Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

5-09-2014 Leaving Brookings and Highway 199

Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon  Sunny and in the 70’s today

We were so lucky to have three gorgeous sunshiny days at the Oregon Coast.  Thursday and Friday were dark and rainy, but we thought our entire time at the beach would be dark and rainy, so we were prepared. Loeb Azalea Gard_197

After our morning hike on Wednesday, I checked the weather radar and with the wispy clouds in the west and the low cloud bank over the ocean and knew that anything else we wanted to do that required sunshine should be done soon.Loeb Azalea Gard_195

Azalea Park is one of the treasures of Brookings.  Located on the east end of town, the park has a rich history dating back to the 1800’s.  I read that some of the old azaleas in the park were there when Lewis and Clark wintered here in 1805-1806.  Loeb Azalea Gard_227

Unlike the gorgeous hybrids of rhododendrons and azaleas we have today, these old beauties are tall and rangy, with soft muted colors.  Still, it is great that the city of Brookings has preserved the park and the old azaleas.Loeb Azalea Gard_216

We have visited the gardens in the past, at different times during the spring, but this one I think was the best.  As I said previously, it is a crap shoot, and there is no way to plan a specific date for the best bloom.  Loeb Azalea Gard_212

We again walked the same paths that we walked last December in the dark of winter, enjoying the Christmas light show.  The paths meander around the grounds lined with every possible color and variety of rhododendron you can imagine. 

Another favorite of mine are the pastel spring growth of the Pieris japonica.  Loeb Azalea Gard_241

Huge gunnera plants I first saw at Butchart Gardens in Victoria are reminiscent of a fairy tale world where people are tiny and can hide under giant leaf umbrellas. With blue skies and brilliant sunshine, we had no need to hide under any kind of umbrella.

Loeb Azalea Gard_192 Thursday night the rains started, and we didn’t mind a bit.  Lowering the awning on one side let the water pour off without pooling in the canvas, and we picked up the rugs and kept the chairs safe from rain.  Even a walk or two around the park was a welcome break from reading, watching a couple of great movies, and doing that ‘relaxing’ thing that we had promised ourselves for this trip.Loeb Azalea Gard_218

I have often mentioned traveling home via Highway 199, but usually I never manage to get any photos of the route. 

It is a magnificent drive along the wild Smith River, past the redwoods at Jedediah Smith State Park, winding into the mountains adjacent to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.  Mothers Day 2014_009

There are steep drop offs along the way, some narrow roads with signs warning of even more narrow sections and sharp curves.

Mothers Day 2014_006 Still, we saw full size semi’s negotiating the curves easily, with even more large fifth wheels and Class A motorhomes along the route.  It can be done, and isn’t difficult in a big rig.  It just requires slowing down and enjoying the view.

Mothers Day 2014_002 There are a very few parking areas  along the way, but plenty of turnouts to let the speedy ones pass, and a few places with passing lanes.

Mothers Day 2014_012 Hiouchi RV Park is just a bit east of the redwoods, and is a nice private park.  We stayed there once in 2011, and enjoyed sunshine away from the coastal fog with only a short drive to either Crescent City or Brookings. After leaving the river, at the Oregon-California state line, there is a large tunnel, with plenty of clearance for most any kind of big rig.

Mothers Day 2014_018 When traveling to and from Brookings and Grants Pass, the route crosses over the Oregon-California border twice.  Sometimes the ag inspection stations are open, most of the time simply asking us if we have fruit, plants, or firewood on board.  We do say ‘no’, in spite of the occasional apple or head of lettuce hiding in the RV fridge.  So far, the inspectors are usually so taken with Jeremy on the dash that they smile and nod and never give us a bit of trouble.

