Friday, October 30, 2009

Umpqua River Road and Oregon Dunes

I needed to go to Eugene earlier this week so I took advantage of that and tried a new highway and dawdled hither and yon to see things I had either never seen, or hadn't seen for a long time.  Driving up the coast to Florence I was treated to some big waves rolling in, all along the road.  Just beautiful, and yet I found them a bit difficult to capture with the camera.  These are probably about 20 feet high. My camera (which is now in the hands of Nikon once more) put nasty little black zones on the upper corners and I had a tough time cropping the photos to eliminate those corners while maintaining the photo. So -- that's my excuse.  This photo was taken somewhere between Gold Beach and Port Orford, and that's about all I can tell you about that.

I didn't take many photos on the trip north -- lots of showers plus I had appointments and errands to run in town.  I returned by way of Highway 38, which runs from just south of Roseburg to Reedsport.  Although I'd heard that this was a fast alternate route, I never really realized that it was also an extremely beautiful drive.  I found very few places to stop and photograph the river, but it was present for most of the trip. As you can see, the fall colors are just past their prime -- many leaves have fallen -- but still evident.  The above photo was taken just east of the small hamlet of Scottsburg, which lies about 16 miles inland.

Looks more like a lake than a river, doesn't it?  Just west of  Scottsburg I found a lovely little park with a boat dock that extended out into the water.  As so often happens, the photo of one portion of the scene cannot adequately capture the sense of being surrounded by this in all directions.

About three miles east of Reedsport I passed the Dean Creek elk viewing area, which was rather impressive.  This photo was taken from a lovely interpretive center, but this meadow stretches for I'd guess close to two miles.  The elk herd, which numbers about 100, were lazily grazing and resting further east in an area with no place to stop and photograph them.

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area extends roughly from Coos Bay north to Florence and is quite spectacular with many opportunities along the way to stop and enjoy the big dunes. I've passed them often, but hadn't been on them for years. I intended to change that this trip.  My first stop was the Umpqua Lighthouse, which sits above the water and dunes in a really lovely state park.  That big Fresnel lens was hard at work but naturally, it doesn't show here.  I drove on down the road, exploring, to see what I could see and try to get closer to the water.  I followed my nose to a parking lot on the coast near the two large stone jetties that go out into the ocean.  Sullivan's book says that the area between them is a commercial oyster and mussel farm.

This shows how far inland the lighthouse sits from the beach.

This is the south jetty.  The other is angled on the right horizon and the seafood farm lies between.  I didn't go much further than this, since I had been a little dizzy all day and this required better balance than I could summon. Those rocks make for hard, sharp landings and are perfect breeding grounds for broken ankles.

The place I most wanted to stop was here, where the largest dunes are and where the dreaded dune buggies are banned.  From here, one can walk the dunes out to the beach for a 4.8 mile round trip hike over loose, shifting sand.  I've never done that, and didn't even come close today.  I first found this place thirteen years ago during my first summer in Oregon.  A friend from Georgia was visiting and we were staying in the adjacent Eel Creek Campground.  Both of us were more than a little surprised at what we found when we went exploring, and I wish I could find the photos I took that late afternoon when the shadows delineated the swooping lines of the dunes and the sky was bright blue.  This used to be known as the Umpqua Dunes, but as you can see the name has been changed to the John Dellenback Dunes and that is what the highway sign will read if you search this out.

The access trail from the parking lot is about a half mile and crosses through these ancient dunes that are overgrown with woods filled with Douglas fir, huckleberry and huge rhododendrons, among others.

When you emerge from the woods and access trail you are confronted with this huge dune.  Not a lovely photo, but the man walking on top does give some indication of size.  Once you reach the top of this dune it's possible to walk the crest of several similar and connected dunes for some distance.  I didn't go terribly far because I was a little under the weather.  The light wasn't great for photography anyway, but it's a place well worth visiting.  When I was there with my friend, we played in the sand like a couple of kids, scrambling up and down the dunes.

From the top of the big dunes the vista is sweeping in all directions.  I'd love to walk all the way to the beach and camp overnight but....somehow that seems unlikely to happen.  Alas.  Beautiful to see regardless.

