This is one of the few log churches I have seen on our travels.

Seal Rocks RV Cove: View from the door of our trailer

And so we bid goodbye to our great campsite near the sea at Seal Rocks RV Cove. We knew we would miss the view! But it was time to head to our new location up the coast in Pacific City.

Sunset view from our trailer at Seal Rocks RV Cove

Exploring Newport, Oregon

Yaquina Bay Bridge and Harbor

Newport is a great town to explore on the Oregon Coast. In this post I wanted to share some of the places we visited. A number of years ago before our RVing days we stayed in Newport, but this time we explored a couple of places we hadn’t seen before. The Oregon Coast Aquarium was one of those places and it was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours seeing marine animals. For those of you that have been to the Monterey Aquarium, it is not near as big or have the variety of seal life. But we still found it to be nicely done.

One of the best parts is the “Passages of the Deep” which is a long undersea tunnel to walk through while a variety of sharks, rays, and other fish swim over and around both sides. I especially liked the school of mackerel that swirled around closely together in a silvery mass for protection.

A school of mackerel and leopard shark
China Rockfish

We had a good view of the sea otters during feeding time. I was surprised to learn that sea otters disappeared from the Oregon Coast over a century ago after being hunted to extinction. An attempt was made to reintroduce them in the 1970’s but failed. Sea otters have always been my favorite sea animal and I found it sad that they have not made a comeback in Oregon like they did in parts of California. Here is a fun fact about sea otters: they have the densest or thickest fur of any animal on earth, which certainly got them in trouble when they were hunted in great numbers so many years ago.

As a bird lover I really enjoyed the Seabird Aviary. I had a close look at a number of Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres and Pigeon Guillemots. I was rather amazed how many birds they had and how nice their pools and enclosures were.

Tufted Puffin
The puffins were frequently preening their feathers by dousing with water and shaking them
Common Murre

There were a variety of tanks where people were welcome to touch Sea Anemones, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, Star Fish, Sea Snails and various kelp. During my beach and tide pool wandering in Oregon, I had hoped to see Sea Urchins but was not successful.

Colorful Sea Urchins

The Aquarium features other animal exhibits including sea lions, pelicans, octopus (which were hiding) and even a turkey vulture exhibit, which surprised me. This isn’t your typical marine animal, but apparently the Aquarium noted their importance as scavengers along the Coast. In addition, a pair of vultures raised by humans could not be returned to the wild and ended up here. I always hope to see jelly fish exhibits at aquariums and they have one here as well. It is mesmerizing watching them float through the water and changing their shapes.

Although the octopus evaded us at the Aquarium, I had a great look at one at the Hatfield Marine Science Center located a short distance away. Visitors can watch octopus feedings several days a week and I found it fascinating. A staff member spent some time introducing us to the resident Giant Pacific Octopus and allowed the octopus to wrap its arms around her arms. She said the octopus knew her and liked to rough house around during feedings. It was strange to hear the sounds when she pried the suckers off her arms. While they played together, she also fed bits of fish, clam and shrimp (the favorite). Staff have toys for the octopus to play with since living in a tank doesn’t afford them much opportunity to exercise as they would in the wild, catching prey and fending off predators. It was interesting to watch the octopus play with balls, rings and a toy shape sorter lid. The staff person also poured water on the octopus during the feeding which she said was enjoyable like a massage.

The Giant Pacific Octopus is the largest known octopus species. Males can weigh up to 100 pounds and measure up to 98 inches in length. They are sometimes brought to the Center by local fishermen who find them in their catches. Once at the Center, they are kept in a holding tank to get acclimated and are evaluated to assure they are healthy enough to keep and display. They remain at the Center for six to nine months before being released back to the wild. The life span of an octopus is three to five years.

