Another gorgeous sunny day on the Oregon Coast May 4

Still have no good internet access, so am sitting in the Mojo Café in Brookings.  Managed to upload three days of blog fun but the photo upload is crawling along and I am going to give it up and head back to camp.  The rest of the photo links will be posted sometime when access is a bit better. (Photos are all posted now both on Picasa and Smugmug with a link at the bottom of the post for this day!) Good a time as any to catch up on a very few of the 200 plus blog posts in my reader list accumulated since we left Monday morning.  Gee, you are all so prolific!!

lots more photos of the beach and ocean follow this onemorning hike on the South Harris Beach trailI woke up as the sky was barely lightening to see a shroud of fog hovering over the ocean, but by the time we got up at 6:30 it was completely gone.  There was barely a breeze and the skies were completely clear.  We planned to kayak again today, this time on the Pistol River and estuary about 17 miles north, but first we decided to begin our day with a hike down to the beach. 

This time we took the South Beach Trail, another well maintained route down the cliffs to the ocean.  South Beach Trail takes off just a couple of sites east of ours and meanders through deep green forest before approaching the view parking lot and cliffs to the beach. The path down the cliffs is steep, but not too much so to manage easily back up without stopping.  It is even paved with asphalt, so no slipping and sliding on loose rock and gravel makes it really enjoyable.

morning hike to south beach (20)morning hike to south beach (26)

Once on the beach, the sun was so warm Mo had to take off her jacket and we walked as far south as the incoming tide allowed, throwing the ball for Abby and enjoying the warm, windless morning.  I haven’t experienced the beaches of Oregon without wind very many times, so I thought it was wonderful.  Abby even wore out after much fetching, and once even stopped to rinse her sandy ball in a tidepool before picking it up again and bringing it to Mo.  Did she do that on purpose??  It seems so, but who knows.  Abby IS incredibly smart.

morning hike to south beach (31)We are unhooked from internet and telephones, but still have the morning news with the cable here at the park.  It’s amazing how one thing after the other gets all the focus.  The killing of Bin Laden and the decision about whether or not to release his death photos have completely superseded the tragedies in the south.  I don’t understand why news can’t actually be news of what is going on everywhere, instead of what happens to be the “big story” of the moment.  The flooding and tornado damage in our country is more important to me that all the political posturing about the Osama thing.

sunny skies, incoming tide, wind 40 mph  Pistol River launch siteWe spent a bit of time relaxing in the morning sunlight before taking the baby car north on 101 about 17 miles to our planned launch site on the Pistol River.  Once we passed through the beautiful forest and started the descent to the ocean, the difference in wind speed was intense.  Parking first at the maybe too windy for kayaking the Pistol Rivernorth side launch, then at the southern approach, we walked out to the river to asses the situation.  I think the winds were close to 40 mph and the tide incoming.  We thought it would have been ok going upstream, but were a bit worried about getting back downriver.  Driving upriver to some other listed launch sites didn’t yield anything more promising, so we once more traveled back to the Pistol River State Park day use area and saw that even with the incoming tide, the connection between the river and the south arm estuary was completely dry.  It was cold and the wind was intense, so we looked at each other and said, “Maybe not”.  Time for Plan B.

the float plan catapulted off the submarine.  Truly amazing stuffIn some of the literature we gathered for the area while driving about town, Mo found information about a little known historical site.  In the Brookings area, you can hike to the only spot in the continental US where enemy bombs were dropped during WWII. Nobuo Fujita, a young Japanese warrant officer, flew his small pontoon plan off a Japanese sub on the Oregon coast near Cape Blanco on September 9 1942. His assignment was to drop incendiary bombs into the forest, start a huge fire and panic the nation.  Only one bomb out of five detonated, and it ignited the woods up in the hills near Mount Emily. Due to wet conditions and the fact that the bomb only partially detonated, the fire only spread 75 feet.  It was quickly put out by four forest service workers. 

Twenty years after he dropped his bombs the  Brookings Jaycees invited Fujita to visit during the Azalea Festival.  He came to ask forgiveness, and presented his sword to Brookings.  You can read more detail about this amazing little piece of history here.