I'd been looking forward to fish & chips at The Crazy Norwegian in Port Orford -- my mouth had been watering for days -- but when I arrived right at dinner time I found them closed. Seems that this time of year they are only open Thursday through Sunday.  What a disappointment!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Prairie Creek Redwoods


A neighbor and I made an impromptu visit to the redwoods today.  When we left home, I had in mind the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park about 30 minutes from home.  But as I drove, I picked up a wild hair to keep going south, so we did, all the way to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park south of Klamath, one of my favorite places.  Once in the park, we picked a random trail and walked back into the trees for quite awhile, joyous with the deep foresty scents and the sunrays slashing through the giant trees.

Not the greatest photo -- the darkness in the forest is a bit much for hand-held (and admittedly, sloppy operator) photography.  I include it here merely for proportion.  My friend is an average-sized person, and she is dwarfed by this tree, which is only one of many of similar size we encountered.

As usual, I got carried away with the sunrays, but they are so exquisite!

We were fortunate to have bright sunshine and only a little fog here and there once we arrived at the park.

It's been so long since I've been mushrooming that I passed these by at first, without even a hint of recognition.  A sure sign of fall in this part of the world is these golden beauties!  These two are Yellowfoot, I think, and we found some Chanterelles as well. Now I'm itching to go on a mushrooming expedition.

A few of them made it home with me and will be part of my dinner.

The trail we followed was spectacular, winding its way through groves of big trees and all that lovely fern undergrowth.

 After we returned to the car from the first trail, we continued on down the road to see "Big Tree".  Indeed, it's a very large redwood!  This photo of the base doesn't look much larger than other redwoods, but it's when you look up -- way up -- and see the massiveness of the trunk that you realize just how big it really is. If you look closely, you will see that the thick trunk stops abruptly, an indication that "Big Tree" was once much taller, but lost it's top to a lightning strike or some such many years ago.  Normally, they do taper towards the top.

Although much of the coast we drove past was foggy, our area has a high surf warning today and some unusually large waves which, when they could be seen, were truly magnificent.  That alone was a treat.  The redwoods were just the icing.  Chocolate icing, to be sure, but the surf was spectacular.  I wish I'd had a chance to photograph it, but alas....maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thomas Creek Bridge - South

Finally, I found a place to see and photograph this bridge.  You must wonder why I went to so much effort, because it's not a particularly scenic bridge, as bridges on this coast go.  But, it is the highest in the state, at 345 feet and that gives it a bit of panache it would not have otherwise.  To get this photo I had to leave the main trail and slither and crawl down a steep side trail to find a basically unobstructed view.  But, now my obsession with this particular matter is satisfied. 

My past trips to this area have focused on the trail that leads from the north side of the bridge -- beautiful, and perhaps my favorite hike in this area -- but I was curious about this one.  My first impression wasn't so good -- the trail that leaves the parking area is steep and rough and not terribly inviting.  Fortunately, this is only an access trail that soon encounters the more pleasant and well-groomed Oregon Coast Trail.  When you reach this first intersection, you'll want to go to your right.  Then, just follow the trail through a nice forest and enjoy the ferns and trees and the sound of the surf filling your senses. 

This tree fascinated me -- was it split by lightning at some point?

As always, I find sunrays breaking through the mist to be exceptionally beautiful.  I was surprised to find a little lingering mist, as Brookings has been clear and sunny since daybreak. We're having one of those lovely, sunny, warmish fall days and I could not resist taking advantage, since days such as this have been punctuated with equal days of rain and grey skies.

To reach this viewpoint, take the left fork at the first opportunity and follow your feet.  Today, a sign attached to a tree pointed the way, but if this area is anything like the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, signs have a way of disappearing!  I wanted to find my way to the bluff in the distance, but when I arrived (the highway sign is for Indian Sands) and tried to photograph the view back up this way, my camera had a hissy fit so I left that for another day.  Fabulous view from over there, even the parking lot, so if you're in this area it's worth stopping to see.