At the entrance to this marine center is an unusual and interesting exhibit – a large piece of concrete dock that was once used in commercial fisheries in Japan. The dock was ripped from its mooring during the March 2011 tsunami and since it had built in flotation, floated across the Pacific. It was discovered washed ashore on a Newport beach on June 5, 2012. After arrival, it had to be thoroughly cleaned of all marine life due to threat of invasive species causing environmental or economic harm. Over 118 different Japanese species were found on this piece of dock. Today the Center displays the dock as a memorial to honor the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami victims.

Speaking of tsunami’s, Mark says he always thinks about them while on the Coast and finds it a little unnerving. He never had to worry about them growing up in Tucson, Arizona 😊. We saw many warnings about heading to high ground if an earthquake occurs. There was a warning about it on our paperwork from Seal Rocks RV Cove as well. It said that if an earthquake occurred to run, not walk to the designated higher point above the RV Park. As we drove up and down Highway 101 we saw many signs telling us that we were entering and then leaving low lying areas that were tsunami hazard zones.

Tsunami informational sign at Hatfield Marine Science Center

The Yaquina Head Natural Area several miles north of Newport is a place to see incredible ocean views, wildlife, tide pools and Oregon’s tallest lighthouse.

Rugged Coastline at Yaquina Head
Yaquina Head Lighthouse – the light has been shining here since 1872

I took a walk up Salal Hill for even better views of Yaquina Head, the lighthouse and beaches in both directions.

Salal Hill Trail

I remembered eating at a really good fish shack the first time we came to Newport years ago and hoped it was still there. I couldn’t remember the name, but when I saw it on the side of Highway 101, I knew that was the place. It is an atmospheric eatery with crab 🦀 pots bubbling outside, picnic tables and inside a wide array of fresh fish for purchase or fish meals to order. Luckily there was seating inside too as it was a little cool outside. We had clam chowder, halibut fish and chips and what they call, “smoked salmon candy.” Actually I ended up eating here twice, once on my own and the second time with Mark. It was still as good as I remembered.

South Beach Fish Market

Hope you enjoyed a little tour of Newport – more to come on our Oregon Coast wanderings!

A showy lion fish at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

Seal Rocks and Glassblowing

Trail to beach from campground
Benches along the trail to the beach

Camping along the Oregon Coast with an ocean view sounded like a must do. When I read online how much people liked staying at Seal Rocks RV Cove I thought it would be a great place to land. The Park is located in the central part of the State next to Highway 101. It sits on an ocean bluff across from a beach and Seal Rock State Park. Since we weren’t traveling during peak tourist season, they had a really nice spot for us. October turned out to be a good time to travel on the Oregon Coast. We were able to get reservations where we wanted to stay and there were fewer crowds enjoying nature.

A great roomy site

This site at Seal Rocks ended up being one of our favorites during these past few years. It was secluded, had lots of room with a large private grassy area and was in a beautiful setting. It also had an ocean view – the first for us during our RV travels. A walk to the beach just took a couple of minutes.

View out the back window of our trailer – Mark searching for whales

I had read the beach was rocky and how much people enjoyed the tide pools. When I first walked to the beach I was a little disappointed, as the rocks were some distance away in the surf. Some how I had this vision of clusters of rock all over the beach. On our Oregon Coast trip I learned the importance of checking the tide tables for low tide and figured out the best time to visit. Although at low tide the rocks were a little more exposed, I still couldn’t access the main tide pools. I was told at the office that there are the low, low tides (they often seemed to be late at night or very early in the morning) which are of course more accessible than the second low tide which is higher. I talked to a couple staying at the park who reported they had been here several times and had never seen the surf so high. They said they usually could walk out to the main rocks with no trouble. So at this stop, tide pooling and rock exploring were out for me.

As the name implies, seals often hang out on the rocks at this beach and state park. I did not see any until my last walk the morning we left when I saw two swimming out by the rocks.

We had a great location but mostly poor (Mark says interesting) weather during our week long stay with gray days, rain and wind. The “interesting” weather was really interesting in our tiny trailer on the bluff during the storms. I still ventured out to the beach and one afternoon could hardly walk with the wind driving so hard against me. I came back wet and wind whipped.

