Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring at the Pacific Coast

We took this Spring Break off day to do a sojourn to the coast. The forecast was for rain, so we did not expect much, but it is prime whale migration time and we needed an excuse to go west.

We decided to go towards Mt. Hebo and head around Tillamook. The route takes you through the lower pass of the Coast Range...actually runs along side a river. The road is close to the hillsides and there are lots of turns. As we wound through the lush green forest Aleene blurted out, "Elk...I wanna go back."

I did a u-ie and drove slowly this time to the spot she had seen them. There they were. Five of the big gray beasts grazing on the hillside, just barely visible from the slashings of the recently cut forest. Huge beasts, they are. Aleene has the uncanny knack of spotting wildlife as I drive along...deer usually, but sometimes fox, turkey, hawk, but this time it was elk in their native habitat in the mountains. We saw one other herd later in the morning, but I did not turn around this time.

During all this travel the sun was out. The morning sun shone on the snowy tops of some of the higher mountains. It was a beautiful sight.

We headed north and around Tillamook...through all the cow operations that surround the big dairy there. We headed south along the coast and through Netarts and Cape Mears. As we climbed the last hill it began to rain. Cape Mears lighthouse is a special place...about 200 yards down a trail and out to a point of land about 600 feet above the Pacific. It is a great place to spot whales...but not today. We ran to the restroom and got soaked and while others headed out the trail we got back in the car to see if the rain would let up. This is the place of the octapus tree (a Sitka spruce with many trunks) which, it turns out, is the largest Sitka in the state. Cape Mears is also the place to see Paragrin falcon at work when the weather is suitable. But not today. It was too wet.

We headed south to Cape Lookout, but still it was raining and the trail at this spot is very long and elevated. It is not something we chose to do on a rainy day, so we pressed on to Cape Kawanda. CK is the outskirts of Pacific City, our favorite spot, so we stopped and booked a spot at the campground there for late June for a week.

We drove down into the parking lot near the Dory boat launching beach and the sun came out. It was time for lunch and the lure of clam chowder got the best of us. We did a Pelecan lunch (restaurant brewery across the road from the campground) and back in the car to see if we would nap or walk or what. As it turned out the wind was blowing and the brave souls out for a stroll on the beach were dressed in winter jackets...a bit more stout that what we had with us. It was almost 2:00 so we headed home.

Back over the Coast Range, up the highway to Grand Rhonde, McMinnville and then Newberg...about 60 miles, all in the sun. Go figure.

That is spring in the PNW. But that is ok; we have a spot booked at Champoeg for the next two days. I wonder if we will have any little over nighters? Yep, I bet we do.

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