Wednesday, May 20, 2009

China Beach

With the day dawning bright and shiny and fog-free, I once more attempted to find the trail to China Beach, in Samuel Boardman State Park. I'd studied the map and also notes from Sullivan's Oregon Coast Hikes book, but all were fairly vague and I knew that no matter what, this would be a steep trail. I really didn't know what I was getting into, but I really didn't care. I love poking around trails and seeing where they lead. This was my reward.

I found it interesting that Sullivan characterized this trail as a short hike from the highway. That's a fair description, as far as it goes. At .7 mile each way, it's not a long hike, but with about 345 feet of elevation change over that distance, it is very steep in places with some nasty switchbacks and lots of slippery gravel of the kind that makes me nervous on descents. Not a trail for the inexperienced or out-of-condition hiker, in my opinion. And there's the return trip UP those 345 feet! Beautiful, however, and yes, the reward for my efforts was great.

This shot from near the top of the last ridge, near the highway, shows just how far away that ocean is!

Like all the trails in this area, the scenery is magnificent -- often dark and feeling rather like the forest primeval, other times sun-filtered and equally magical.

Hard to describe the feeling of emerging from the forest to be met with this!

The trail follows this wash up to and across the ridge in the distance, then on to one more ridge before reaching the highway.

This is what it's all about -- impossibly blue water, gentle surf washing ashore, cliffs and rocks and nesting seabirds -- and not another human in sight. Works for me! All in all, with all my wandering on the beach and stopping for photos, the hike took 1 hour and 45 minutes and was not particularly tiring. In fact, I felt great afterwards!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Azalea Park

Today I went in search of Azalea Park, right here in Brookings. With the Azalea Festival coming up this weekend, I wanted to see if they were in bloom -- and I'm sorry to say I seem to have missed the peak of bloom but still, I found the park to be utterly impressive. While it doesn't rival Hendricks Park in Eugene, for example, it is really quite large, quite beautiful and filled with the Azaleas that are native to this stretch of coast complemented by a fair share of Rhodies, which actually were more impressive overall right at this moment. The salmon beauty above, however, is an Azalea. As a southern girl, I really appreciate these.

This is only one of many nooks and open areas through out the park, which covers about 30 acres and offers picnic tables, a large kids playground plus an ampitheater that is home to the American Music Festival held each summer.

Some of the many Rhodies that are in riotous bloom right now.

Not everything here is Azalea or Rhodie -- lots of bulbs and other small flowering flora plus some big evergreens.

I love these huge, richly-colored Rhodies! Because they're bigger and come in a wider variety of colors, they almost outshadow the smaller, paler and finer Azaleas.

The Azaleas still have their own charm....

I'm looking forward to the Music Festival and other happenings here. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Harris Beach State Park

I finally, FINALLY, got my feet -- yes, my bare feet -- upon a beach this morning. And as so often happens, after my fruitless driving and hiking in search of a beach, this one is actually within walking distance from home, within the Brookings city limits. Since the morning dawned bright and sunny and fog-free, I satisfied my early-riser instincts and left home around 7:30am for the short walk north on the highway. It can't be more than a mile, door to door, with perhaps only half that actually along the highway. There are paved bike and pedestrian paths for much of the way nearer the park.

This is not a place where one can walk right onto the beach. The parking lot sits on a bluff and you just about have to at least get out of your car to take in the entirety of the view. A paved path travels in switchbacks down the bluff to the beach, but it's fairly steep and takes a good effort to walk back uphill, so if this degree of activity doesn't appeal to you, I'd advise finding another beach. It worked just fine for me.

It's no secret to anyone who's been reading this for awhile that I love the early morning light on a beach. There's a sparkle, a magic, that appeals to me. This was a great beach for walking barefoot -- lots of clean sand, easily avoidable rocks, and while the water temp certainly wouldn't fool anyone into thinking they were in Mexico, an occasional wash of surf against ankles felt good. On the other hand, this area is a marine sanctuary and at the right tide shoes would make tide-pooling more feasible.

Another reason for barefoot beachwalking is the many streams that cross the beach as they funnel out of the hills. Almost always, these are too deep and too wide for crossing without getting wet feet. Mostly, I do it because it just plain feels good.

I could have walked further along this beach in either direction -- it's expansive and varied -- but once I was at least temporarily sated, I retraced my path home. In total, about an hour and 45 minutes of walking that couldn't have been much nicer -- that warm sunshine felt fabulous. And just because this one is so available doesn't stop the quest for others that are less available. It's the search and exploration I enjoy, as much as the fact of actually finding a beach.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wild Rivers Coast Wine, Art & Music Festival

I took a little break from exploring the great outdoors today and drove to Gold Beach for this annual festival. What a beautiful day! Warm, sunny, crystal clear and breathtakingly splendid as I drove the 25 miles north along the coast.

As you can see, I arrived way too early, but it gave me a chance to scope it all out, take a few photos before the crowds arrived. Eventually I set about getting into the swing of things, tasting a little wine, having some lunch and listening to a bit of jazz. By the time I left, the place was hopping with people.

Lunch -- a luscious fish taco that left me wanting another....

Jazz. This was the "Word of Mouth" Live Jazz Quartet and I must say, they put out some pretty cool tunes.

And wine..... red, red wine, for me.