Mark snapped a photo of me coming in the door with my wet face and hair.

We did have a few nice sunset days which are always a joy. Below, some photos during one of my beach walks.

We were only 10 miles from the nearby town of Newport where I found a glassblowing studio called the “Hot Shop.” I have always enjoyed seeing glass works and watching glass blowing demonstrations. I have even taken two classes in the past – once in Seattle with my son Matt and another time when we were visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Hot Shop is run by Jeff and when I asked him about a class, he was very accommodating and easy going about setting one up for me the following week. This was my first one-on-one class and during the other two our projects were already pre-determined by the studios. Although Jeff told me that most people made floats, I was free to make whatever I wanted. I considered making a fluted bowl, but decided the floats were pretty nice.

Glass floats and ornaments for sale.

During my class, I chose the color scheme for the float and Jeff got the color crystals out and arranged on a table. Once he got the hot glass on the rod from the furnace I was able to start working on my float.

2,000 degree glass furnace

With the rod I heated the glass in the reheating or glory hole and then rolled it in the color crystals. Then back it went in the glory hole a few more times.

Using wooden molds, I was able to shape the glass before using a blow tube to inflate my float.

Jeff than cut the float from the tube before putting it in the annhealer which is the final furnace where glass rests as the temperature is slowly brought down over night. This keeps the glass from breaking during drastic temperature change.

I wasn’t able to take the float home until the following day and Jeff did not plan to be in his shop for the next few days. We talked about some options for picking it up and when he found out we were staying in Seal Rocks he kindly offered to bring it to our trailer since he lived in the area. He even asked me what time I wanted it delivered! The next morning he brought it secured in a box. Another fun glassblowing experience with a great guy!

Stay tuned for my next post on exploring Newport!

Exploring Four Oregon State Parks

Coquille River Lighthouse

As we drove up Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the number of state parks. It seemed every five miles or so there was another park offering such amenities as scenic views, picnicking, camping, beach access, hiking and water sports. Oregon has 255 state parks with 57 of them along the coast. While staying in Bandon, we traveled to several of them and I thought I would share what we found while exploring.

Coquille River Lighthouse

Bullards Beach State Park is located across the Coquille River from the town of Bandon. My main reason for visiting here was to see the Coquille River Lighthouse, built in 1895 which sits close to where the river empties into the ocean. In 1939, an automated beacon was placed at the end of a nearby jetty and it was decided the lighthouse was no longer needed. This adorable lighthouse is one of my all time favorite lighthouses. It was closed for tours after September, so I wasn’t able to take a look inside.

Cape Blanco Light

South of Bandon, Cape Blanco State Park is located at the State’s westernmost tip and features a lighthouse built in 1870. This is the oldest standing lighthouse on the Oregon Coast and the light still shines. In the early days, light was provided by burning hog fat (lard), but today a 1,000 watt bulb keeps the light shining. One of the docents told me that the bulb is changed every few months. Technology can sure be great – no more hauling pig fat around!

Container where hog fat was once stored

Perched dramatically on a headland over the Pacific Ocean, it is a rather long, winding drive to get to the light. Early Spanish explorers named it Cape Blanco or White Cape because of the 200 foot tall, chalky white cliffs. I had read that it tends to be windy here and it certainly was the day I visited. Near the lighthouse are expansive coastal views both north and south. Even with the wind howling, it is a gorgeous location to visit.

View of Cape Blanco Lighthouse and headland
Looking north from Cape Blanco
Looking south from Cape Blanco

So here is a little guy I wasn’t expecting to see. He didn’t pay me any attention as he was busy digging up something.

