Friday, July 24, 2009

Loeb State Park

I joined a local group in an annual cleanup of the Chetco River, here in Brookings, a couple of days ago and in the process made a lovely discovery: when it's foggy in town, it's generally clear, sunny and warm in the park, which is only about 7 miles inland, at a higher elevation. One of the local ladies smiled and said, "this is why you come up here"! To test her theory, with yet another foggy day underway, I returned today to do some hiking. The fog stayed with me for the first couple of miles up the road, then fizzled out into bright sunshine. Hurray!

I opted to follow the Chetco Riverview Trail, which leaves from the picnic area in Loeb State Park (above) and connects with the Redwood Trail that is in the adjoining Siskiyou National Forest. According to Bill Sullivan's book on hiking the Oregon Coast, the combined trails total 2.6 miles, with 400 feet of elevation gain. I can only tell you that my pedometer recorded about 8500 footsteps, and at times I felt the elevation gain was much greater as much of it comes in a short span near the top. I'm in pretty good shape, I think, but toward the top I was seriously feeling the hillclimb.

The Riverview Trail, as its name suggests, parallels the Chetco River for most of its length and travels through lush undergrowths of ferns and oxalis, and a varied forest of Oregon Myrtle, Western Hemlock and Red Alder, among others. This was my lunch spot, and very pleasant it was. A Great Blue Heron swooped in and landed on the opposite gravel bar -- a great reward!

According to my Oregon Geographic Names book, the river is named for a small Indian tribe that lived along its lower reaches. Loeb Park is named for a man who donated the 350-odd acres in order to preserve the grove of Oregon Myrtle trees where the picnic area sits.

Since most of the Redwood Trail is either up or down hill, there are not large groves of the big trees and the trees are also not as big as those in other areas, but they are still lovely. Some are larger than these, but none of those photos was usable. This too is a mixed forest, with Tanoak and Douglas Fir, Bigleaf Maple, mixed in with Oregon Myrtle and Red Alder.

Much of the trail is within earshot of one or another of many creeks that feed the Chetco, often crossing them on wood bridges, thus the soothing trill of moving water follows most of your travels over this one-mile loop, and it's dotted with a number of small waterfalls such as this one.

Back at the picnic area in Loeb Park, I walked out on the rocky bar to soak up a little sunshine. Although not shown here, there were a number of autos parked along the river right on the rocks, and plenty of young families with splashing children enjoying the river. I expect that in the winter this scene is considerably different, with the rocks underwater and the river raging. At the moment, it's a lovely river to float down, splash in, or even swim in some the deeper holes, such as the one below.

I absolutely love the clean, clear clarity of this river, from the foreground shallows to the deep green pool beyond. I opted to sit right here on the rocks and read for awhile, soak up some much-needed sunshine before heading back into the fog.

Yep, as I drove down the mountain and neared Brookings -- it's still there!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Southern Oregon Kite Festival

This is the 17th annual version of this festival held at the Port of Brookings and judging from the license plates covering the western states and beyond, it must be a fairly big deal festival of its kind. I arrived right around opening time of 10am, and the crowds were already thick.

Never having been to a kite festival, I really didn't know what to expect. I've seen photos of large balloon-kites, and I'm sure those will be out before the weekend is over, but this morning was a competition of sorts, apparently, with people making kites dance to music. I had no idea kites could be controlled and tweaked such as this, and found it fascinating to watch. Harder to photograph! It's a surprisingly athletic endeavor as well, judging from the two or three that I watched. The young man above was flying what I think they referred to as a quad kite, which has 16 strings to control! As you can see from the photo, it's a two-handed job.

This is his kite -- hard to see in the fog and hard to photograph well using a telephoto, so it's a tad blurry. Too bad this isn't a video, as he literally makes it dance, obedient to his every whim.

When did kites get so fancy? This one was on display in a vendor's booth. I liked it's color and symmetry. I was tempted to buy myself a beginner's kite, but didn't. When one lives on a breezy beach, it could be a good toy to try and master. Addictive, too, undoubtedly.

I'm sure the weekend will bring much excitement and far more visual stimulation than any of this, but I was not of a mood to tarry.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Early Morning Walk in the Fog

There's something magical about a beach early on a foggy morning. Maybe it's the mystery, maybe the peace. Hard to say. Our weather this summer has been a roller-coaster ride of warm, sunny days followed by cool, foggy days. While I would prefer more of the warm, sunny kind, there is something to be said for the balance. Houses never get hot and we appreciate the sunshine all the more when it finally breaks through. This morning I walked from home around 7am, headed to Harris Beach.

Fascinating how the variety of flowers blooming along the path has changed so completely since my last photo essay of this walk. These are a variety of fuschia. They glow even in the fog.

This early, even the morning glories were still showing themselves, twined amongst all the other greenery.

Too bad there's not something here to show scale. These were tiny flowers massed low on the ground.

These wild roses have been blooming for awhile and look as if they may be on their last legs, but they are still lovely and there are many of them.

Wild sweet peas are showing in all their spreading, glowing, rampant beauty right now, all along the highway and on cliffs. Everywhere!

I find it tough to capture the feel of a foggy beach completely, but somehow this photo works. These houses have never looked so good!

Lots of birds out on the water today, including some very large ones that I couldn't see well enough to identify. These two caught my eye on shore -- particularly that black one with the long red beak. My birdwatching friend tells me he is an American Oystercatcher. A first for me!

Back on the path headed home, the fog had lifted a bit, but still held a little magic. What a wonderful way to begin a day. Thanks for coming along.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Crissey Field State Park and Welcome Center

Just south of Brookings, less than a quarter-mile from the California State Line, is a newish state park and Oregon Welcome Center. The center, above, seems to fit well with its surroundings. A trail to the beach can be found on the north side of the center from the parking lot, or from the center itself down graveled paths to the trail. Finding the trail from the beach is another story -- I was about ready to start scrambling over driftwood.

When I first arrived the morning fog still shrouded the shoreline, but that quickly lifted to warm sunshine. This is a very long beach -- stretches well south into California and connects at low tide across the Winchuck River Mouth to another long stretch going north. And quiet -- very few people.

This Sea Star seemed to have just washed up in the surf -- either dead or dying, no doubt. Fascinating critters, to me.

I walked far enough south that I was probably in California -- no way to be certain. There is a huge outcropping of mussels here, but since I wasn't sure what state I was in, and since my Oregon shellfish license wouldn't help much in California, I opted not to take any home for dinner. I'd say these rocks have already been harvested of edible size mussels anyway, for now. I turned around at this point -- was a good walk back to the car.

Looking north towards Brookings from the mussel beds -- beaches as far as the eye can see. Very peaceful and beautiful.

All in all, this is a very nice place to visit. As I was driving out, I saw trailhead signs for a Winchuck River Trail and for a wetlands trail. I was tempted, but had had enough for one day. Next time -- and soon.