Sunday, January 25, 2015

Oregon Coastal Journey

Drawn in various locations, but mostly completed on the Hobbit Trail.
From the trail we spotted this soft patch of moss that beckoned us to sleep comfortably there for the next two nights.
 After an entire day of travelling up Highway 101, we were welcomed into a mossy forest that serves as a gateway to Hobbit Beach. The main route itself seemed to have a network of smaller trails branching off in all directions from it, sometimes ducking under low branches. I imagined little hobbits mischievously running from humans and hiding and laughing at us from behind the trees. It was but a short crossing through the forest to this gorgeous white sand beach on the other side...

A spring dripping off of the cliffs and flowing into the ocean. This would serve as our water source the next few days.

Upon the walls of the cliffs that rise along the beach, people have been carving into the stone for years, despite signs telling them not to do so. Aside from the typical initials, declarations of love to someone, and words of profanity engraved in the wall, there were a few images scattered about.

We walked about in awe, awaiting sunset and feeling very fortunate to be here.

The following day, as we would learn from the locals, was probably one of the last warmest days of the year. After waking up at our campsite in the forest, we returned to the beach and sunned and napped there all day. Finally not on the move from hiking nor in the bustle of cities and towns, I had much time to read and sketch.

A "waterfall" of sand.

The next morning we returned to the beach one more time to get a last glimpse of it. We cooked and ate breakfast quickly amid the huge gusts of wind, feeling rather chilly and wanting to soon return to the shelter of the forest. Meanwhile, a family arrived in T-shirts and shorts. We were bundled up in all of our clothes and still shivering, yet the weather didn't seem to faze them. We concluded that perhaps they were Siberians. Upon conversation with them though, we learned that they were from Eugene and drove to the ocean to get some relief from the sweltering heat of inland Oregon.

We got back on the Hobbit Trail, which eventually turned into the Oregon Coast Trail and led us into Washburne State Park. We followed this trail up to the campground.

 At the campground we took showers, found free shampoo, ate lunch, and made phone calls. While Freebird was on the phone, I continued to work on my dragonfly sketch at a picnic table. A man named Lole walked over asked if he could join me, and soon we were exchanging travel stories. He was biking up the coast (not the easiest route, riding against the headwinds!) from Mexico to Canada. In Canada he would meet his father, who would drive him back to California. Lole had just ridden through a heavy patch of rainfall in Florence and was now staying overnight at the campground, attempting to dry all of his belongings there.

Freebird and I had planned on hitching to Cape Perpetua immediately upon leaving the campground and walked over to the highway. But before a minute even passed, we felt strongly that it would be best to spend the night in the park and leave the next morning. We set up camp and went for a short hike of China Creek Loop trail before going to bed.

As soon as we made it to the road the next morning, we saw a truck driving rather quickly in our direction. We doubted that the driver would stop for us, but why not try? As soon as we stuck out our thumbs, to our surprise, they slammed on the breaks and let us in. "Must be your lucky day," a couple named Lolita and Glenn told us as we drove off for Cape Perpetua. "We never stop for hitchers."

Glenn and Lolita dropped us off at Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, which was just unlocking its doors that Sunday morning. We walked in and looked at various displays on park history, geological activity, flora and fauna, and such. As we were looking at a sign with species of whales in the area, trying to pinpoint what kinds we saw in Port Orford with Bill, a ranger named Rob approached us with a grin and recommended a short, historical video clip about a whale carcass being blown up into pieces. We were quickly ushered into their theater and watching it in no time.

The clip was a news story from 1970 about a beached, rotting whale carcass in Florence that the locals just didn't know how to move. They were contemplating what would be the best method, since it was so large and heavy. Their chosen solution was to blow it up with 20 cases of dynamite, confident that it would be successful and that the mess would easily be cleaned up by the sea gulls. The day of the explosion, the locals watched with curiosity from a distance, but they weren't far enough. At the sound of the blast, blubber showered upon them and their cars. No one was injured, but the mayor's brand-new car, just driven off of the lot that very day, was crushed by a giant piece of blubber. Later, contrary to the predictions, the humans would have to do the chore of cleaning up the aftermath. The sea gulls were so frightened by the whole incident that they didn't return until two weeks later!

Next a volunteer named Bonnie tried to play a documentary for us about Cape Perpetua, but ended up accidentally repeating this news clip again. We laughed just as hysterically the second time around.

The view of Cape Perpetua below from the interior of the visitor center.

After treating ourselves to some lunch on the deck that wraps around the visitor center, we began hiking the trails that would lead us alongside the coast. First we headed for Spouting Horn.

Spouting horn, caused by water shooting up through a worm-hole.

Cook's Chasm

Playing with some of the creatures in the tide pools.

We saw a woman wearing a frog hat and dressed completely in green walking among the tide pools with her dogs. Soon we met this interesting woman named Coreena, who had quite a sense of humor, and her husband Harry. They saw how small our packs were, especially Freebird's, and they wanted to see some of his gear. So he pulled out a few things to hand to them, so that they could feel each item's weight. As Coreena handled Freebird's red sleeping bag, she commented, "This looks like the burrito I ate for breakfast today." Next she held a black bag in which his tent was contained. "And this looks like what I pooped out this morning."

Good Fortune Cove.

Steps leading down to Cape Cove Beach.

Cape Perpetua Visitor Center overlooking Cape Cove Beach.

We hiked past all these sights and arrived at Devil's Churn, where waves have carved a deep chasm. They continue to travel up this chasm, crashing into some deep crevasses and caves at the end. This creates a loud, groaning noise, which is how I imagine that it has gotten the name, "Devil's Churn."

Freebird listening to the churning and groaning noise below.

Just uphill from Devil's Churn is a small cafe called KY's, which provides all-natural food, homemade gourmet desserts, and coffees and teas. After ordering and eating a truly remarkable and affordable lunch, more so compared to most if not all state or national park food that we've had, we stayed and talked with the locals, as well as the owner, KY. She has run this business for 18 years.

This quote from Lao Tzu was displayed on KY's menu, probably reminding travelers to slow down and stay and order something to eat. We followed Lao Tzu's direction and continued talking with the locals until the cafe closed, with no intention on rushing out of Cape Perpetua. We knew that we would have to hitch out of the park and find a town in which to stay, but there was no hurry.

Once KY closed down everything, we knew that it was time to go. We found a good pull-out along the highway with enough visibility for the drivers to spot us, plus a beautiful view of the ocean. Cars passed for several minutes, until a mother and her two teenage daughters from Washington stopped for us. They were the first of two hitches that drove us northward, up the coast, until we found a motel in which we would spend the night. Then we would change direction and head inland, PCT-bound once again. It was time to return to the mountains.

The Oregon coast was absolutely incredible, from all of the beautiful people that we met to the many scenic places that we witnessed. I'm thankful for every moment of it. In a few more days, after going through some towns, we'll be back in the wilderness that is the Pacific Crest Trail.

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