Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crabbing at Dawn -- and a Walk to Chetco Point

This morning the tides were right for some early-morning crabbing and I was on the dock by 6am. Not surprisingly, the scenery was lovely in the dawn light. Pelicans and seagulls cruised in packs, searching for and occasionally diving for breakfast. I was more interested in this than in the crabbing, but of course, I tossed the trap out first, then played with the camera.

All those reflections are so lovely...

I caught two about this size, both female and thus illegal to keep even if it was the right size, which they were not. As I was trying to free the second one from the net, my bait splashed into the water and sank -- the crab took quite a bit longer to free. The bait holder on this net is small, and the fish head too large to allow it to close, so I knew I was taking a chance. With no more crabbing to be done, I hopped into the car and ended up by happenstance to be near the Chetco Point park area, so thought I might as well go for a walk.

The sun was just coming over the hills. This park is right in town, is in fact behind the sewage plant. I'd visited briefly on my first trip here, but today I walked all the way out to the point and down to a rocky beach where one lone surf fisherman was at work. I didn't disturb him -- decided I'd rather go up on the point.

This lovely dawn view was just to the left of the previous photo, on the other side of the narrow neck of land. The views from the point itself are expansive and lovely, but not very interesting photographically.

So - no crabs for dinner today, and not another good combination of time/tide for a couple of weeks, but that's OK. I thoroughly enjoyed being on the water that early, and also the unplanned walk on the point.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Port Orford

One of my neighbors called early this morning to see if I was up to a trip to Port Orford for the day, and of course I was. We had quite an adventure and I saw many things that were new to me. The day was clear and sunny, but very windy and a little cool -- lovely, nonetheless.

I'd driven through Port Orford often, and stopped often at its beautiful beach, but hadn't seen the rest of the town. Because there is no protected marina here, the sizable fishing fleet lives on land, with the boats hoisted in and out of the water on a daily basis by two very large cranes. Since this was Sunday, the boats were all at home. I've never seen anything quite like this.

There is a state park in town on the site of what was a Coast Guard lookout tower, way out on a high bluff. Trails cross the area and the views are superb in all directions. We spotted these lazy sea lions way below where we stood. After we'd walked around here for awhile, the tide was reaching its low for the day so we headed back to the rocky beach in town to see what sea life we could find. We found plenty!

This looks more like tropical waters to me, but it's not..

There were countless starfish of all sizes and colors clinging to rocks amidst the closed anemones, or basking on the sand. The big guy in the middle is a great big sea star -- kind of creepy, but beautiful in its own way. Note the mussels in the photo on the lower left -- Port Orford is known for its mussels, and since I have a shellfish license I was tempted to take some home for dinner.

If you've been reading this for any length of time, you know my fascination with patterns and reflections on wet sand. I thought this one was particularly pretty.

After we'd tired of the beach we still weren't ready to return home, so we drove further north to visit the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. This sits about 6 miles off the highway and I'd never driven out to it, so this was lovely. The road out was lined with cranberry bogs and wildflowers in fields -- foxglove, daisies, wild azalea, lupine, yellow daisies by the hundreds. The wind out on this bluff was strong -- it was hard to stand still enough to take a photo.

To take this one I had to lean against the car for support, still couldn't stay very still. You might not want to try enlarging this one, but it's a pretty view and gives some sense of the location. After this, windblown and chilled, we headed back to Port Orford for some suds and some of the best fish & chips I've ever had, at a funky, crowded place called the Crazy Norwegian. I think a nap is next on my agenda!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brookings Harbor

I made my second and still unproductive attempt at crabbing this morning, then somebody on another crabbing pier told me that I was trying at the worst possible time. So much to learn! But, it was a beautiful, calm, sunny morning and my neighbor and I had two happy hours sitting and watching the harbor action. As I watched the folks prepare that sailboat to go out, I found myself itching to go with them.