Mothers Day 2014_016 It takes a short two hours to travel from Brookings to Grants Pass, and we arrived back at the cottage early in the afternoon to mixed sun and rain.  It was that blustery kind of spring rain that comes and goes, however, and Mo managed to mow the property on Friday afternoon.  I did a bit of weeding, visited with the neighbors, and made plans to enjoy the next two days of Mother’s Day weekend with three of my four kids.  Lucky Me!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Two Trails

Current Location: Brookings, Oregon 49 degrees and 100 percent chance of rain

At  the moment, it is raining and gray and we are comfortably relaxing in the MoHo.  Just a warning for all the blog purists out there who say they don’t want too many photos.  There are 20 photos in this post, more than I usually add, and yet it IS a photo tour of our trail walks yesterday.  If you don’t like photos, then skip it.  I made them big specifically for Nicki, who always requests the big ones so that she doesn’t have to click to get a bigger image.  You can’t please all the people all the time, but you can definitely please some of the people some of the time!

The predicted rain finally reached Harris Beach early this morning.  We knew it was coming, in fact it was expected to show up on our first day here.  Instead, we enjoyed three days of gorgeous sunshine.  Waking this morning to the sound of rain was soothing, and we actually slept in to almost 7:30.  Of course, it helps if someone gets up at 4:30 or so to let the dog out, give the cat a treat, and feed the dog.  Then they are ready to settle in and let us sleep.  Two Trails_156Yesterday, knowing that our sunny respite was soon coming to an end, we were happy for one more day to walk the beach and hike a couple of the trails.  I know that someday, when I am hopefully much, much older, I won’t be able to hike these nice little trails with their gorgeous views, and decided I wanted to do a “Sherry” and take you on a hike, and give myself a place to go when I want to remember just how lovely these walks can be on a sunny day at the ocean.

A short trail we sometimes forget to do is the Harris Butte Trail. The trailhead is just north of the entry kiosk at the park. The Harris Beach Trail also begins at this location and makes a loop around the tree covered butte, but Mo remembered that there is a lot of poison oak along that trail.  With the dog along, I get a bit paranoid about poison oak, so we decided to skip that route, lovely as it is.Two Trails_091

The short hike to the top has a few switchbacks, is a bit rocky in places, and a bit steep.  The hike takes maybe ten minutes at the most, but the view is wonderful.  The hillside is covered with thick vegetation, with only a few limited views of the beach below through the trees.  developed RAW copies

The viewpoint is a great photo site, especially in the early part of the day when the sun is in the east.  Sunsets viewed from this spot must be spectacular, but for no reason I can imagine, we haven’t hiked up here to view the sunsets.Two Trails_101

Below the cliff where we stood, was a great view of the Harris Beach State Park Day Use Area, the one we walked to Tuesday afternoon.Two Trails_105

This is the best spot to view Goat Island, and we noticed there was a kayak parked on the steep shoreline, with a few people (dots of color) moving across the slope.  It seemed as though they were monitoring vegetation or bird sites or something, with the faint impression of some kind of marking posts on the north facing grassy slope.Two Trails_106

With a bit of searching, I found out that Goat Island is the largest island along the Oregon coast. It was the first unit comprising the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1936. The island contains deep soils and a variety of native vegetation condusive to burrow-nesting seabird species.

Goat Island hosts 24% of the statewide nesting Leach's Storm-Petrels and more than 109,000 nesting seabirds comprising 11 species. The island serves as a night roost for thousands of Aleutian Canada geese in the spring and a wintering area for a small group (40) of Dusky Canada geese.

In addition, it seems that the biggest problems for the nesting birds are boats approaching too closely, low flying aircraft, and “human trespass”.  I would imagine that the people we saw walking across the slope were supposed to be there, and that kayaking to the tiny beach and exploring the island on foot would be illegal.

Two Trails_129The second trail we walked was our favorite South Beach Trail.  This trail can be accessed directly from the big parking lot just west of Highway 101 near the entrance of the state park. Two Trails_125

In addition, there is a sweet little trailhead that begins at the southern end of the campground. This walk leads through deep spruce forest, and is lined with thick vegetation typical of the moist climate in the Oregon coastal forests.South Beach trail plants

Emerging at the aforementioned parking lot, the trail continues down the steep cliff to the beach below.

