NW Road Trip Day 4

Wednesday, 6 June, 2012

I woke this morning to see the sun start to break through the clouds - it looked like it might be a nice day for a change! I was staying in the northern tip of California, and my goal for the day was to make my way up highway 101, and up the Oregon coast.

Sea star, caught out of the water at low tide.

I made my first stop about 20 minutes into my drive. It was the southern end of the coast highway, and I was struck by the amazing views, so I pulled into the first state park I found. The coast is littered with these huge, offshore rocks - mini islands really - covered in nesting sea birds. Most are too far out for a good view of the birds, but the low tide meant that you could get out much further than normal, and exposed all kinds of great tide pools to explore. I walked the beach for a good hour, checking things out and taking some pictures.

Pretty typical scenes as I drove up the coast.

I worked my way north along the coast, stopping at lookout and various state parks when the mood struck me. It was a nice day, with blue skies, lots of sun and some warm weather for a change. Just south of Bandon Oregon, there was a location noted for easy access to nesting shorebirds. I stopped at the overlook, enjoying the views of Face Rock and the other large offshore islands. The tide was still very low, and the beach went out a long way, quite close to the rocks. I headed down to the beach (129 steps!) and did some exploring.

While the low tide allowed pretty close access, most of the bird nests were still quite far out. There were some harbour seals playing in the surf quite close to shore, and they even haled out of the water on some rocks at one point. There were more tide pools to explore, and some cool driftwood that I took some pictures of. I think I spent a couple of hours hanging out and enjoying the sun and the beach.

Seals enjoying the sunshine.

I continued north, making stops here and there. My next major stop was at the Oregon Dunes National Monument. This huge strip of the coast is made up of massive sand dunes that stretch from the highway to the ocean. It's hard to imagine, but these things tower 20 or 30 feet above the ocean. I stopped to have lunch at one of the day use areas. I had a stellar jay and some hummingbirds keep me company, but only got pictures of the jay. I made a couple more stops in the NM as I continued up the coast, and it was awesome to see.

The view of the Oregon Coast

Steller jay that was interested in my lunch.

Another view of the Oregon Coast.

My next stop was one I had looked forward to, but in the end was a bit of a disappointment. The Sea Lion Caves had been heavily advertised (should have been my first clue...) for about 100 miles, offering views of the "world's largest sea cave" and home to a pod of sea lions. The place sits perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, with great views. There’s a viewing platform that let’s you see some of the sea lions that are out on the rocks, but their main draw is an elevator that drops you over 200’ into a natural cave (they claim it’s the largest sea cave in the world) that the sea lions like to hang out in. They have some interesting displays, but they’ve put up fencing across the opening that lets you see into the cave (you’re a long way away, so I’m not sure why really), so the photo opps were non-existent. 

Kelp forest on the Oregon Coast.

Sea lions sleeping on the rocks.

Pano of my campsite.

After that short stop, I headed back north through Newport, to my camp site just north at Beverly Beach State Park. The camp sites weren’t as nice as my last couple of stops, but it was right on the beach. Sadly, as I was setting up camp, the rain moved back in. I got set-up, then decided to head into town to try and find some dinner. I noticed a sports bar just north of town, and went in to have some food. As I was parking, I noticed that there were a lot of people coming and going to the beach. As I was trying to sort out what was going on, I noticed what was obviously a pro photographer also getting some food at the bar. I asked him what was going on, and he mentioned that there was a concrete dock that had washed up on the beach, the first major debris from last year’s tsunami in Japan. He was from the Associated Press, and was covering it for them.

A commercial dock, washed up on the beach.

After finishing up my dinner, I wandered out on the beach to check it out and take some pictures. It was a pretty big dock - commercial grade, and was covered in sea life. There were a ton of people checking it out, and sadly some people were taking any part of it that wasn’t completely attached. I didn’t stay too long, and as the weather wasn’t too pleasant so I headed back to the camp site. 

More people checking out the dock.

The rain let up a bit when I got back to the site, so I got a fire going and sat back for a bit enjoying the evening. The it was time to head for bed, hoping that the weather would improve in the morning.