WWII Bomb Site Hike (15)We drove several miles east along the Chetco River before turning off on the dirt and gravel road to Mount Emily and the bomb site.  The trip reminded me of the many years I spent driving remote forest roads like this one exploring wild areas.  The nice part about this trip is that I was only going to hike on trails and I didn’t have to climb these steep slopes with a shovel and a pack through thick brush.  In this area, the conifer forests have been burned, and the canopy is often dominated by second growth alder.  While a coniferous forest is often lovely, they are also very thick and dark, and a bit forbidding.  I really enjoyed the fluorescent lime green light filtering through all the leaves of the springtime alders.

excellent sign stories of the history of the bombingAfter almost 14 miles of winding road, without seeing another single car coming or going, we found the trail head.  The hike was perfect, some ups, some downs, about a mile each way through beautiful forest to the bomb site.  The signs were wonderful, telling the story with photographs of the Japanese sub, the pontoon airplane, Fujitsu and his son, and the people responsible for putting out the fire. As usual, the hike back to the trailhead seemed to go much more quickly than the hike out, and the ride back to town also seemed to pass much more quickly.  We again passed our special stops found on the way in, the lovely little campsite along the creek, and the amazing very tall waterfall hidden among the alders.


nice trail, some ups, some downsOn the way back down the road, we were discussing how little wildlife we had seen.  In the bomb site brochure, it was mentioned that the remoteness of the road often allowed for seeing a bear or two scampering across the road.  Literally minutes after we had this discussion, we suddenly saw two bear cubs scamper across the road.  It was much too fast for us to truly catch anything with the camera, but then one cub ran up a tree right next to the road, and obligingly waiting for us to take his photo.  Once again I am we saw two baby bears running across the road and then this one ran up a tree right by the roadreminded of how much I want a real SLR with a real telephoto lens when I go to Alaska!  The baby bear was sure cute, and Mom and sibling were no where to be seen down the incredibly steep slope.

Back in Brookings, we decided it was time for some coastal fish and chips.  Funny thing, being a harbor town, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish places around. We both remembered a place south of town where we once had a great dinner with friends, but couldn’t find it.  Finally found it with the help of the phone and the place was closed up tight.  We then drove back through the 101 strip, but nothing appeared, and we decided to go down to the Harbor to see what was there.  I had heard about the Oceanside, and after much dinking around, we finally found it.  It was also closed up tight!

seagulls like the white cars By this time we were both pretty tired and hungry and grumpy, but neither of us was quite ready to give up and go home and eat soup.  We passed a funky little restaurant called the Chetco Seafood Company, with a blinking beer sign in the window, and a couple of people leaving with go bags in their hands.  Tired won out, and we parked Abby where her barking wouldn’t get attention and went in.  First sign of a good choice was the decent glass of chardonnay for 3 bucks.  We ordered fish and chips, and kept asking each other, “Is this really this good or are we just hungry?”  I decided it really WAS that good. The fish was light and incredibly fresh, the breading thin and light and delicately spiced and not the least bit greasy.  The fries were perfect and the cole slaw perfect as well. We shared a cup of chowder filled with fresh pink? clams to start and it was perfect as well.  Maybe we were just hungry, but it may have been the best fish and chips I have ever eaten.

More photos of our day are located here.

Baptism in the Winchuck River

(The rest of the photos for this day are HERE on my SmugMug site)

morning hike to Harris ButteAs I mentioned previously, Brookings is in a sort of “Banana Belt”.  Most of the Oregon Coast is chilly and windy much of the year.  There are often beautiful days with sunny skies in the fall, and sometimes when it is least expected.  Those clear warm fog free days happen more often in Brookings than farther north, and even more than in Crescent City to the south in California.  The rainfall here is around 74 inches a year, with precipitation falling on 150 days.  I am comparing notes and paying attention because while we were at Fred Meyer the other day, Mo just happened to throw out the thought that Brookings might be a nice place to live. 

Harris Beach Day 2 (4)The original plan when Mo built her house was to live there ten years or so and then move on to something smaller and more manageable, perhaps a condo in a place where there was no winter snow.  She chose Brookings once, and having lived on the California coast for more than 25 years, the chilly fogs don’t bother her in the least.  I, on the other hand, am a sun worshiper.  I need light and warmth.  I often think I could live in Florida.  I love green and flowers and plants.  Brookings right now is filled with green and flowers, and it looks terribly tempting.