Two Trails_130With asphalt pavement on the steep trail, it is a joy to walk, either up or down, and there is a nice bench for a break if you need it.  On this spring day, we were surprised that the park staff has yet to do much clearing along the trail and the grasses and flowers were wild and overflowing and lovely along the path.Two Trails_132

At the bottom of the trail, there are a few logs to walk over, arranged conveniently into a rough step like configuration, and the beach stretches to the north and to the south.  Two Trails_142

We usually walk south, because with the tide out we can walk a greater distance before being stopped by rocky cliffs.  The beach shifts and changes with the winds and seasons, and we noticed that the ephemeral brackish water lake was gone, completely erased by tides and winter storms. The large pool was formed by a small stream, emerging from the cliffs, and the water was fresh enough that Abby could swim and even drink.  Two Trails_144

No more.  Now the stream crosses the sand, circumnavigating the large stacks and going directly to the ocean.Two Trails_158

My Keen Targhee boots did their job and I crossed the stream without getting the least bit wet.  It was just a bit cold for barefoot hiking and wading, so I was glad for dry feet this time.

As I was taking photos, I realized that we rarely do this walk in the early part of the day.  Most of my photos of the ocean from this part of the beach are against late afternoon sun.  It was a treat to have the sun behind me for a completely different kind of light.Two Trails_163

With low tide just an hour or so ahead of us, we saw only one red sea star, too far out to get much of a photo.  There have been times when we have seen more than we can count, along with green anemones.  It is never the same.

This time the most dramatic find was brilliant green moss on the rocks, soft as velvet, and many different kinds of algae covering the sea stacks, still dripping with seawater.Two Trails_179

Just around the corner from the rocky jumble that stopped our walk, is another small beach that lies directly below Mo’s former condo.  Sometimes we can negotiate the jumble, but this time it looked daunting so we didn’t bother.

Two Trails_167We spent a bit of time wondering at how it might feel to ascent this tram, and remembered climbing steps like these to get to the beach from the condo.  Two Trails_175

I am not sure exactly where the state park boundary ends on South Beach, but we assume that once there are homes along the cliff above us we are outside the state park and Abby can run and play off leash.Two Trails_150

Mo threw the ball for her until Abby finally refused to drop it.  I think that was her way of saying she was finally worn out.  For 12 years old she does great, and still loves to retrieve the ball, but she is getting a bit slower.  Makes me a bit sad.  Of course, I am slowing down as well, and that makes me a bit sad too.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Nothing Peaceful about the Pacific

Current location: Harris Beach State Park, Oregon  Clear and sunny predicted high 61F

shore birds at Harris BeachAs anyone knows who has lived near the Oregon coast, the Pacific Ocean in this part of the world is anything but peaceful. It is wild, raging, cold, and big.  Waves are monumental, even historical in some places.  The wind often blows relentlessly, the skies are often stormy, although we have been blessed on this trip with brilliant sunshine. 

I never thought much about this face of the ocean until I visited other places where the seas are gentle and the surf laps at white sands like a kitten at milk.  Last night when we hiked down to the beach, my first thought as I stepped onto the sand was, “Oh my gosh!  I forgot how dark the sand is here!”  Before our Florida visit, I never gave it much thought, it was simply ‘sand’.  Although as a sand collector, my jars of sands from around the world run the gamut from white to brown to gray to yellow to brilliant red, even black.  There is a black sand beach just south of here on the California Lost Coast, so I didn’t have to bring it from Hawaii.

evening walk down to Harris BeachThe winds in Brookings were howling yesterday afternoon, with a steady 20 mph blow.  The ocean as far as I could see was whipped up into a frothy frenzy, and the waves crashing over the rocks had long veils of wind-whipped mist.  It was beautiful, and energizing, wondrous to behold.  Not peaceful or necessarily relaxing.

There weren’t many people down on the beach due to the wind, but a few hardy souls braved the wild weather.  We saw a young woman get out of her car and climb the big rock overlooking the largest sea stack island on the Oregon Coast, Bird Island, also sometimes called Goat Island.  She stood in a few yoga poses, a rather amazing feat in that wind, and then I heard her voice against the wind in prayer.

woman chanting to the ocean at Harris BeachDown on the beach, a lone woman with gray hair to her hips was raising her arms toward the wild waves and chanting and singing loudly toward the sea, oblivious to us and our dog as we walked behind her in the wind. Crowds are definitely not a problem when visiting the beaches in Oregon.  It is always a bit of a shock to me to see people lined up arm to arm with umbrellas and towels on those beautiful white Florida sands vying for space.  Not here. 