Porcupine at Cape Blanco

Another day we headed north on 101 from Bandon to Shore Acres State Park, the former estate of Louis Simpson, a shipbuilder and lumberman. On a high bluff above the ocean, Mr. Simpson built a mansion and formal gardens as a summer residence. After the house and grounds fell into disrepair, the property was purchased in 1942 by the State for use as a public park. The mansion was destroyed, but the gardens were restored and are still open for visitors with seasonal plantings. When we visited in mid October there wasn’t much blooming, but the gardens were still lovely to see.

I was happy to see that some hydrangeas were still in bloom
The Japanese Garden was my favorite

From the gardens a trail goes down to Simpson beach, set in a cove.

Shore Acres is well known for huge waves, especially during storms. The waves are best seen from the bluff area where the mansion used to be. The site now has an enclosed observation building where visitors can stay out of bad weather and watch the surf crash over the wall. We weren’t there during a storm and didn’t stay inside the building, but the waves were still fairly rigorous at times. We would love to see them during a really good winter storm, wild and high.

Wave action at Shore Acres State Park

When I visited this park with my sister, daughter and niece in 2001, we took a picture at the dead tree sculpture below. During our recent visit, I was very pleased to run into it again and remember it from the previous trip. I think it makes a great photo op.

Cape Arago State Park is just down the road from Shore Acres. Our first stop at this park was at an overlook for Simpson Reef and Shell Islands which are described on a signboard as a “Five-Star Hotel” for Elephant and Harbor Seals, Stellar and California Sea Lions. The Island is located quite a distance from the shore, so binoculars and a long camera lens were helpful in seeing the wildlife. It became apparent that the sign was right. There were hundreds of them lounging on the Island’s sand and rocks as well as other rocky areas on the reef. In my travels, I don’t think I have ever seen so many seals and sea lions in one place. They seemed to be having a ball – riding the waves, swimming, diving and cavorting.

Seals and Sea Lions gathering at Shell Island

Close to our turnoff for Shore Acres State Park is an overlook for the Cape Arago Lighthouse. This is supposed to be about the best view of the light, although it was still quite a distance away. The light is located on Chiefs Island and is not open to the public. It was built in 1866 and used until 2006. The lighthouse had special significance to several Native American tribes and in 2013, the Coast Guard turned it back over to these Confederated Tribes. It was a grey, foggy morning when we stopped for a look.

Cape Arago Lighthouse

Thanks for checking in and stay tuned for more Oregon Coast travels!

Exploring Bandon: Washed Ashore, Cranberries and Crabbing

Cosmo the Tufted Puffin – He sits on Coquille Point overlooking off shore rocks where tufted puffins nest

Bandon has one of the more unique galleries I have visited in our recent travels – “Washed Ashore, Art to Save the Sea.” Of all things, this organization takes trash that has been removed from Oregon’s beaches and creates artistic sculptures from the waste. Their purpose is to educate the public about plastic pollution in oceans and waterways and encourage positive changes in the use of every day items. Each piece of art is designed and directed by a professional artist and then formed through the united effort of Washed Ashore team members, volunteers and students.

Angus the Cowfish In front of a bleached coral reef

When I visited Washed Ashore there were about 10 sculptures inside the gallery, two located outside and one on the bluffs above Bandon’s Beach. I was told by the staff that they have more pieces than usual as often they are on traveling exhibitions. For example, some of the pieces were recently at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Whale rib cage

All of the pieces I saw were of marine animals, including the whale rib cage (above) which was located near the entrance. Signs at each piece include information about environmental hazards for the particular animal. The organization notes that 80% of marine debris comes from “land based sources – from streets to streams to rivers to oceans.” On the whale rib cage sign there was a list of items found in the stomach of a dead gray whale on the Washington Coast which included plastic bags, towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, duct tape, fishing line, and a golf ball. Each sign also has a “Can you find” section on the trash that was used in that piece. In the whale sculpture it was bucket lids, bleach bottles, buoys, soap bottles and bait traps.