Harris Beach Day 2 (11)Thank goodness a decision isn’t imminent.  Mo has lived in the big house at Rocky Point for almost nine years now, and the “ten years” has evolved.  So many things to love about Rocky Point, and Mo’s home is lovely, with her assistance throughout the building process, it is a very personal space.  The large beam in the living room and much of the woodwork came from huge Douglas firs milled right there on the property. So now the plan is 2020.  Instead of a certain number of years, we picked a date.  Arbitrary to be sure, but in our 80’s, the thought of shoveling snow isn’t a good one.  So, again, somewhere in Southern Oregon, but it could be just about anywhere.  It’s kind of exciting to have this change out there in the future, something fun to think about and now I look at Brookings in a completely different way.

Harris Beach Day 2 (22)Yesterday was one of those gorgeous, sunny days, with temperatures climbing into the 60’s. We hiked a couple of the trails in the park, first to the Harris Butte, and then again down to the beach in the early morning sunshine.  It was a perfect day for our plan to get the kayaks in the water.  We have a copy of the “Canoe and Kayak Guide” for Oregon South Coast, covering the sloughs and rivers from Newport to the California border.  Our choice for yesterday was the Winchuck River, a smaller river near the southern border with an outlet to the ocean.  The guide warned of low water, but this time of year we thought things would be in good shape.  The suggestion was to launch before high tide, paddle upriver till the tide shift, and then follow the tide back to the launch site near the ocean. 

keeping Abby safeThe launch was lovely, on a sandy beach with shallow water that deepened quickly.  We paddled upstream under the Highway 101 bridge and followed the river along the farmlands and river homes along the way.  Even this close to the ocean, the water was really shallow, with some gravel bars and areas that  were less than 4 inches deep.  We managed to get through it without grounding, a good test of the new kayaks, but then as we reached some very shallow riffles the current got very strong as the river made what looked like a gentle drop.

paddling upstream against the currentI think we paddled for a good 20 minutes, going absolutely nowhere, before we decided to get out and portage the riffles along the rocky beach.  We thought if we could get around the riffles, we could continue upriver a bit more.  I held Mo’s boat in the strong current while she got back in with Abby, and then attempted to launch into the current myself.  I thought of my friend Jeanne, a whitewater kayaker who launches her tiny shoe kayak off rocks and over waterfalls.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t manage getting into my boat in a simple fast current.  I must have hit the current sideways, or still wasn’t balanced in the middle, and over I went into the very cold water.  Even though it was only a couple of feet deep, the current was incredibly strong, and it took every bit of strength I had to hold on to my boat and paddle to keep it from going downriver.  Our cockpits are large, open things, and even if we had skirts on, these aren’t the kind of kayaks that you roll over and back up in deep water.  Instead, my cockpit filled with water, and my boat banged on the rocky bottom until I could get it hauled up on shore and dump all the water out. 

shallows and a swift current stopped us just beyond this stony beachI’m glad it wasn’t terribly cold out, with sunny skies, and I again remembered some kayaking advice, “Dress for the water, not the weather”.  Of course, I probably won’t ever do that, since a wet suit seems to be a huge pain in the neck, and I like easy fun comfortable kayaking.  It definitely taught me another lesson, though.  I saw just how easy it is to roll over in a kayak.  In all our years of boating, this has never happened to me, and I get cocky and sometimes don’t wear my lifejacket.  I had it on yesterday, since I usually do wear it in unknown water, but now I will wear it all the time, even in gentle Recreation Creek.  Good lesson.  I didn’t need it yesterday, but I could have.

outgoing tide and the confluence of the river and the oceanAmazingly, I had the camera around my neck and inside the jacket and it didn’t get wet.  The water and 2 bottles of beer were safely stashed inside the closed hull with wallets in a dry bag so all was well.  Once back in the boat, we decided it might be time to go back downstream.  Paddling up, I don’t think we really realized how strong the current actually was.  In no time at all we were back at the launch site, floating easily and quickly by all those cute little river houses out to the sea.

We also read about the danger zone where a river meets the sea, and now instead of heading into the waves to play, we stayed back cautiously.  Again I think of Jeanne, who reads my blog faithfully, who will probably laugh at my caution.  Jeanne climbs mountains in Nepal, jumps off waterfalls in Costa Rica and skis down back country cliffs in wild British Columbia.  I love watching her adventures, but I have no plans to ever try any of those things. In Harris Beach Day 2 (49)fact, yesterday looking at the surf, I wondered out loud how people manage to take kayaks out there.  I think true sea kayaks are more nimble creatures than our comfortable, big cockpit, wide, stable boats.  Maybe someday I’ll go take a surf lesson on a warm day with an instructor.  Maybe.

