Ocian in View! O! the Joy…

[sic]

Coast to coast at last, though it may be a stretch to call the Chesapeake one of the coasts, and an even bigger stretch to lead off with a Lewis & Clark expedition quote.  But it was pretty cool to see the Pacific again through the windshield.

We headed northwest from Bend into what appeared to be a new and thicker blanket of forest fire smoke.  It was smoky enough this time that we could actually smell it, and the mountains on either side of us weren’t visible.  Still though, it was a gorgeous drive, which speaks volumes about that area.

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This was the first time we returned to sea level(ish) in several weeks, and I was struck once again by how little the Davista/Toad beast enjoys grades, whether ascending them or descending.  Though driving in general has become much easier, with respect to total attention required, than when I wrote my first semi-panicked post about it, this does not hold true for going up and down.  I’ve become acutely aware of any elevation change in a road and try to roll considerations thereof into my planning, though sometimes there’s very little choice.  Steep downhills are the most nerve-wracking I think.  Steep and long downhills even more so.  Though climbing steeply is a grind, it doesn’t feel dangerous, just slow.  Going down anything more than about 6% of grade, however, will push us into 2nd gear and 4500+ RPM in order to maintain a reasonable speed without using excessive brakes (which would, of course, be worse).  I’ve read that this is fine and the preferred technique to tackling hills, but when I start pushing 5000 RPM it just doesn’t feel right.  I figure something is taking up all that strain I’m feeling, whether it’s the transmission, the engine, or something else.  Maybe I’m just not used to it.

At any rate, we crossed the Cascades and descended all the way into the Willamette Valley, and thereafter the short (but steep) Coastal Range to the Pacific.  It was interesting to watch the vegetation change as we crossed quickly from the “dry” side of the state to the “wet” side.

The weather wasn’t the best, but we had expected that.  Pretty much from San Francisco north to Canada they were expecting a few days straight of cooler temperatures and rain.  Sorely needed in the fire-scorched Pacific Northwest, but not ideal for our Oregon Coast excursion.  On the other hand, we were due for some rain – we’ve had very little on our trip — and what better region than the Pacific Northwest to experience some?

Due to previously mentioned time constraints and some dawdling in Park City, we’d had to distill our Oregon Coast time to one site from three, and we opted for Seal Rock, just south of Newport and north of Yachats (go ahead, try to pronounce that.  WRONG!) and Cape Perpetua.  We’re in a somewhat old school private RV park rather than a State or National Park, but there’s wi-fi and the view is stunning, with the beach right across the street.  “The street” in this case is Highway 101, but out here it’s pretty easy to cross, unlike, say, at Cahuenga Pass in LA.

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Our first order of business upon setting up was to throw on some rain shells and head down to dip our feet into the Pacific, high winds and sideways rain be damned.  Woodsprite wouldn’t even put on sweats (but quickly regretted her obstinacy).

The next few days were quite different than all that had come before, and as such marked well the beginning of the “coastal” part of our journey as opposed to the “mountain” part which we’d just finished.

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One of the things I had been looking forward to for quite some time was taking Keeper salmon fishing, and hopefully filling an ice chest or two with the fresh pink/orange stuff, not to mention having it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for several weeks.  I’d planned out our Oregon Coast stops based at least partially on river mouths, reasoning that late September would be just about right for the salmon to be heading in from the ocean, netting us a high probability of a decent catch from the shore.

There are several flaws in that reasoning, the most significant of which being this is me we’re talking about, and evidently I reek of salmon repellent.  Also lessening our odds, though, was the fact that our time constraints limited us to one river (the Alsea, which is ok for salmon but not a front-runner, I learned afterwards).  And lessening them further were the tide / time of day considerations and our non-willingness to rent a boat to get where the salmon were.  Somewhere in the recesses of my imagination I had once upon a time pictured our going out in the kayaks to salmon fish, but seeing the environment in which we’d be fishing disabused me of that nonsense almost instantly.  Not saying that every river mouth is like the Columbia in Astoria, but there’s a reason there’s a Coast Guard station there and that they’re so busy rescuing people.  The Alsea is like the Columbia in miniature, but not too miniature.  Huge Northern Pacific waves meeting a large, shallow river mouth with shifting sand bars and currents plus high winds and 13 or so feet of tidal shift = no chance whatsoever we would be blowing up the inflatables to brave it.  Plus it was supposed to rain.  Nahhh.

