Tide Pooling

I had trouble sleeping last night. I had some first-world worries, but they were easily dealt with today. I had a bad dream too, but now I can’t even remember what it was about. There was a bright light outside the tent that turned out to be the gibbous moon shinning through the fog and then there were the fog horns, two of them, who purposely never got their siren songs in sync. When the ravens began their predawn cackling, I gave up trying to sleep, got up as quietly as I could and showered.

Anne got up early too and we partially broke camp, leaving just the wet tent to dry. we headed into town, with hopes of snagging a hot breakfast, but we were too early and the best that we could do was a pair of coffees. We drove out to Cape Arago and dined at the Cliff Bar Cafe.

Low tide was at eight and a ranger appeared to lead a group of us tide pooling. I found the purple sea urchins, you just had to know where to look for them. We saw many other sea beasties and were encouraged to gently touch them too. This included sea anemones, which have paralyzing stingers in their tentacles, but these are unable to penetrate the skin of your hands. Never try to kiss an anemone, because your lip’s skin is thin enough to be stung. Two hours came and went too fast and we had to be moving on.

We struck the tent and then ate a much more substantial breakfast at the Cape Cafe. We drove four hours inland. Dodged a huge construction jam and arrived at our rustic Forest Service campground. Dinner was berry pie and ice cream.

Sunset Bay to Cape Arago

Sunset Bay, Cape Arago and in between Shore Acres are three Oregon State Parks that abut each other and line the Pacific coast. Sunset Bay is the most recreational of the three. It has our campground, a golf course and a swimming beach. We headed to this beach first and at low tide, it was wide, flat and at that hour, we pretty much had it to ourselves. We wanted to go tide-pooling though, so we headed the few miles down the road to Cape Arago. The parks aren’t very big.

There we were distracted by sea lions. We heard them barking in the fog, but at first could not see them. The first viewpoint was so fog shrouded that there was no view at all, which begs the question, what’s the point? The sea lions were closer at the second viewpoint and we both heard them and saw them. They were big suckers. Way bigger than the California sea lions that we had seen at Moss Landing. These were Stellar sea lions that weigh up to half-a-ton.

We eventually did make it down to the tide pools and saw lots of starfish, some sea anemone, but no crabs or sea urchins. Which I find strange. At Point Lobos, near Monterey, the tide pool ecology is almost the opposite. There are Sea Otters around Monterey and they eat purple urchins. In Oregon there are no otters any more and I’ve heard that the purple urchins are out of control. It’s a mystery. I’ll ask a ranger. We revisited the vistas, the fog had cleared and saw tons (literally) of sea lions, about sixty in all.

Our next stop was Shore Acres. This place was originally a rich person’s estate, but through a combination of bad luck, (fire, death and the Depression) they ended up having to donate the property to the state. All that remains of this once stately manor are its fantastic coastline views and an equally fine garden. The garden is mainly box and roses, but there is also an exquisite Japanese garden. We saw newts there. The garden is surrounded by a 10′ fence to keep the deer out and the garden’s exotics in.

We later saw deer at nearby Simpson Beach. They were down on the sand and we were 100′ directly above them. They kept looking up worriedly at us. We also saw an Allen’s Hummingbird. It especially loved the garden’s Torch flowers. We did one more run by the sea lion vistas, with middling success, before bagging it and heading into Coos Bay as promised. We loaded up the larder, before heading back to camp. We stopped at the swimming beach again and saw an island that wasn’t there before, then dinner and a fire.

Sunset Bay

This morning, the sun was peeking through the redwoods, of Mill Creek Campground, when we struck camp. Driving over the hill to Crescent City and the coast, we found the fog, which followed us north into Oregon. When we broke free of the fog and the sun came out again, we stopped at Whalehead Point vista. From the top, the beach below looked inviting, complete with sea stacks, like its namesake, Whalehead. We followed some other tourists down the incredibly steep 200′ hillside and somehow made it down to the beach. It was well worth the descent and in the end, we found a longer, if safer way back to the car. We took Oregon’s coastal trail back up to the 101 and then doubled back along the highway.

As we continued north, it turned windy and cold. We stopped for lunch at a nice chowder house, where our waiter was amazed to learn that we were from Saint Louis. He originally hailed from south city. We drove about a quarter of the way up the Oregon coast and topped 4,000 miles for this road trip. The marine layer found us again tonight, so there will not be any sunset at Sunset Bay tonight.

When Anne was growing up in Ann Arbor, she saw a Greyhound bus pulling out of the old bus station on Huron. It was headed west and on its marquee read Coos Bay, its destination, which is only ten miles from here. When she saw that bus, she thought that that would be a great place to go someday. Tomorrow will be that day and she didn’t even have to take the bus.

Redwoods NP

Redwoods National Park

I slept in, while Anne got up and was knitting when I finally rolled out of the tent. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then drove north, just a few miles, into Crescent City. Stopped first at the city’s visitor’s center and then the park service’s across the street. We headed next to the coast, Point St. George. A sign there said to report any archeological looting crime by calling 911. Anne didn’t appreciate my humor when I made a crack regarding my old lady and her ancient bones. We walked down to the beach, which was covered in stones and fog. It being Saturday-Saturday, we found a farmer’s market, which was dominated more with craft booths than produce. Anne got me a belt for Father’s Day. I know this, because I had to try it on for size. My old belt kept working itself loose, which led to excessive sagging. TMI? Finally, we stopped at Safeway and then headed out of town and back up into the hills, the parks and the redwoods.

Redwoods is a joint Federal and California park system. There are four or more state parks along with the Federal one, but as near as I can tell the parks service runs everything. We’re staying in the park, at Mill Creek. This area was logged in the 1920s, but the stumps from the old growth redwoods still remain. Their diameter is about the same as the length of the Prius. In many cases, these old trees have cloned themselves, with a circle of second growth trees surrounding the old stump. In the afternoon, we hiked a couple of short trails, including one that was ranger led. Heading down to the sea again, we stopped at a park beach, but it was cold and windy there, so we didn’t stay long and headed back uphill to camp. Dinner was salmon on avocado toast, a delicious change of pace from canned soup smothered in fresh veggies. Apparently, the streams around here, including the one running by our campsite are major salmon spawning areas. The Smith River is supposedly the only major river in the country that is not dammed. Tonight’s ranger talk was on wildfire. Tomorrow, on to Oregon.