Lots of critters out and about -- mostly birds, including this and several other brown pelicans. Fun to watch them dive, although I didn't see that they were having any more success at finding breakfast than I was. We also saw some water mammals of some kind -- little round heads poking out of the water and watching us, but not so close that we could figure out what they were. Either a baby harbor seal or an otter, probably. Cute.

The crab dock is right below where I'm standing here, and the big hammock hanging on the sailboat always looks so inviting. Can you make it out? It shows as a thick white line hanging above the center of the boat, but in actuality it's big and comfy looking.

The crab dock is on a long, narrow jetty that separates the Chetco River from the harbor. This is the river and its mouth, taken from almost the end of the jetty. You can see how calm and still and beautiful the water was -- at a minus tide.

So -- no crabs, but lots of fun and now I know when to try again.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stout Grove via Hiouchi Trail

Today dawned one of those picture-perfect, chamber-of-commerce days that simply call for an excursion, so who am I to argue? I wasn't sure where I wanted to go -- but by the time I finished my morning weight-work I felt a call to the redwoods so off I went. I was curious about the Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, because it's so well-known, but didn't want to drive down there merely for 1/2 mile loop trail. I wanted some hiking.

A quick look at William Sullivan's Oregon Coast Hikes book (which includes Crescent City, CA and the redwoods), and I'd found a perfect trail. The Hiouchi Trail leaves from the Highway 199 bridge over the Smith River and follows the river for about 2 miles, then crosses Mill Creek before reaching the Stout Grove. Later in the year I believe there is a footbridge over the creek, as there is over the river at the same place, but today I had to ford the stream on foot. Thanks to Sullivan's book I had been fore-warned and wore my river sandals. The creek was only about 10 feet across and no more than mid-calf at it's deepest. The cool water felt great on my feet. The round trip took me about 3 hours, with lots of dawdling along the way. Beautiful!

Not far from the highway the trail passes through this old redwood stump, which was really cool. Kind of like a hobbit hole -- I found lots of those today.

Ever been inside a redwood? This was a first for me. Cool view up.

Another hobbit hole. I found the lighting on this spider web interesting.

Much of this trail travels through a mixed forest and it's very beautiful -- and beautifully maintained with lots of stair-work such as this, many of them much steeper!

Another hobbit hole - but I loved this knarly old stump for much more than that. It called to me for some reason.

Lots of wildflowers along the trail, including these tiny roses with a great big scent. Only a few were blooming, but the air was filled with their aroma.

Wild honeysuckle just about to open -- and right next to the roses. I can only imagine how wonderful this spot would smell when both are in full bloom.

And what would a hike in this are be without wild Rhododendron? Quite a few still blooming, although I think it's fairly late in their season.

The wild and wonderful Smith River is visible through the trees for most of the trail, but now and then a wide vista like this opens up. It's a lot tamer looking than when I was here a few months back, in the rainy season, but it's still impossibly green and clear and utterly beautiful. Look at all those tall trees!

I loved this brilliantly-lit tree in the midst of the dark forest.

I think this is the Stout Grove, but I wouldn't swear to it. One big bunch of redwoods looks very much like another, and it's very difficult to capture the scope of these forests, so I tend to focus more on scenes that catch my eye for one reason or another.

This big boy is definitely in the Stout Grove -- don't you just love those knarly roots and burl?

Again, not sure where these are -- but does it really matter? What matters is that there are 10,000 acres of first-growth redwoods in this park that have been saved forever. It matters a lot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Small Things -- a Photo Essay

The overcast we've lived with for the past couple of weeks broke today so I took the opportunity to go down the road to Harris Beach once more. While the rocks and surf are as beautiful as ever, I was more captivated by the wildflowers and other small vignettes that greeted my walk.

Look at all the life on this rock! Those sea snails and such are alive and thriving, waiting for the next tide to wash over them.

I wandered up into the dry sand and driftwood near the cliffs until the hot sand sent my bare feet back to cooler, surfaces. I was surprised to find wildflowers thriving in the sand here.

I wasn't the only one happy to see the sun today. Lots of kids and dogs out there, and this rather photogenic little bit of sea flora.