We saw no sign of the recent tsunami damage at Brookings Harbor

no sign of the tsunami damage last monthWe didn’t get back to camp till 4 or so, and after a very late lunch of egg salad, we both fell into a weary nap. The evening was long and warm, and a bit later Mo built a great campfire that we enjoyed long into the dark night. There wasn’t a bit of wind and the fire felt wonderful.  It is nice that in this state park, campfires are allowed, but don’t plan to bring any firewood from any other area.  It’s called “Burn it Where You Buy It”, and is important to keep beetles and other pests from traveling from one place to another.  The California check station now asks specifically if you are carrying firewood as well as certain kinds of produce.

Off to Brookings on May 2

That is Mo’s old condo over on the cliff across from that is Mo's old condo across the bay (the blue ones on the cliff)our campsite at Harris Beach

C3 at Harris Beach State parkThe trip to Brookings is a familiar one.  I didn’t even plug in Garmin Girl to show us the way.  The route is the fastest way to get to ocean from where we live, less than 200 miles, and we know it well.  Over 140 to Medford, north on I-5 to Grants Pass, then west on the beautiful Highway 199 toward Crescent City in California before turning north on 101.  After meandering through the pastoral Illinois Valley, the road descends along the wild and winding Smith River and is designated a Scenic Highway for many miles. The route passes the magnificent Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park a few miles east of Crescent City, but we had other fish to fry and just passed through. Even with a few errands to run in Medford, our 10 am departure dropped us into Brookings by 2:30 in the afternoon.

Oregon Coast Day 1We had reservations at Harris Beach, not wanting to take any chances, but they really weren’t necessary.  While the front A loop with ocean views was all full, the rest of the park was very nearly empty.  Our site was perfect.  Just one space in from the view sites with a lot more privacy, and I can see a “peep” of the ocean from the bedroom window.  It’s quite enough, and the big open private site is lovely.  After settling in and setting up, we took the baby car to town to look around a bit and see how much has changed since Mo sold her condo a few years ago.  The condos look just fine, with new paint, and only one for sale.  Surprisingly, the prices are only about 25 percent less than they were in 2006. 

Oregon Coast Day 11We drove up to Azalea Park, a special pride of Brookings. Even though we have been here many times, I haven’t seen the rhodies in bloom the way there were on Monday afternoon. The park is lovely, and a special treat is a small chapel that seems to be some kind of memorial, with a view of the ocean in the distance. It was closed when we were there, but the architecture is amazing, even from the outside, with soaring windows, and glass and wood and metal woven together in a magical work of art.

soaring roofline with glass and woodBrookings is a great little town, in what is called the “banana belt” of the Oregon Coast.  When we arrived on Monday, there was just a bit of residual cloudiness in the skies, but by the time the sun set, it was beautifully clear.  After a stop at the very large Fred Meyer store for some minor supplies (chips!) we settled in to a beautiful sunny evening.

We took Abby for a walk on the beach, and I took way too many photos of breaking waves.  I always think I will delete most of them, but then I have a terrible time with that cutting knife.  I like first one, then the next, then another, and before you know it, I have a dozen photos of the same rocks with a different wave breaking just a little bit differently than the first.  ah well.  It’s digital, and doesn’t hurt anyone but me when I try to organize my photos and make sure I have enough storage for all of them.

Oregon Coast Day 1 (61)Oregon Coast Day 1 (92)Mo built a great campfire and I heated up leftover turkey pie brought from home for supper. Jeremy joined us outdoors to explore the campsite, (on his leash of course). Even though it was 8pm and the sun was shining, the breeze came up and I had to give up and go inside before the fire was all the way down.  With cable tv for an extra buck, we enjoyed an episode of Dancing with the Stars before falling into a great night’s sleep.  I do think I probably missed about half the show, since I was all worn out with the fresh air and relaxation.  Amazing how relaxing can wear one out, isn’t it. Of course, I took many photos, so if you want to see lots of flowers and rocky Oregon coast, click here. Oregon Coast Day 1 (67)