OK, I admit it -- clearly my focus was on the wine, not the arts and crafts, and while I couldn't try a wine from each of the 16 wineries, I tried several and can highly recommend these three wines from these two wineries. I apologize for the out-of-focus label (honestly, not the result of too many tastes of the red inside), but both these Cliff Creek wines were superb, as was the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Spangler, above. The Cliff Creek cab was sold out but he had a bottle for tasting and I'll be looking forward to the release of their 2006 vintage sometime in the future. Their Claret is a delightful, perfectly balanced Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. the Spangler cab was so yummy I took it outside to linger over for awhile. I'd buy any of these three wines, any day. Since I had to drive back to Brookings, I didn't taste any of the other wines from either winery but I expect they would be equally as well-made.

Southern Oregon wines are not as well-known as the Willamette Valley wines, but because of the rather extreme climate differences, they are able to grow warm-weather grapes that simply don't flourish in the Willamette Valley. I expect that within a few years these wines will be much better-known.

Back to the great outdoors next time!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sun and Fog

I set out this morning in search of a good view of the Thomas Creek Bridge (the highest in Oregon) as well as a portion of the Oregon Coast Trail that supposedly leads down the cliff to China Beach, which appears to be long and broad and lovely. Yes, the fog was just burning off but I had faith that by the time I arrived, I'd have great views. Not so! I had a lovely walk through woods and meadows and reached the bridge (which, in all honesty, I could have reached in 5 minutes by walking down the highway from my car, but that would take away all the fun and I was frankly disappointed to end up right beside the highway. I'd hoped to find myself nearer the bottom, with a more spectacular view). Unfortunately this is all I could see of it. It's not a very long bridge, but at 345 feet above the water, it's impressive. I'm still in search of a way to get to the base of it, but there is time for that.

The trail branched off often and disappeared often and there are no signs, so while I came to some high bluffs that must surely have spectacular views, including one point where the trail stopped almost without warning at the edge of a steep bluff, I only glimpsed water and surf once. Even though the sun broke through in rays here and there, none of it penetrated the coast or the water below, for the most part. More wild iris than I think I've ever seen in one place inhabited the meadows here in great numbers.

All in all, I must have walked for about an hour and never found a trail that might lead to the beach. But -- just as I neared the parking lot upon my return to my car I saw that a trail branched off to the right and that one has good potential for reaching China Beach. I didn't follow it because by now, Mother Nature had made it clear that she was in no hurry to lift the fog from the coastal views and beaches I sought. It was a lovely walk, nevertheless. Here are a few more photos.

This is my favorite of the bunch, and it's right off the highway.

This one, I believe, was just beyond the bridge.

This one is way out on the edge of a high bluff and looks more as if it belongs in the deep south than the southern Oregon Coast!

One thing I learned from this morning's adventure is that one should never assume Mother Nature is going to cooperate fully in the time frame you expect. In the future, I'll not only check the port webcam, but I'll actually pay attention to what it shows me. What a concept! Lovely, lovely, walk -- even without seeing the water.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Natural Bridges Cove Hike

I headed north out of town this morning with no pre-conceived agenda other than finding a place to put my feet upon a beach. That's not as easy to come by on this stretch of rocky coastline as it might sound and after passing viewpoint after viewpoint I turned into a parking lot to turn around, and got a little sidetracked by this sign. I didn't know where it would take me, but I wanted to find out.

And off to the left, this one. I'd stumbled onto a section of the Oregon Coast Trail and itched to follow where it led. I was a little stunned by the almost rain-forest-like lushness I found as I ventured off the highway.

This vista of Natural Bridges Cove awaits with a nice viewing platform not far from the parking lot, but the trail continues onward and so did I. As you can see, the day was a bit cloudy, but not unpleasant.

This trail was beautiful! I'm a hiker who hasn't been on a trail in probably two years and my feet and soul ate this right up. Meandering up and down gentle rises, around rocks and past small coves and inlets that can absolutely only be seen from the trail -- fabulous! I don't know much about the Oregon Coast Trail, but I intend to learn more and follow as much as I can. I found good information and maps on the official Oregon Coast Trail state site, which also offers maps and info on the Samuel Boardman Park.

I must have walked about a mile before I turned back towards my car, sometimes deep inside the lush forest, sometimes in open meadows alongside the highway but always wrapped in nature. As always, I was a bit enthralled with the wildflowers....

And the lush flora....

And of course, the expansive views of the coast near where I reversed my path back to my car. I would have walked more, but the trail seemed to disappear near the highway or perhaps I just didn't want to look for it. I'd had a good hike and didn't mind returning home now.

North end of China Beach -- how to reach?

I never did get my feet upon a beach today, but there's always tomorrow.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

An Early Morning's Stroll

I arrived in Brookings Thursday about noon. After a crazed day and a half of unpacking, then a bit of rest to recoup energy, I decided to go for a stroll in the early hours of this Saturday morning to discover my new 'hood. This lovely vista is about a half block from home, although there is no way to get down that rocky cliff to the beach below. But that's OK. I just needed a nature fix, an ocean fix, and I got that. As you may know by now, I also love watching the morning sun break through the mist and light the day. I was just in time.

I found a lovely place to sit in privacy and watch that beautiful coast above -- and this is the view to the side from where I sat, when I finally pulled my eyes from the coast. Not bad!

And this one was right behind me.

Lots of wildflowers in the meadow -- many of these sweet iris.

And these.....

All it was a lovely morning's stroll. Next time, I'll try it at sunset.