We woke up to grey skies and the sound of rain in North Bend, OR. Finally, the weather had changed. Albeit, a bit too much. 😛 After breakfast we drove a couple of miles on Highway 101 north before making a left to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park (yes, funny name) and driving south into an area of coastal dunes. It was raining hard, and it was an unpleasant mess to walk on the sand, so we gave up that exercise pretty soon. (Also, with the car so fully packed, there was not enough room to spread wet clothes to get them to dry faster, ahem.)
We continued up north for a while until we were near the town of Florence, OR, where we drove towards another area with coastal dunes. There were a couple of smaller parking lots along a road that was somewhat sheltered from the wind by the dunes, and Doug wanted to get out and have a look over the first row of dunes – I decided to wait in the car, it was still raining hard and quite windy. Let him get all wet and sandblasted alone if he likes that. 🙂
After a couple of minutes, Doug returned, with sand all over his clothes, the camera, everything, and said “you’re not going to like this!” – I only needed to look at him to agree of course, but he went on and told me that the dune area was awesome, mostly untouched because of the bad weather, and beyond it, miles and miles of empty beach and ocean, and that he totally, definitely, absolutely wanted to photograph them. Crud. 🙂
It was about lunchtime anyway, so we headed into the town of Florence for lunch and found nearby “Beachcomber Bar”. Clam chowder is just the right food when you’re wet, cold, and the weather is miserable. We took our time since it was still raining. I changed into my fast-drying hiking trousers, and then we drove back to the “South Jetty” area on aptly named Sand Dunes Road.
Dressed up for rain and with our cameras in plastic bags, we left the car and made our way up over the primal dune (walking uphill on sand is more exhausting when the top inch or so of the sand is wet!). Thankfully, the wind was not blowing that hard anymore, and Doug had not lied (of course not) – the area really was beautiful, and as we wandered around making photos, the rain became lighter and briefly stopped. Despite the roaring elements (ocean, wind and rain), there was an intensive feeling of peace and calm in the area, perhaps because of the vast emptiness of miles and miles of beach, ocean waves, and dunes. Absolutely beautiful.
Satisfied, we continued up north, on Highway 101 again. Along the road, we briefly stopped at Cape Perpetua, which not only is home to the famous “Thor’s Well”, but also looks like a nice spot for some hikes in the wet and cool coastal forest. It was raining too hard for our taste though – we were still pretty wet from our afternoon explorations in the dunes and on the beach, and soon continued to drive. At Boiler Bay, we stopped to watch the waves crash against the shore, and freakishly rise, break and clash almost out of nowhere. Beautiful to watch, not that compelling to photograph. 😉 Here’s a smartphone video (watch the waves out on the ocean, it’s really like the water is boiling):
It was time to find a nice spot for sunset – so back to the road it was then. It was getting cold – in areas where Highway 101 swung inlands, sleet covered the road! The area of “Three Capes Scenic Route” looked promising – it’s another scenic alternative to Highway 101 (which is a little more inland here). The Three Capes Scenic Route connects Pacific City, Netarts and Oceanside, and the capes in between. Beautiful seastacks line the coast, and we stopped at Bob Straub State Park to have a first look.
After clambering over the dune to get to the beach, we saw a group of happy turkey vultures feasting on a dead seal that had been washed ashore. Other than that, the whole area was more of less empty again. Even though I said it before, I find that so worth mentioning because the coastline is really nothing like Southern California, were houses are tightly crammed as close to the ocean as possible, leaving little of the natural coastline in a state where one could experience this feeling of peace and solitude (even when other people are present – it’s not the people and their temporary presence, it’s the permanent structures of houses and highly artificial parks, streets and railroads that I find so disturbing and, for lack of a better word, invasive).
We had adapted our schedule to the late sunset, and went to have dinner at Pacific City’s “Dory Pizza” before continuing along the Three Capes Route. Cape Kiwanda didn’t look too interesting, photographically (at least not with our limited time – which was a constant problem, of course: with some more exploration, a lot of places might have “opened up” to us, but then this road trip would probably have taken weeks, and not just days;-), so on it was to the next bay/cape combination.
We passed through a spot where a huge amount of rhododendron and their pink blossoms were in stark contrast to a messy forest with a lot of fallen trees. It looked interesting so we briefly stopped, and then a bear crossed the road about 100 meters/yards away from us. I’ve been to Big Bear and to Mammoth Lakes, but my first bear I saw in Oregon, not California. 🙂
Netarts Bay didn’t look to compelling either, but we saw the “Three Arch Rocks” in the distance and knew that was where we should be for sunset – there was still time so we raced towards Oceanside and went down to the beach at Symons State Park, with a nice viewing angle to Three Arch Rocks and the sunset – unfortunately, the arches in the rocks where not visible from that spot, I walked further south on the beach, hoping that my vantage point would change just enough to see a little bit of an opening, but to no avail.
All in all, we probably spent an hour there at the beach, it was getting late and we yet had to find a place to stay for the night. Tillamook was nearby, but we couldn’t find lodging there, and instead had to rush to the next town, Garibaldi, where the friendly innkeeper was about to call it a day when we called, and promised to wait for us despite being sick. Our attempts to get there as fast as possible triggered the attention of a friendly law enforcement officer though, which in return delayed our arrival a bit. Ahem! Let’s not talk about it more than necessary. 🙂