Sunday, September 23, 2012

ExplOregon coast vacation: Washburne State Park.

In the morning we packed up, took a quick tour through Old Town Florence (cute, but pretty much like any other coastal Old Town), drove through Honeyman State Park for a very quick look at the dunes, then settled at Carl G. Washburne State Park... the first park we ran across with walk-in only tent sites. 

campsite 74 - best.campsite. evah.

That afternoon we stopped at a small viewpoint and listened to the sea lions barking above the Sea Lion Caves.  According to William Sullivan (our tour guide for this trip) it's a tourist attraction worth the $12 admission.  I wouldn't know...  The three we saw swimming in the ocean from the viewpoint were enough satisfaction for me.

near the Sea Lion Caves south of Heceta Head

We also skipped the homemade fudge made at the Sea Lion Caves.  Probably a wise choice.

Next we drove to Sutton Creek Recreation Area and walked over to Baker Beach to enjoy the more grassy dunes in the area. 

snowy plover nesting area

ATVs aren't allowed on Baker Beach, and unlike Honeyman the dunes weren't high enough for kids to sled down, so we had the entire stretch all to ourselves.  Well, us and the seagulls.  The day was overcast but not too cold, and it finally felt like we were on the Oregon Coast.  The beach itself was pristine with patches of "shell fields" every 20 feet or so.  I'd never seen so many large pieces of sand dollars (no luck finding a whole one but at one point I had $2.50 in half dollars).

Clarence ponders the meaning of life

Patrick ponders the meaning of life

Jen ponders the meaning of life

Yep.  Lots of sitting.  Lots of pondering.  A little snacking.  A little wandering.  Not a bad afternoon.

On the way back to camp we stopped at Darlingtonia State Natural Site to observe the "little garden of multi-colored horrors (for insects)".  These interesting plants attract bugs with nectar into the hollow area, then lure the bugs downward where they eventually fall into a pool in the stalk and become plant food.

The peat bog where the darlingtonia colony resides is small but impressive.  The park is quaint (I especially liked the hand-carved sign with its lengthy explanation of the plants), very accessible and free, and I highly recommend stopping to check it out.

feed me!

The next morning we walked through park trails over to Heceda Head lighthouse and back.  The sky was clear and blue on the way out, and halfway through the trail it turned foggy and gray - which made for some great forest pictures.

deathly hollows

That afternoon involved tidepool exploration at Bob (not Bob's) Creek and Strawberry Hill...  My first encounter with tidepools, and definitely not my last.

sea anemonemones

starfish parking only

even more lazy harbor seals

We also stopped briefly at Cape Perpetua but the tide was low so we headed to dinner that night (dungeness crab salad and artichoke bake at the Drift Inn in Yachats).  Super tasty for a former fight club establishment...

the full bar was nice too

... and a quick stop near Bray's Point for some stargazing, where we saw the Milky Way for the second time that week.  (And probably the last time for quite a while.)  Back at camp the tent sites were full but the campers that night were peaceful, so we enjoyed our last campfire and the last of our Bandon fudge and tried not to think about the trip coming to an end.

The next day after a less impressive Drift Inn breakfast we headed east through the forest to Alsea Falls (eh) and William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge (pretty cool and worth another visit).  The final stop was Trader Joe's on the way home. 

In just eight days we saw a lot, yet there was a whole lot more we could've seen.  Fun yet frustrating!  But all in all it was a fantastic trip, and a good sign of great things to come.

ExplOregon coast vacation: Umpqua State Park.

But first: Bandon.
Coquille River Lighthouse

Coquille Point wildlife refuge/
Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint

 not Face Rock
but it plays her on TV

Face Rock 

Beautiful beach aside, Bandon itself is quirky and charming.  I kept trying to remember what it reminded me of, and all I could think was Tiburon without the wealth and pretension.  Can I just say that I love this little town? 

Year of the Dragon art contest

my mom is going to want this
on her tombstone now

I agree

not the best fish tacos I've *ever* had
but pretty darned good

We finally bought some fudge, headed out of town, stopped for oysters on the way to Umpqua State Park and after a quick happy hour, wandered around Lake Marie and then up to the lighthouse.

happy hour

 Lake Marie

Umpqua River Lighthouse

Yes, there are coastal lighthouses, river lighthouses, lake lighthouses, bay lighthouses...  They're now run by the Coast Guard - which makes a lot of sense, but caused quite a bit of controversy back in the day.  All nine Oregon lighthouses were established between 1870-1896, and all have been named to the National Register of Historic Places.  And all are totally awesome.  Even the ones under construction.  And women are very capable "lighthouse keepers" - get it?  Get it??

