no matter where you go, there you are

Saturday, October 1, 2011

i could never stay long enough on the shore - helen keller

And continuing right along with our adventures in Oregon (except for Astoria because I already covered that) I move onto our 2 days driving along the beautiful, mixed-weather coastline. We spent the good part of our first day in Astoria and Ecola State Park and after completing our Goonies Tour, we hopped in the car and drove on down to Cape Lookout State Park which is right on the beach. We arrived at sunset, and it was so cloudy and rainy that darkness was settling fast. We set up the tent, walked quickly down to the beach and back, but it was cold and wet so we thought bed would be better.

In the morning we discovered that the clouds hadn't cleared but the rain had at least stopped. We strolled again down to the beach and though there wasn't much of a view we did appreciate feeling the ocean air again.

After packing up the gear we headed back into town, had a lovely breakfast at a cute cafe and found Oil Can Henry's, a drive-thru oil change chain along the west coast that was recommended to us by someone we'd encountered. I'd never been through a drive through oil change before and after Henry's I don't know how any other place will maintain its high standard. We didn't have to get out of the car, the two gentlemen workers explained everything very clearly, they gave us USA Today to read while they did the oil change, they were very nice and entertaining and best of all, they wore cute little uniforms.

With the car all refreshed we hopped onto US 101 and our first sightseeing stop was the Devil's Punch Bowl in Newport. The clouds had cleared a bit and it was a nice little stop to stretch our legs and look down at a fascinating geological formation.

Another great stop we made was at Devil's churn, a narrow inlet in Lincoln City. It can be very dangerous and waves can spurt high in the air. It was quite windy and I really liked the trees that were permanently shaped in that direction with the side facing the ocean stripped of any life.

Back in the car and on the road again the drive was very nice and didn't always hug the coastline but there were quite a few times when we drove by just ocean. The section of 101 in Florence near the Sea Lion Caves is one example. We luckily found a parking space right next to the Cave center and not down the road. The building is a very small containing only a small gift shop and ticket window booth. After purchasing your ticket you head down and have two options: the elevator down to the cave or the exterior overlook of outside the cave. We went down first. The elevator drops you down quite a ways and you exit right into a wet, cold cave. The view of the sea lions is small and gets crowded quickly so you have to wait your turn to see the animals.

Unlike an aquarium, the sea lions are not in captivity. They are all wild and the cave is their natural habitat so this attraction provides a safe lookout point for both the animals and the spectators. The sea lions weren't doing much on their rock. Lying and sleeping for the most part except for one guy who was bobbing his head a bit. It was really cool but since they're fairly far away, binoculars would have been a nice addition. Inside the cave there is also a wooden stairwell you can go up to see a lighthouse across the way.

Back to the elevator and up the hill we then took the trail down a slope to a lookout of the exterior of the cave. You can't see the physical entrance but there's a long portion of rock where tons and tons of sea lions are lounging about and sunbathing. I liked these guys better as they were a little more active. Multiple lions were slithering in and out of the water, playing with each other and entertaining themselves. It was nice to see animals I would never see at home interact in their natural habitat and not in one created for them at an aquarium.

Our last stop before finding a hotel in Brookings (the last town before the California border) was the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. South of Florence this area is a section of the coastline which has sand dunes for miles and miles and miles. We pulled up to no section in particular, just the first one we came across after entering. It was fairly empty and no one was there to swim and sunbathe. The temperatures were chilly and the sun had once again disappeared behind a layer of clouds. We took out our bottle of Atlantic Ocean water and Molly ceremoniously dumped it into the Pacific. I then filled it back up to bring home to the Atlantic.

We then spent some time individually wandering the area. I loved the look of the untouched sand, or the sand only affected by wind. The ripples were wonderful, and to see so much area that no human had stepped on for quite some time was really beautiful.

Last but not least, after a wonderful stop and a beautiful overlook where the sun was prevailing in the sky, we arrived in Brookings, OR.

Although it was a very long day of traveling and exploring, we still had the energy to grab a quick dinner at DQ Grill and Chill and walk along the local beach at sunset. It was gorgeous! All the beaches throughout the day were calming and peaceful, a great way to decompress and relax.

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