Sunday, November 24, 2013

Taking a look around ~ the Oregon Coast

Netarts Beach
Sometimes you have to step back to take a look at what just happened.  The impact of my trip to Oregon nearly two weeks ago is just now hitting me.  Looking back through the photos from my trip, I am amazed by the beauty that surrounded me and the wonderful people whom I fleetingly crossed paths with.

Three Arches Wildlife Refuge, Netarts, Oregon
On Tuesday, November 12th, I loaded up the car and the dogs and headed north.  Much farther north than I have been in quite some time.  I drove 10 hours, and after a nice pit-stop to walk through a park in Boise in the 5th hour of our journey, I found myself topped out in the Whitman National Forest, heading for the high plains of the Columbia River Gorge.  The sun was setting just as I was headed down I-84 and the switchbacks which lead to Pasco, Washington, where I would overnight with my friend Jamie and her husband Shane.  On the way to see them, I had gassed up the car in Baker City, Oregon, which is absolutely worth the side-trip just to see the quaint Main Street in town.  A ribbon-cutting ceremony was taking place just as I arrived, and I chatted with the gas station attendant about my awkwardness with letting someone else pump my gas, which is the law in Oregon.

Cape Meares Lighthouse
I spent an all-too-short night in Pasco at my friends' house, and upon awakening the next morning, I found that the entire Columbia River Valley was encased in thick fog.  I drove west to the Oregon Coast, another 5 and a half hours, and marveled at the thousands of wind turbines along the cliffs above the Gorge that were not there 10 years ago when I traveled this way.  I stopped off along the Wilson River Highway (OR-6) and went for a nice trail run with the dogs in a mossy, dense forest.  The place looked, sounded, and smelled just like the forests in Germany where I love to run.  It felt good to stretch our legs after a day and a half in the car.  After a little over an hour on the trail, I ate a quick Nutella sandwich and headed towards Tillamook.  Leaving the trailhead, I couldn't help but feel a little lucky that I hadn't seen a soul on the trail as I passed a prison work camp and work-crew logging truck.
The walk to the Secret Beach at Cape Meares
I stopped in Tillamook just long enough to by some groceries and continued on to the town of Netarts, Oregon, a tiny, sleepy little fishing town just 30 minutes west of Tillamook.

The next 2 days would be spent reading books by the crackling log-fire, walking along the beaches in the rain, and exploring trails through the forests and capes.  The dogs had luck on their side as well, as Artemis tried unsuccessfully to drown herself in the 10 to 15 foot surf and also avoided getting swept out to sea in the riptide.  Her instinct to chase seagulls and cormorants is impressive, to say the least.  The cormorants (smartly) dove underwater when she got close to them and she was perplexed by their sudden disappearance.  After the near-drownings, she spent a good amount of time on the leash and we still had a wonderful time exploring despite being tethered together.

I hiked down a mile and a half trail to a small (100 yard-long) beach at Cape Meares one afternoon to find starfish, anemones, and red crab in the tide pools.  Not a soul around on this rainy afternoon, although Franklin did find a porcupine along the trail (no quills!).

Another day, I hiked along Cape Lookout, with 300-400 foot cliffs just off the trail to the side.  As songbirds darted amongst the cliffs, I could only imagine a yellow dog chasing the bird and suddenly finding only air beneath her feet instead of the mud and slippery rocks.  I kept the dogs close on the leash, to avoid a 300 foot drop which certainly would have ended in a lengthy swim along the coast back to a beach in the best case scenario (I tried not to think of the alternative).  I could see the big black rock of Cape Kiwanda from the overlook off the end of Cape Lookout, and resolved to head that way after the hike.  Along the Cape Lookout trail, I chatted with a 50-something old couple from Layton, Utah and a guy my age who tried to convince me to drink a "craft" beer at the Pelican Pub in Pacific City (it was only 2pm.  If I had drunk the beer that early in the day, I would have been asleep with the dogs in the back of the Subaru before making it back to the cabin).  I smiled to myself at his reference to craft beer, which I'm pretty sure most of the rest of the country calls micro-brew.  (See reference here.)

Driving the Whiskey Creek Road to the south, we stopped at Cape Kiwanda and went for a nice run along the beach in the rain with the receding tides (I didn't drink the beer at the Pelican Pub).  I found a good keeper sand dollar (most of the ones I found were broken due to the rough surfs) and a broken scallop shell.  I stopped at the convenience store for a latté, which was likely one of two worst lattés I've ever had in my life (the other being in Three Rivers, California) and scalded my tongue.  I did get some really great smoked halibut dip for a snack in the afternoon and decided that the owners of the store should stick to seafood, not coffee.  The dip was salty, smoky, and delicious.

Cape Lookout
Day three found us, sadly, packing up to leave the small cabin that had been our cozy home.  The time went by so quickly, and I wished I could have stayed longer (I would have had to buy more firewood).  Before driving up the Coastal Highway 101 to visit Cannon Beach, I stopped at the Tillamook cheese factory and watched the Saturday crew packaging cheese.  They all waved and smiled.  I watched the video of the history of the Tillamook Valley and how the dairy cooperative of family-owned farms started over 100 years ago and continues to this day.  I think it wouldn't be a bad job to retire to that little town, and spend a day or two a week working in the Tillamook factory.  Everyone was so nice and friendly and the scenery reminded me of Germany with the green cow pastures and rolling hills of coniferous forests.

Cannon Beach was beautiful in between surges of small storms that were coming off the Pacific.  On the way there, I passed through the idyllic fishing town of Garibaldi and put it on my list of places to visit in the near future.

I spent the night again in Pasco, Washington at my friends' house, but not until again passing through the incredible Columbia River Gorge.  I took a bit of a scenic route, taking old US Hwy 30 from Moser to the Dalles, and was rewarded with magnificent views of rolling vineyard hillsides and a rainbow out over the Columbia.
The view of Cape Kiwanda from Cape Lookout
Despite the rain, it was a wonderful, relaxing time on the Oregon Coast.  I didn't run a ton of miles, but was able to heal up some nagging injuries and mental fatigue from the long summer of running that I had this year.  The dogs and I were absolutely exhausted when we got home to Salt Lake City.  It's a long drive to the Oregon Coast, but absolutely worth the effort.

Cape Kiwanda Beach

Cape Kiwanda

Packing up ~

Crab Avenue ~ Netarts, Oregon

Cannon Beach

Secret Beach at Cape Meares