Ahh, free ranger lectures.  Gotta love them.

ExplOregon coast vacation: Cape Blanco State Park.

Cape Blanco was a recommendation from another friend.  It was so nice, we stayed there twice. But first we made a few pit stops along the Samuel H. Boardman State Corridor scenic bypass.

Arch Rock

sea cave at Sisters Rock

Frankport Beach

and of course, the Prehistoric Gardens

Anyway, top five awesome things about Cape Blanco State Park, in no particular order:

1.  The trails around the park, which were lovely themselves and which led to beautiful views, stunning beaches, and historical pioneer sites.  Lots of fun to just wander through tunnels of trees to see what we could see.

we saw a deer here

we didn't see much here
(closed due to high winds)
but I hear it's the oldest Oregon lighthouse

2. I've said it before and I'll probably say it a bazillion more times - sunsets!  I really don't know how anyone lives on the east coast. I really don't.

first day

second day - with lighthouse action!

3. The campsites at the park were (once again) really nice.  Ours was a little small but surrounded by wonderfully tall trees that swayed pretty ferociously the first night - it was hard to tell if we were hearing the ocean or the trees.  Small or not, having the ocean as your "backyard" for two days is an awfully sweet deal.

campsite A44

4.  The beaches were stunning.  No surprise, really.  The wind was pretty fierce the first day but we still enjoyed a nice beach walk with complementary face and foot sand exfoliant.

a small perspective of the massive wind that day

deceptively calm

Day 2 was much calmer... although you wouldn't know it from the pictures. 

north side beach

calm or not, I don't know that I would've attempted
to surf in that washing machine of waves
(no, that's not Patrick)

5.  Chipmunks.  Those chipmunks were so darned cute.


We also sidetracked to Humbug Mountain for a 5 mile hike on Day 2. (I just learned that this is the highest mountain on the Oregon coast.  Neat!)  The forest was beautiful but didn't allow for many views south and north.

humbug indeed

the lazy harbor seals agreed

It was a great walk though. And really, it's hard to not be happy about anything that happens on a day without a cubicle!

ExplOregon coast vacation: Brookings and Harris Beach State Park.


A few fails today but nothing significant. First, if you didn't know, The Vista Pub ("best burgers on the 101 coast!") in Brookings is closed on Mondays. But DoLittle Cafe is a really nice substitute. (They're closed on Tuesdays, FYI.)

And if you didn't know, the road to Vulcan Lake's hike and nearby small campsite was closed through 9/15 for repairs, so we had to nix Plan A.

Instead, we did a quick nature walk in the nearby Siskiyou National Forest nearby, where we learned about ferns and Patrick's reaction to bee stings. (And in writing this post I learned that we were in the "world's northernmost redwood grove" - neat!)

I {heart} trees

I still {heart} trees

sword, deer, lady, maidenhair -
can you tell the difference?

Then we headed north to the very crowded Harris Beach State Park. It was really the only option but despite the crowds of people, it turned out fine.

yeah...'ll do

They had a ranger lecture that evening on endangered lighthouses. Well. If you didn't know, Cape Blanco is the oldest lighthouse on the Oregon coast. Or maybe it's the Umpqua Lighthouse. Like each forested area in Oregon claims to have the biggest Doug Fir tree, there seems to be competition among the lighthouses as well. But it was an interesting talk and I had a whole new appreciation for lighthouses (and the inventor of the Fresnel lens - that guy was a GENIUS!) even before we visited four lighthouses over the next few days.

And finally, if you didn't know, skunks don't always spray when they are startled... That was probably the best lesson from this very informative day.

ExplOregon coast vacation: Gold Bluffs beach campground.

Another friend recommended Fern Canyon.  We had no real destination that day so, somewhat on a whim, we drove down to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park which included Gold Bluff beach (also technically not Oregon, but whatevs) to check out the allegedly full campsite before driving a little further to the trailhead for Fern Canyon.

The campsite wasn't full.  And it was beautiful.

campsite 13

Fern Canyon was also really cool, and afterward we meandered through the redwoods for a few hours before enjoying happy hour on the beach.
bad lighting, bad photos, awesome canyon


Clarence vs the tree cow

troll bridge

That evening the air was warm, the wind was calm, the waves were hypnotic, the stars were out. 

and the beach was empty

and the sunset was lovely

and dinner was delicious

All in all, another great day... with many more ahead of us.