Another difference:  both in Texas and Florida, along the Gulf Coast, we found beaches, long level gorgeous beaches where you could walk as far as you could manage.  There was nothing to make you actually turn around and walk back.  Here, walk one way and get stopped by cliffs, another way the jumble of rocks is too complex to navigate, or the tide has come in and there is another small sea stack blocking your progress.  I saw no tide pools in Florida, or in Texas.  I saw so many beautiful shells, but no agates or crazy weathered sea rocks.

north on Harris BeachThere are three major routes down to the beach from the campground.  The first route is a road, paved, but rather steep, and that route ends at a large parking lot.  There is an accessible paved trail down to the sand, restrooms, and picnic tables.  From this area, the beach can be accessed either along the paved trail, or to the north down a short rocky walk over huge driftwood logs to the north end of the beach.

wind whipped Mo at Harris Beach at the accessible walkwayThe second major route is called the South Beach Trail, another steep, but narrow path that has been partially paved to withstand the severe beach erosion that can destroy it annually.  We like the South Beach Trail, and Abby likes it as well because it leads outside the state park boundary and she can be off leash.  It is a bit more distant from our campsite, so last night we chose the road to get down to the beach.  Walking back up the same way is a boring long steep haul up. 

Instead of returning that way, we found the meandering path the winds over rocks and driftwood, and then up another steep and very narrow Rock Beach Trail that ascends an overlook with benches to enjoy the view. 

found the middle trail up to the overlookWe have hiked down this trail before, but going up was much easier.  None of these trails are particularly long, and ‘real’ hikers might get a bit bored with them.  We saw plenty of real hikers in the park, loaded down with backpacks, hiking the coast.  There are many beautiful, long, and strenuous trails in the vicinity, especially at the nearby Samual Boardman State Park, but we simply haven’t wanted to find them.  We come to Harris Beach to relax!  No matter how many times we visit, the beach is never the same.

up the Rock Beach trail at Harris BeachAnother fabulous feature of the beaches here is that they are dog friendly.  Some areas require leashes, but there are many off leash areas nearby where Abby can run, chase balls into the surf and hike the trails with us on her own.  After spending so much time trying to find dog friendly places along the Gulf Coast, it is wonderful to be back in the happy dog land of Oregon

For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, in spite of the high winds above us and around us, our little campsite on the northeast side of the campground was protected.  Our awning barely fluttered, and then only now and then.  After returning from the beach we couldn’t believe how still the air was in our space.  Mo built a nice hot campfire without a bit of trouble from the wind.  Above us, we could see the giant spruces whirling around, but the campfire smoke didn’t even go in circles as usual, it rose in a nice column straight up most of the evening.  Crazy, but welcome.Rock Beach Trail at Harris Beach State Park

Rock Beach Trail at Harris Beach State Park

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It is Rhodie time on the Oregon Coast!

Current Location: Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon Sunny and 60 degrees F

Harris Beach_042If you try to plan a trip to the Oregon Coast to catch the rhodies in bloom, the season will almost always surprise you.  Either it will be too late or too early, with lots of buds and no flowers, or lots of dried up blooms.  With no plans for seeing the famous flowers, or even a thought of the magnificent rhododendrons on our minds, we decided it was time to get “home” again to our favorite Oregon Coast beach.

The four hour drive from home in Rocky Point, through Grants Pass, and west on the winding Highway 199 along the Smith River is magnificent any time of year.  This time, however, the closer we got to the coast, the more the steep hillsides were cloaked in gorgeous wildflowers.  We have traveled this route many times, but I don’t remember seeing quite the profusion of flowers that greeted us yesterday morning on our trip west.