The path up to the parking lot was lined with blackberries and other wildflowers.

Something about this old wooden bench near the top of the path appeals to me.

Another surprise -- wild Azaleas blooming at the top of the path.

I hope you enjoyed this little walk on the beach with me. This is one of those days when I'm so grateful to live here. My soul is satisfied and happy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Interesting Visitor to our Port

She first appeared earlier this week, caught on the Port of Brookings Web Cam that I haunt, and was quite a surprise. Since then, she's popped in and out of the harbor at various times and piqued my curiosity quite a bit. Last night, I was able to read the name and info on her bow in this photo and I did a little on-line research and found a great article.

She is the US Army Corps of Engineer's hopper-dredge, the Yaquina. At 200' long, 58' wide with a draft of 17', she's much, much larger than anything that generally comes into this harbor, and this is about as far as she can go, I assume. From my observations, she tends to ease into this point, turn around, and head back out. The first day she was here for awhile, perhaps overnight, and then for awhile the next day.

Her configuration, with that deeply open hull, is really interesting. She's built to handle rough seas, but I have to wonder how that open hull handles in such weather. On the other hand, I'm not too familiar with anything that doesn't have sails.

Out she goes again. Hard to tell if she's working (dredging our channel) or just stopping by for some reason, although in a conversation with a crab fisherman on the dock this morning, he said she was working. But then, she leaves the channel and sits out off the coast for long periods of time. But again -- what do I know?

She was here once more, early this morning, then sailed away......

This is where she pulls in and turns around. I went down to the harbor to the Farmer's Market, stopped at the public fishing pier to take this photo. Foggy and wet this morning but all was not lost -- I learned the art of crabbing off our pier!

If you have the time and inclination, read the article. It's really quite interesting.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pistol River via Carpenterville Road

I've been curious about Carpenterville Road -- also known as the Old Oregon Coast Highway -- since I've been here, and since I needed to visit the recycling center on that road this morning, I decided to follow and see where it went. I knew it ended up at the highway once more further north, but where did it go in the meantime? It's a nice, two-lane winding road with decent grades at each end -- but in the middle, it follows a high ridge that drops away on both sides to spectacular views, when I could catch glimpses through the trees. To the west, of course, lay rolling hills and the distant ocean; to the east, a very large valley gave way to larger mountains in the distance.

Wild azalea, rhodies and foxglove blossomed abundantly along the highway and I never saw a settlement that might have been Carpenterville, although it shows on maps. According to Oregon Geographic Names, a wonderful tome of a book given to me recently by a friend, the name comes from a family that settled in the area in 1921 and ran a small sawmill, among other things. When the highway was built, the family opened a store and tourist cabins and in 1932, a post office was established and named for the family, but closed in 1944. I saw houses here and there, old and new, but don't know which might have once been the town. No photos, because the road was narrow and there were few places to stop -- and really, nothing to photograph other than trees and ferns and wildflowers -- which is not all bad.

Once I returned to the highway, about 17 miles north of Brookings, I drove on a short distance to Pistol River State Park and the four-mile-long sandy beach that connects it to Cape Sebastian to the north. I thought surely the name Pistol River must have a great story behind it. Apparently not. According to my book, a certain James Mace lost a pistol in the stream in 1853 and it's been called Pistol River since that time.

The morning clouds were just lifting, the tide coming in gently as I waded barefoot along (and sometimes in) the water's edge. This view is looking north, with Cape Sebastian in the distance. One of these days I need to explore the Cape, as there are apparently spectacular views from there.

Looking south, with lingering mists and foamy surf. This is the longest stretch of walkable beach in the south coast area, and certainly one of the most accessible. Pistol River State Park also features long stretches of sand dunes, which are fun to scramble up and down. Nothing like the Oregon Dunes further north, but fun nonetheless. This is a small one.... I really didn't go into the dunes this morning, as the surf called to me. Another time.

These huge beach rocks fascinate me -- such stories they could tell, if only they could speak! Look at all these colors....

They're also pretty darned spectacular to watch as the tide swirls in around them.