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!

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