No Seals at Seal Rocks…

Nor driftwood at Driftwood Beach, Flight informed me. Misnomers abound on the Oregon Coast, yet any of the state’s advisory notes are extremely polite in their recommendations:


Apparently in Oregon you get three warnings that the highway grade is changing – very Canadian, I thought.

Sorry, let me back up…


Despite being saddened by departing Bend, the four-hour trek to the ocean had my heart soaring. While still on the desert side of the Cascades the haze from the fire was still fairly pronounced, but it cleared as soon as we crested the pass. Within a short number of miles the flora transitioned from high altitude piney clusters to being thick with the richly moist underbrush accompanying even taller old growth trees. It was reminiscent of Washington Park in Anacortes and truly felt like going home.

We made our way to the coast in some less than optimal weather (it was raining sideways), but as Keeper observed, “My body was made for this.” Our kids continued to remind us they were born in the Pacific Northwest and assured us they needed only shells to face the treacherous weather. Perhaps it’s because we’ve often quoted REI’s tag line, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing…”, but whatever the reason I’m glad to see they’ve taken the sentiment to heart.

However, after a brief stretch on the beach in the gusting winds and accompanying stinging sand, we all cried uncle and returned to the campsite for dinner, praying the next day would welcome better weather.

And it did. Sort of – at least there were some sun breaks.  Good to dust off some Pacific NW vocabulary.  After we enjoyed a quick bite to eat, we went back to the beach for lessons in marine biology and coastal engineering. There would be plenty of time for math and reading while at the Laundromat…


One of the first things that stood out as we picked our way down to the waterline was how yesterday’s raging wind had carved the beach into small aerodynamic sand ridges behind anything larger than a Perler bead.


For those of you who don’t have elementary school aged girls, Perler beads are these plastic bitty pieces you form into shapes on a template before using an iron to melt them all together. For the record, they are almost as irritating to step on as Legos.  Trust me, no further research is needed.

While Flight led the marine biology lab, primarily with WoodSprite:


I ran a coastal engineering lab on erosion, and oversaw an ocean engineering bridge building enterprise (okay, that endeavor was pretty much Firebolt’s solo effort). There was a freshwater (I hope) run off that came down under PCH and made for the ocean. I dismissed my initial concerns about the water’s source and asked the older kids (WoodSprite was still with Flight looking at sea anemones, which I still have to look at written out in order to say properly) about their observations of the “river’s flow” and how it was carving its path.


There was a sizable slab of rock over which the water rushed in some places and not at all in others. After our initial observations Keeper plopped a large mass of sand on the slab where there was no water flowing and I first tasked Keeper (while Firebolt built her bridge) to redirect the flow to erode this newly deposited land mass. While Keeper built a drip castle on the river’s edge, I deposited a new sand mass and asked Firebolt to do the same. Using only locally available rocks (design specification), they each handily accomplished their missions. And undid their work when complete. I love that we’re raising ecologically mindful engineers.

It was still pretty early in the day when we loaded up the Suburu with our accrued dirty laundry and headed to into bustling Waldport (population at last count 2,163). While Flight and I snagged five machines to start our laundering, each of the kids broke out their math workbooks and completed their requisite exercises. During one of our runs out to the car to collect yet another laundry bag, we noticed there was a locksmith shop literally next door. This was most fortuitous as we were down to only one set of RV keys (one had gone on walk about during our recent river float – !!!) and needed to make another set. Perfect – two birds, only one confined trip in the Suburu.

Laundry cleaned, folded, and returned to the Suburu and now the proud owners of three new sets of Davista keys, we popped around the corner for a restorative lunch at Grand Central Pizza. I was happy to see so many of Bend’s best offerings on tap and hope to see Atlas’ huckleberry cider become more readily available.


ADMIN complete, we headed south along the coast to conduct Varsity Marine Biology classes. Flight was happy to pry various marine creatures from their places of residence to show them to the kids (and I was happy just to visually document the observations), after which he returned them to their homes.

Until a squall schooled us in earnest.

Fortunately we were on the way back to the car and not still straddling tide pools. Flight gathered wee WoodSprite under his shell and I ducked into a shallow cave with Keeper and Firebolt. They had identified our temporary sanctuary and made enough room for me to shelter as well – such kind children.


Flight’s recollection (below) is only partially correct, for we three who were well ensconced in the natural alcove avoided the brunt of the pelting rain. WoodSprite also faired well in Flight’s rain shadow. Flight, less so.

