Our next day in Oregon found us with unsettled weather, but we decided that as long as it seemed to be just off and on showers, we’d go see what we could see. The day started with a backtracking trip to Cook’s Chasm and Thor’s Well in Cape Perpetua. We had originally planned on stopping the day before on our way into our parking spot for the night, but due to the short autumn days, we ran out of daylight. Stopping at the Visitor’s Center in the Suislaw National Forest, we purchased our America The Beautiful Park Pass and hiked the trail advised by the very nice Ranger who assisted us.
The entire shoreline along this stretch is a large lava field that has been eroded by wind and water into narrow slots. The surf rushes into these slots and is forced up between cracks and crevices, erupting into incredible sprays and fountains called spouting horns.
The photos don’t really give the same feel, so here’s a link to some video we shot.
Thor’s well, along the same shoreline, is a hole worn completely through an overhanging rock ledge. As the surf rolls in under the ledge, the water is forced up and over the edge of the hole. The result is something similar to a pot boiling over. When the wave below recedes, the water drains back down the hole, emptying the well once again.
By the time we left Cook’s Chasm, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and the intermittent light rain had turned to a steady downpour. We drove along 101 for a while, heading back toward Florence, and then pulled over into a lookout as the rain eased somewhat. In the distance, perched on the side of the cliff, we could see the Heceta Head Lighthouse. We would have loved to hike the trail out to it, but the weather being as unpredictable as it was, we decided to leave it for another time, and settled for a few rainy photographs.
A Sight for Sore Eyes
Over to one side of the lookout, we noticed a younger couple looking down at something over the side of the cliff, so we decided to be nosy. I’m so glad we did.
Wild Sea Lions! And they weren’t even invisible, lol. A large herd of sea lions were relaxing on the rocks directly below the look out. From their barking noises and light coloring, we could tell that they were California sea lions. They are one of two species that live along the Pacific Coast, the other being the Stellar Sea Lion. The Stellars grow larger than the Californias, are darker in color and sound more like a roaring lion.
We watched the herd for a while, until the rain sent us back to the truck once again. A short ways down the road, we came across the Sea Lion Caves attraction, which claims to feature the larger Stellar lions. But when we discovered that the lions weren’t in the cave at this time of year, we gave it a pass and moved on.
The following day, after taking care of some much needed laundry duties, we stumbled across a little area called Dean Creek that featured a wildlife preserve, where we found a very large herd of these beauties.
Roosevelt Elk. Apparently not invisible either. It appears our wildlife dry streak is broken, at least for now. Either that or I’ve finally developed super powers and now possess x-ray vision. Or maybe I finally just got around to cleaning my glasses. Regardless, something’s changed and I’m glad it has.
The next morning found us moving south once more, with a stop at Face Rock late in the day, just before parking for the night. The beach was incredible, with caves to explore and sea birds and seals playing in the surf just offshore.
Mike had his first up-close dangerous encounter with a wild animal. He got a little too bold and went deep into one of the caves when he discovered that the tide wasn’t quite as far out as he thought. In his haste to scramble out of the way of the water, he slipped and scraped his hand up pretty good on the barnacles on the rocks. Gotta watch those wild barnacles, they’ll turn on you quick. Mike will be fine. No word yet on the barnacle’s condition.
After a bit of first aid and a good scolding, we continued on to Port Orford, and found a parking lot by the dock that allowed overnighting. Falling asleep, I could hear the waves rolling up on the beach. Pure bliss. And this is what we woke up to.
California Here We Come!
From there, we entered California as far as Eureka before stopping for the night. We spoke to some locals who advised us that our planned trip down Rte 1 would probably disappoint because of wildfires and road closures due to slides. So in the morning, we decided to abandon our fruitless search for whales and head inland toward Nevada, but not until after one little detour.
Since we were only a few miles away, there was no way we were missing the Avenue of the Giants. The Coast Redwoods, some over 300 feet tall and over 1000 years old left us speechless, and well worth the soaking we got trying to get photos.
I’ve never felt so small in my life. It’s 30 miles of narrow, 2 lane winding road through the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen. It’s also apparently one of the densest, since the GPS kept asking us if we were indoors, lol.
By lunchtime we had started inland across Rte 36, again on the advice of a local who assured us that it was a beautiful drive. It was a beaut, all right. 4 solid hours of twists, turns, switchbacks, 11% grades, and let’s not forget the fog/clouds where you could hardly see Hank’s nose. Kudos to Mike’s driving skills and Hank’s tenacity, they both got us and Lonestar to Red Bluff safely. But I’d rather drive the Coq blindfolded than ever go over that road again. To quote my poor grandmother, “Oh me nerves!”
So, we’re nothing if not flexible. Come morning, we decided to abandon the rest of Rte 36 in favor of I5 straight down to Sacramento, and take I80 over to Reno. And while this highway also featured high elevations and a few steep grades, it was much more reassuring to know that there was at least a shoulder if not an entire lane between you and the cliff wall and certain doom. As a rule, I’m not afraid of heights. But I try to stay open to change.
Lunch? Umm…no thanks.
What we didn’t realize when we chose this route is that it crosses Donner Pass. History buffs will recognize the name as the ill-fated settlers now known as the Donner Party trying to emigrate to California in the 1800’s, but due to poor planning, bad luck and worse advice, became snowbound in the mountains under 27 feet of snow. Escape was impossible, and rescuers could not make it in to help until the spring. When the food ran out, history tells us that the desperately hungry pioneers turned to eating those companions that had already succumbed to starvation. Not a pretty story.
Then Mike spotted a sign for Donner State Park, with the knife and fork restaurant icon underneath it. With an evil grin, he asked if we should stop for lunch. He’s shameless, and the joke was tasteless. I laughed. I’m even worse.
We spent the night in the world’s noisiest truck stop outside of Reno, and started down Rte 95 toward Vegas. Here is where I ran across these (also not invisible) critters.
A ways further down the road, finding a gravel road with a flat turnaround at the end, we pulled off our first BLM boondock just outside of Fernley. The area was back from the highway, away from any kind of town or settlement and blissfully quiet. This was the view.
After supper was cleaned up, we took our chairs outside and had a front row seat for the Taurid meteor shower. Beautiful!
Next up, Death, Ghosts and … donkeys? Tune in.
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