Monday, November 22, 2010

Oregon

       This is probably going to be a mistake, but I’m going to try to cover my entire travels through Oregon in one post.  I have left my readership entertainment deprived over the last few weeks, but I’m going to try to make it up.  I think I’ve also left some readers confused as to exactly which coast I’m on.  One day it’s pictures from the east coast and the next it’s a video from a beach on the Pacific Ocean.  WTF is Ryan Fuller???
       Ryan Fuller is in Gold Beach, Oregon.  My journey in this state started in Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River.  The nickname for the intersection of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean is a good lead in to the general vibe one gets when walking along the Pacific coast, especially when winter is approaching.  It’s called the Graveyard of the Pacific.  I’m sure I’m not the only visitor to this coast that came with the mindset that a beach is a peaceful place - somewhere to take long walks and contemplate the finer things in life.  The beaches here aren’t of that variety.  Many carefree souls have no doubt found themselves trapped in a cove in high tide with monster waves crashing in on them, hundred pound logs being tossed around like sticks, anything and everything being smashed into the rocky walls of the shore.  Oh and here’s something else you won’t find in any travel brochure: a tsunami can strike the coast at any time.  Fun fun.

       At a museum in Astoria, I read about some of the hundreds of shipwrecks that have occurred near the Columbia River Bar.  Sometimes it’s human error, sometimes it’s mechanical failure and sometimes it’s the weather just takes over.  On one occasion, a ship just drove straight into the coast.  Apparently, the captain had been drinking and let an unqualified person take over the wheel.  The craziest part is that the unqualified person that was forced into taking over had their license suspended for longer than the captain!  That’s like a dad getting smashed on a family vacation and telling his learner’s permit son take the wheel at night during a severe thunderstorm and then punishing the kid more when he drives into a ditch.  On another occasion a Russian boat was sinking and the captain refused to be rescued at first for fear of what the consequences would be when he got home.  I’m sure he was given a pat on the back and a, “Oh I’m sure it wasn’t your fault.  Better luck next time!” but for some reason he was never heard from again.
       Also near Astoria is Fort Stevens State Park.  The military site originated when the US government realized in the mid 1800’s that one ship could basically take control of the entire western part of the country.  Granted, it was a very remote area at the time and very far from the major US cities, but I’m glad the military decided losing half the country was worth preventing.  This site also has the honor of being the first place in the mainland US to receive fire from a foreign country since the war or 1812.  A Japanese submarine during WWII was the attacker.  Probably to the dismay of all the soldiers there who spent months and months of doing nothing but drills, the commander of a nearby US fort that had a clear shot did not allow a shot to be fired back for fear of giving away their position.

    A day or so later I was at a Siuslaw National Forest coastal campground.  It took me probably twenty minutes to set up my tent because the wind was blowing so hard.  It was the most wind I have experienced while setting up my tent on this trip and I had a good deal of trees around me.  Finally, after I set it up and watched anxiously at how much the wind was shaking it, the campground host approached me and told me that a bear cub had been spotted walking around the campground that morning.  At the beginning of my trip I probably would have packed up and gotten the hell out of there, but after all the wildlife I’ve slept around, I was okay with it.  A golden retriever puppy ran into my campsite and bounced around like he was having the most fun in the world.  The owner came over and talked to me some while the dog pooped near my picnic table and then shook water all over me after playing around in a large puddle.  The owner and the dog were nice, so I wasn’t bothered by it.  While I was cooking dinner, it started hailing.  One might think that the accumulation of these natural disturbances would cause me to rethink camping, but I must have built up some kind of mental tolerance over the last few months because I never really considered not sleeping in my tent.
    The next morning arrived.  No bear cub.  I took a walk on the beach and saw a seal swimming twenty yards out.  I tried to get a good picture of it, but did not succeed.  I did take some pretty nice pictures of dead seagulls if anyone is interested.  Dead things are easy to shoot, what can I say.  I did manage to get a decent shot of some seals the next day, however.  Later, on the dead bird shooting day, I pulled over at one of the hundreds of places to do so along the Oregon coast and saw a lighthouse farther down the coast.  I walked over to get a better angle on it and heard, “AR AR AR AR.”  I looked over the edge of the cliff along the road and saw a few sea lions swimming in the ocean.  Just down the road from this I saw probably the biggest tourist trap there is on the Oregon coast: “World’s Largest Sea Lion Cave”.  I debated in my mind whether this was something I wanted to do.  I had seen wild sea lions from a distance; I had seen them up close at an aquarium.  Here was a chance to see them up close in the wild…kind of.  As I was walking in I saw a couple walk out with popcorn in hand and knew this probably wasn’t going to work out.  The gift shop there was larger than the gift shop of the aquarium and they were charging only $3 less there than the aquarium for an entrance fee.  Three dollars and a few hundred species less than the aquarium.  I turned around and walked out.
    A couple nights ago I camped on the edge of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  I didn’t even realize what kind of dunes I was camping near until I walked amongst them the next day.  There’s a strip of them along the coast, about two miles in from the ocean and they are quite tall.  Some of them are around 500 feet tall and pretty challenging to climb.  I heard some buzzing sounds in the distance and walked to the edge of an area where ATV and four wheeler tracks were everywhere.  There were about a dozen of them riding around these hills of sand and a few made it as close to the bottom of the hill I was standing.  It started to rain and all of us headed out.
    Today, after a nice walk along the beach where another dead animal was photographed (seal), I decided to give my healing blisters a run for there money and hike a three mile trail up a mountain.  The hike was nice although it was a little foggy when I got to the top.  I think my ability to hike uphill is diminishing (not that it was ever anything great), so I’m glad I got a chance to work on my conditioning to prepare for a long hike in the near future.  On my way down near the bottom, I ran into a family of about ten and saw something that was definitely a hiking first for me: the dad in the rear was smoking a cigar.
    Oregon has taught me a few things about traveling.  The first is to learning to enjoy one hour of sun/non-raining period at a time.  I can’t remember ever feeling so guilty for being inside when the sun was shining than in this state.  November isn’t Oregon’s best weather month (like most places in the Northwest, you often hear, “From May to October it’s absolutely beautiful here.  The rest of the year?  Oh, well we usually fill it with alcohol, sex and anti-depressants.”  Kidding!)  but the ocean is still here, the lighthouses are still here, the beaches and the rocks are still here, seals and seal lions are all around and to be honest, you really don’t want to swim in the ocean any time of the year so why not visit when the coast isn’t jam packed with people staring at the ocean while they’re driving or letting their fifteen year old drive because they started getting drunk after they spent over $100 at the world’s largest sea lion cave.
    Well, I hope you enjoyed my Oregon tale.  I didn’t capture everything, but I think I covered most of the highlights.  Next up is Redwood National Park in California.

2 comments:

texascandler said...

Its difficult to capture the power of the waves onthe west coast in pictures, Your descriptions were good. I can relate to your camping stories. Serious campers find great joy in camping in conditions that others run from. Driving hail, freezing temps, wild animals,,,,,, bring it on!

Taryn said...

I'm still confused how you got from MA to OR.... did you not do any camping/hiking along the way?

Post a Comment