In only minutes the squall passed and we extricated ourselves from our hollow and our exploration was maybe more subdued, although only just because shortly thereafter I was “Hey, Momma”-ed again by WoodSprite.

I have to admit I love driftwood, especially enormous trees that have floated only heaven knows how long or far. I was blown away by this enormous piece of driftwood (perhaps it had abandoned its post at Driftwood Beach?), especially all the designs and colors.


No kidding, I want some jewelry that looks like this, although probably a little smaller.

Some of us (Flight) were more damp than others, so we called it a day and retreated to Davista’s dry warmth to fill our bellies with a hearty meal. A most productive ADMIN (and heavy STEM) day, crazy rain squalls notwithstanding.

The next morning threatened to be a beautiful day.


As had become our habit during our short time on the Oregon coast, we meandered down to Seal Rocks Beach to check it out. Not only was the “river” we’d observed two days before carving out a totally different path to the ocean (meaning we could have a different Coastal Engineering Lab EVERY DAY were we to stay longer), much of its transit was being covered by “Flarp,” the sea foamish substance cloaking the shoreline. Frankly I’m not sure Flarp is a proper noun, but it looks like it should be. Perhaps verbifying too might soon follow, but considering it’s one of Keeper’s words, I’ll let him further explain its origin and verbify away if he opts to do so.


As Flight explained, we did look it up and learned the copious amount of sea foam is mostly comprised of the by products of algae decomposition, sped along by the recent storms’ tumultuous churning in the surf zone, whereby it also trapped air in its pseudo-surfactant composition and came to resemble very dirty soap bubbles.

Sweet, a chemistry lesson too!


Regardless of how cool the scientific mechanism is behind generating its existence, Flarp is just plain gross when you get up close to it. Organic, okay maybe, murky and filthy looking, absolutely.  However, from a macro perspective, it is pretty cool just to sit and watch how it moves along the beach. Looking a lot like a malleable blanket of coffee-colored fiberglass insulation, yet more mercurial, it seemed to slither over the top of the water and travel its own path, indifferent to the water’s periodic motion beneath. It was truly mesmerizing.


Flight rallied us out of our respective trances to get on with the plan of the day. We mobilized the family to explore one more beach, this one with the intention of collecting sea glass. Just over a year ago, I went to visit a dear friend in Newport, RI, and we were strolling along a nearby beach where there was a modest amount of this treasure presenting itself at low tide. I’m embarrassed to admit my hamstrings were a little sore for my stooping so often during the arduous hunt, but I didn’t care.

I had been bitten by the sea glass-collecting bug.

Big time.

So much so that on the Monday morning after I returned home, I shanghaied the family into crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to meet low tide just before 0700. We spent a couple hours combing the beach and I was in heaven. They must love me, at least enough to tolerate these expeditions, although truly I didn’t give them much of a choice.

Since hitting the Oregon coast, I have been reviewing on line recommendations for somewhere nearby to find sea glass hoards just awaiting my discovery. I was pleased to learn there was such a treasure trove just north of Newport. WOO HOO!   We’re going to Otter Rock!


The beauty of the morning had been swallowed up by more swollen storm clouds, but our shells were donned more to stop the wind than any rain. We got to Otter Point but couldn’t find our way to the beach that was mentioned. Bummer. Instead we checked out the Devil’s Punchbowl Arch, sporting a wicked cocktail that had its own special ingredient – FLARP!



We popped down some very steep stairs to reach a different beach and let the kids run out some energy.

I liked seeing what the storm had done to the sand:

A little bummed I hadn’t found THE beach, we returned to the car and Flight humored me by trying to locate it. Good man. We turned down a side road and saw another stairway, presumably to THE beach. This looked promising! At the top of the stairs, this guarded the descent:


Oops. Sorry urchins, anemones, and starfish. I swear we didn’t know.

A little chagrinned (and hungry), we abandoned our quest (mine really) and sped to Rogue Brewery for dinner. Although I enjoyed my Fruit Salad Cider, the highlight beverage (for me) was Keeper’s Root Beer. After dining, we bought several of Rogue’s sodas to ration out along our journey: the requisite Root Beer (of course), Honey Orange, and Citrus Cucumber.  And so we returned to Davista, sans ocean-aged rubbish, but happily short on fridge space.

We chanced one last trip to the Seal Rocks beach to see what the Flarp had done in our absence.


Flight and Keeper taunted the incoming tide with this stunt.


Flight emerged Flarp-free, Keeper not so much.

Looks like we’ll need another laundry day when we get to the Redwoods…

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