Still though, we awoke dutifully on day 2 at 5:30AM after buying our (semi-exorbitant) 3-day fishing license and some “can’t miss” lures, bundled up, and drove down to what looked like a decent spot to do some casting.  It was actually really cool.  The rain let up right as we arrived and turned into more of “showery” thing, with most of the showers missing us.  We were even treated to a rainbow at sunrise and a single lightning bolt that struck near enough to us to get our undivided attention, but no more followed it.

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It became clear pretty quickly that any salmon we were going to catch would have to be lost or at least unintelligent, as we weren’t able to get the lures too far off shore, and we could see in the considerable distance where all the boats were fishing (and presumably where the salmon were).  Keeper lost a bit of his enthusiasm when he realized this was going to be yet another fishing-with-no-fish excursion with Dad, but to his credit he kept his spirits up and we fished for at least an hour before heading back to the women-folk and homeschool time.  We even did it again on day 3, with the same result.  Decided to sleep in on day 4 though.  Mmmmm, warm.

A quick note on 3-day fishing licenses, at least in Oregon (and California I would presume).  They are not economical.  I forget the exact price, but I did, without thinking, blurt out “no, I said a 3-day pass, not annual” when I was told the price.  Oops.  After being assured by the woman behind the counter that the price was in fact correct, I made some quip about how I was far (FAR!) better off going to the local grocery store and buying a salmon there.  She chuckled dutifully and offered that that wasn’t true if we caught 3 or 4 of them (with the implication that this was a simple matter).  Clearly she doesn’t know me.

The weather, despite the overall wetness and chilliness, actually cooperated with us far better than we expected throughout our Oregon time.  It seemed to rain all night every night, but the days would bring a decent amount of sun in between the random showers.  We were able to see quite a bit of that part of the coast, which is spectacular by any measure.  Our beach at Seal Rocks morphed with the tides from a wide, shallow tide pool wonderland with waves crashing in the distance, to a roiling maelstrom of sea foam that we could only watch from the path above.  Something none of us had ever seen was a sort of brownish sea foam that didn’t dissipate at all, and in fact collected on many of the surfaces there and in the various gyres that formed based on the all the rocks / reefs.  We looked it up (because in 2017 you don’t have to “wonder” anything) and discovered that it’s associated with rough seas and is composed of ground up seaweed/kelp and other organic material.  One of the kids decided it should be called “flarp,” so that name stuck.  Here’s some flarp.

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This was the first time the girls were really able to see no-kidding tide pools with anemones, urchins, sea stars, and the like.  Keeper had seen several, and Firebolt had seen a few on vacation, but she’d been too young for them to make an impression.  Plus these were far more dramatic.  We spent several hours over the few days engaged in tide pool exploration.

Cape Perpetua, a few miles to the south, took the “rugged Oregon coast” thing and upped it several notches.  We scrambled on the tide pool strewn rocks next to the ocean where there’s a feature called “Thor’s Well” and another called “Devil’s Churn.”  You get the idea I think.  Waves were running about 15-20’ as well, so it was a little intense with the three kids wanting to go in different directions.  Hilarity ensued when I managed to get splashed pretty heavily by a wave while trying to demonstrate to the kids where the safe and less safe places to stand were; I was in a “safe” place.  My seawater-soaked jeans quickly became a non-factor, however, when we all got caught in a downpour and tried, unsuccessfully, to huddle downwind of a small ridge.  The kids took it in stride, though, and we chalked it up to “adventure.”

The last night we spent up in Newport, where Keeper (OK, it was me, but he definitely helped) dragged us to the Rogue brewery.  Keeper had tried Rogue’s root beer at a restaurant recently, and had declared it the best soda he’s ever had.  He’s not a soda guy and doesn’t particularly like sweet drinks, but this is evidently solid stuff – heavy on the “root” and light on the sugar.  We’d promised him he could buy a few bottles there as it’s almost impossible to find elsewhere.  I had a sampler flight with my dinner, as I’m inclined to do when I visit a brewery.  I like Rogue.  They’re not my favorite by any stretch, but there’s very little beer they make that I dislike.  The dinner was solid and Pacific Northwest-y too, with some Dungeness crab thrown in there for good measure.  Between all that, the rain outside, and the chill in the air, it felt very home-ish, and even Keeper expressed that sentiment, which surprised me a bit.  He seems energized in this environment, and I find that encouraging.

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Tomorrow we head further down the coast into California and the Redwoods.  The last time I was there we blew through the area; I’m looking forward to spending some time there this go around.

By the way, if it wasn’t completely clear, we caught no salmon, and presumably won’t this trip.  At some point someone’s going to have to teach my son how to fish…

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