The musical sea star was a fun sculpture because it was made from glass bottles and taking the mallets provided you could gently hit the bottles to create a tune. This sculpture has plastic bottles lining the arms with many from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Steve the Weedy Sea Dragon sculpture requests reducing plastic use to keep more plastic out of the ocean and provide a cleaner environment for sea creatures. Marine animals can mistake plastic for food. Suggestion was to carry a reusable water bottle and reusable bags.

Plastic pieces cut from a laundry basket

The manager gave me a little tour of the work shop where volunteers sat at tables working on projects for upcoming sculptures. The blue plastic pieces in photo above are being strung on wire to create a sea bed for a fish. When I asked what the cut up blue pieces were from, he went to a back storage room and came out with a laundry basket. Yes, it was easy to see that a lot of plastic pieces can be cut from a laundry basket. Anyone is welcome to sit at a table and do some “crafting” even if they are just a visitor and not part of the Washed Ashore team.

Bella the Angelfish

“Bella the Angelfish on a Reef” symbolizes the danger imposed on coral reefs and their inhabitants due to human impact including plastic pollution. Trash used on this sculpture includes toy shovels, toothbrushes, fly swatters, water bottles, bottle caps, buoys and shotgun shell wads. This trash as well as trash from other sculptures was gathered on beaches by volunteers.

Zora Belle, Rockhopper Penguin

Posters on gallery walls show pictures and provide information on the plastic problem. Here is some information noted on one of them: Almost all the rope used by fishermen is made of plastic; broken plastic pieces are the most common debris found; cigarette lighters wash in from all over the world; white is the most common color of plastic found; red, yellow, tan and orange plastics imitate the colors of food for many animals.

The organization is dedicated to the cause of educating the public while at the same time finding a positive use for trash by turning it into art. It sure made an impression on me. I am giving more thought to my use of plastic throwaway containers like bottles and grocery bags.

Bandon cranberry bog

Bandon calls itself the “Cranberry Capital” and during our stay I was really hoping to see a cranberry bog, something I had never seen but only read about. Bandon supposedly has the sandy soil and coastal climate that is ideal for growing the berries and Ocean Spray has a plant in Bandon. We were coming at harvest time and during one drive I saw a bright red bog with workers in action.

Raking the berries

Later, I did some research and read that the night before harvest the bogs are flooded with up to 18 inches of water. A piece of equipment called a reel, nicknamed “egg beater” is used to loosen the berries from the vine. The ripe berries are then able to float and rise to the surface where they can be gathered. While I watched I saw two men raking the berries and moving them to a conveyor belt so they could be lifted onto a truck.

Using a “boom” to corral the berries

I also watched a worker use something called a “boom” to round up or corral the floating berries. I couldn’t help but think it would be fun to wade in a pond full of cranberries. As I drove back to our trailer after watching the cranberry harvest I reflected on how fun it is to be able to travel the country and see different things being harvested. We were staying in Louisiana during the sugarcane harvest and when we were in Maine last summer it was time for harvesting wild blueberries. This past July we were in Michigan just in time for the cherries.

Cranberries that are wet harvested are processed for juice and sauce. Fresh berries that are sold in stores are dry harvested. A local grocery store in Bandon had fresh cranberries in bulk. Because the growing season is longer in Oregon than cranberry producing states back east, the berries here are darker red in color. I bought some and using apples I got at the local farmer’s market made cranberry applesauce.

Old Town Bandon has a marina and one day when I was there for the farmer’s market I came upon crabbing action on the pier. Crabbing is a popular sport or pastime on the Oregon Coast and people stood along the pier waiting to pull up their traps and see what they caught. I thought it was interesting that chicken legs were used as bait because sea lions won’t eat the chicken. One lady I talked to was there with her husband and two young daughters. When they finished crabbing they were headed to the woods to do some wild mushroom gathering. They weren’t having much success catching any crabs that day. I watched one man haul up his trap but the crabs were too small to keep.