Oregon boxwood shrubs were tipped in right red foliage that looked just like flowers, and the rocky cliffs were covered with blue penstemon and carpets of low yellow native iris. The closer we got to the Jedediah Smith redwoods, the more flowers we found.  Mo was driving, the camera was buried in its case and Jeremy was hugging my shoulder as he likes to do when the road is rough and curvy.  No photos of the brilliant clouds of pink flowers on wild rhododendrons that were sometimes more than 20 feet tall.

Harris Beach_018Neither of us could believe that it has been more than five months since we settled in to Harris Beach, with our last short trip back in early December before we left for the winter for warmer? southern climes.  The beaches were gorgeous in Texas and Florida, but as anyone who has seen it knows, the Oregon Coast is unmatched for wild rugged beauty, at least in the US.  For us, even the famous coast at Big Sur along Highway 1 in California isn’t as seductive, and definitely not as accessible as our beloved Oregon Coast.

We left Rocky Point in the rain, and were greeted with a mixture of hard rain, sleet, hail and snow as we drove over the pass toward Medford.  It was cloudy most of the way west, and with rain predicted for our few days at the beach, we were fully prepared to hole up in the MoHo and listen to the rain, play cards and do mostly nothing.  We purposely didn’t bring the bikes or the kayaks with plans for some real R and R, and a respite from house and yard work that has dominated the last month.

Harris Beach_041Surprise!  Not only are the rhodies blooming, but there hasn’t yet been a sign of a cloud in the sky.  The ocean is blue and gorgeous, the temperatures are in the low sixties during the day and high 40’s at night. 

With the view sites along the front row completely full, we settled into spot A30 and paid for four nights.  Didn’t seem too bad, although it was a fairly open site and the playground was right behind us.  We were also on a main walking route to the restrooms and the laundry and both last night and this morning were well entertained by the various kinds of people walking past.

Harris Beach_045For supper, the Chetco Seafood Company was our local fish and chips choice, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I talked to the owner and snagged some fresh cod and California halibut filets which he vacuum sealed and flash froze for us to take home to Rocky Point.  Yum!

It was good to sleep in the MoHo again, after a month of lots of space and a big bedroom and a bath more than 10 feet away, it was fun to be in the cozy space with just two steps to the bath.  Funny. As we settled in for the evening, a very tall class A parked next to us, with a clear open view of our huge yard and the firepit.  Hmmmm.

Harris Beach_031This morning we went for a park walk, oohing and ahhing over the rhododendrons in the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, and found a nice space open along Row A, but toward the quiet back corner of the park.  It looked inviting enough that we talked to the camp host about moving, and in a matter of moments we were slide in, jacks up, awning in and moved to the new spot.  We can still see the ocean, just a tiny bit, but things here are much quieter and more private.

Interesting, as we were moving, a front row ocean view site came open and we declined.  In spite of the view that we have enjoyed many times, the front row now has a lot more exposure since the park has cleared brush around the sites, and there is traffic from both the park entrance road and the main road through the campground.

Harris Beach_050Mo spent a few days last week getting our new VuCube working at home, and even though we had cable here at the site, she thought it might be fun to practice setting it up.  Fun wasn’t the word, with all sorts of strange glitches that we still haven’t quite managed to figure out keeping the thing from working correctly. There were too many variables, and that became our statement for the day.  In the end, it almost worked, but then we realized that the signal was getting interference and that was probably the main issue.  Trees.  For now, it is packed away again and we will fiddle with it out in the desert somewhere to limit some of the variables.  It did keep us at home for the day, which was the original goal. 

Harris Beach_017After a great chicken stir fry supper, we are relaxing a bit before heading for the beach for a sunset stroll.  Unlike Florida beaches, getting to the beach here requires a bit of hiking down and then back up the steep paths that lead down to water level.  Last night we walked to the overlook and watched the beach walkers below.  Plenty of time to hike to the beach ahead in the next few days.  A trip to Loeb Azalea Gardens, and who knows what else will keep us occupied. 

Of course, I do hope that we manage more sitting, reading, and napping than we usually manage on a trip to the coast.  Maybe if it rains in the next few days it will encourage us to actually lie around and do nothing except watch the sky.Harris Beach_051