Crab trap with chicken legs on the bottom and an undersized crab
Big enough to keep!
For those that don’t want to cook their crab, a local crab shack at the marina will

When I got back from my outing I told Mark that it would be a neat experience to get a crabbing license, rent some traps and try our luck on the pier. He looked dubious about this and after we talked about it for awhile I realized that it would be a lot of trouble getting the equipment, baiting the traps, hauling and throwing them in and out and then dealing with those squirming crabs. I think the squirming crabs is what settled it for me. But it was fun to think about and fascinating to watch others doing it.

I had never seen this before coming to Bandon’s pier – what a great idea!

I hope you enjoyed a look at exploring in Bandon. More to come on our Oregon Coast trip!

Finding the Best Beach in Bandon, Oregon

I think I found my favorite beach ever … or at least one of my favorites. I had high expectations for Bandon’s Beach after reading reviews and articles. I was looking forward to exploring the sea stacks, rock formations and tide pools. The beach did not disappoint. In my opinion it is not the kind of beach where I would lay down a towel and relax. It is perfect for exploring and that is the kind of beach I like.

Bandon was the first town where we stayed as we made our way up the Oregon Coast. Since we were in Bandon for a week, I was able to explore the beach on multiple occasions. The beach is vast in size – wide and long, so there is plenty to see and experience. There are two main access points – Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint and Coquille Point. Both of these areas have parking on the bluff and then a long set of stairs down to the beach.

Some of the rocks have pointed shapes like this one

Perhaps my favorite formation was Cathedral Rock with its sea cave and tunnels. It is not often I get to explore this kind of formation and I do love caves. The main room was quite high; I would guess about 15 feet and as large as a living room. From the main room were a few tunnels going to the other side of the cave, but I was cautious while exploring these as I didn’t want to get caught by a wave rushing in.

Cave entrance on the right side of Cathedral Rock
Tunnel in the sea cave
Another tunnel in the sea cave
Sea cave entrance on the back side

Below is a photo of a “window” which I really enjoyed finding.

These rock formations are under the protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. It is an important sanctuary for nesting seabirds like Tufted Puffins, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, Auklets, several species of gulls and terns. Unfortunately we were there too late in the year to see the birds which would have been quite a sight.

With all the many rock formations, the beach has great tide pooling during low tide. I especially enjoyed seeing star fish and the anemones with their bright green color. I was told the starfish were dying so I did some research and read that 90 percent of the starfish died in 2014 on the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico due to a wasting disease. They have recovered though and the population has rebounded along the Oregon Coast. I saw quite a few as I wandered and it was a happy sight.

Giant Green Anemone

Evening is a favorite time here for photographers. They gather with their tripods and camera equipment although I don’t use a tripod and wander around unprofessionally snapping photos. They were wearing rubber boots so they didn’t have to worry about “sneaker” waves getting their feet wet. After I saw some of them wearing their boots I decided to wear mine the next day. I had been on the beach for only five minutes in a channel between two rock formations when a sneaker wave rushed in and went over the top of my boots soaking my feet. I think I need something taller or better than my Walmart specials.

The “Elephant Rock” formation has an arch that was a great spot to catch the rays of the setting sun filtering through.

The Elephant Rock Formation

I thought the rock formation on the far left in photo below had the oddest shape. It reminded me of a long finger with pointy nail.

The most famous rock formation on the beach is called “Face Rock.” When I first read about the rock on sign boards at the parking area I scanned the beach to find the right formation and see if I saw the face. I didn’t have much success and then in the fun of exploring just forgot about the rock’s significance. When I was going through photos for this blog post the face all of a sudden jumped out at me. Some how when I was taking the photos I don’t remember seeing it. Can you see the face in the picture below? It is on the righthand side of the rock and is supposed to look like a young girl looking up at the sky.

Face Rock – From a Coquille Indian legend this is the face of Ewauna, an Indian princess
Another view of Face Rock

If you ever make a trip to the Southern Oregon Coast, don’t miss a stop in Bandon to see this amazing beach. The town of Bandon has more to offer so stay tuned!