The Hard Way: Volume Two

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The day had come. The canoes were loaded onto the trailer, the folks from out of town were on their way, the food was in the coolers, the gear was packed, and the sun was shining. The plan was for five of us and my brother Josh’s dog, Kingsley, to meet at the boat launch Friday afternoon. We would boat in and set up camp. Then, Saturday the other two members of the expedition would join us with my two dogs. Sunday we would all boat out and go home.

Here is a visual of the planned route

(1) Launched canoes.

(2) Traveled down the Salmon river.

(3) Landed the canoes on the beach.

(4) Carried the canoes to the campsite.

(5) Enjoyed the beach.

Now, as part of the prep for the trip I had encouraged everyone to pack as light as possible. The space in the canoes was limited so the idea was to only bring food you were going to eat, cloths you were going to wear, and gear that you intended to actually use. There was no room for “just in case”. The one exception being the first aid kit. However as we packed the gear into the canoes, it became clear that every one of us had fudged the rule a little; some more than others. (I brought tiki torches)  Luckily, we managed to fit most everything into the canoes. What wouldn’t fit we left in the vehicles to be gotten the next day when we went to pick up the late comers.

A life jacket for everyone.

The canoe trip down the Salmon River was a delight. The sun was shining, the water was calm, and we were eager to get to the beach. We stayed close to the far side of the river from the dock.  We wanted to be in shallow water in case we swamped one of the canoes.

My brother Isaac and I in what I was calling “Canoe Number One”

It only took us about twenty minutes to reach a place that we deemed landfall worthy. We pulled the canoes up onto the sand and started walking across the sand, scouting for a good place to set up camp. As the beach was pretty much barren of any distinguishing  landmarks, we opted to make use of the first real feature we came across. Which happened to be a semi-hut constructed against a large log.

Choosing a camp was a piece of cake. Lugging all our gear down the beach was a sandy nightmare. Not counting the canoes, each of us made about three trips back and forth with an armful of stuff. The work wasn’t much fun, but like crappy canned food, work is more palatable when you’re camping.

A look back the way we came.

The log even had a garage.

It wasn’t long before we had tents erected, firewood gathered, and beer bottles opened. We each put our tents away from camp in a different direction , as to maximize the solitude of the place.

The view from my tent door. I’ve camped worse places…

After setting up camp, we spent the rest of the day exploring the beach. Because of the nearly non-existent foot traffic on the beach there was a plethora of slightly uncommon beach-combing finds. We found lots of dried starfish, many whole sand dollars, and a tar ball.

Tar balls float in on the tide after collecting anything that touches. The tall stick was an addition by some beach walker.

We spent the remaining daylight setting up camp and exploring the beach. After the sun went down, we enjoyed a nice campfire and I made a nuisance of myself with my camera getting some long exposures.

If you look you can see my floating head.

My brother Josh and his girlfriend Brittany, felt the call of the sandman before the rest of us were ready for beddy-bye. My brother Isaac, my cousin Nick, and I, felt that a late night stroll down the beach was in order. So, bottle of Jamesons in hand, off we went. As it happened none of us anticipated anything noteworthy happening on our stroll  and we went camera-less. However, there was something noteworthy, but absence of a camera wasn’t actually a big deal as the event is nearly impossible to photograph anyway. You see, on the Oregon Coast (and likely elsewhere) there is a phosphorescent microbe of some kind that will momentarily light up blue when disturbed. Conditions have to be just right to find the stuff. There has to be a significantly low tide, a dark moonless night, and a fair amount of wet sand with small standing pools of water. For whatever reason, this beach, on that night, was the biggest concentration of the microbes any of us had ever seen. We spent the better part of two hours splashing around in the pools and stomping on the sand. I slept well that night.

Note: Pictures featuring me were taken by either Isaac or Brittany. Except the floating head.

The Hard Way: Volume One

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As you may have notice I’ve been somewhat inactive on my blog. I want to assure you this is not a permanent state of affairs. It’s just that I’ve been busy the past summer and have had little time for the beach. Also ,the ridiculously bad summer weather, the dogs breaking their long leash and their two way leash attachment, and my camera dying, all helped to keep me off the sand. But I’m going to make it up to you. If you read my statement about beach number one in this post, it says “I’ll write a whole post about it later”. Well later is now.

To fully understand the awesomeness of this post I have to take you back to a time before this blog existed. You see, the idea for this blog was a secondary thought to my original plan to simply walk on every beach in Lincoln County. The goal later grew to include my dogs and my camera. Quite a few stretches of sand had passed under my feet and I was using Google Earth to make sure I didn’t miss any. When, lo and behold, I came across a beach on the very northern edge of Lincoln County. There was only one problem… there were no accesses. No roads that I could see, and no roads that Google Earth knew about. I even tossed around the idea of an overland approach. Just grabbing a compass and marching west, right through swamps, over cliffs, and across miles of brush. Besides the obvious reasons I abandoned the idea , all the land I would have needed to cross is privately owned. The strange thing is that despite there being no roads to the area, there seemed to by buildings.

Just to make sure I wasn’t missing something I used Google Maps and placed a marker on the beach. I then told Google maps to find a way there from my house. This didn’t bear any fruit but it did bring my attention to a point of interest marker very near the beach. The marker read “Westwind Stewardship Group”. Better still, the marker was a link.

What this eventually lead me to was a web site for a privately operated, rent-able, summer camp called Camp Westwind. With a little poking around on their web site, I found that among the rentals for large groups, they also offer a rental cabin for up to five people. At first this seemed like great news. I could save that beach for last, rent the cabin, and the wife and I, possibly with some friends, could walk my last leg of Lincoln County sand. The problem with this plan is that Camp Westwind has a strict “no dogs” policy. I started concocting a crazy plan that included renting the cabin, walking two miles out on what they called their “emergency access road”, getting the dogs, walking back in, walking the dogs on the beach, walking them back out, dropping them off, walking back in, and enjoying the rest of the weekend. I started to hate this plan the more I mulled it over. However, the mulling of the plan did bear fruit. It occurred to me that their “no dogs” policy couldn’t possibly be enforced on the beach as all Oregon beaches are state parks. Therefor, if I could get to the beach some other way I would be home free. The “other way” I had in mind… was a boat.

To make sure my new boat idea was seaworthy (yup, a boat pun) my brother Josh and I stopped by the State Parks office in Newport. The lady we talked to there was very helpful. She informed us that not only was it very legal for us to access the beach via boat and to take my dogs with us, but that the particular beach in question was one of the very few beaches in Oregon that you could legally camp on right on the sand, and that she herself goes yearly to camp there. However she also informed us that the Camp Westwind staff were under the mistaken impression that they owned the beach and regularly harassed campers. Needless to say, Josh and I were planning the camping trip before we even got back to the car.

It so happens that back in the late 70’s my dad and several of his brothers along with their wives were taking a group trip to Alaska. As part of the prep for this trip they stopped at the nearest REI, which at the time was in Seattle, for gear. Two of my uncles also each purchased themselves a 19′ square stern Grumman canoe. Two beautiful boats that went to Alaska and came back to the Oregon coast where they made countless trips down the Siletz River. I myself have hundreds of hours logged in the canoes, and am currently trying to find another one to buy.

Having limited room in the canoes didn’t stop us from inviting a gaggle of people on the trip. I won’t bore you with the invite list but in the end there were thee dogs and seven of us; two brothers, two cousins, one wife, one brothers girlfriend, and myself. I made the calls (well, sent out facebook messages. what is this, 1936?) set the date, and started “patiently” waiting.

South From Roads End

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This was another one of those great days to be on an Oregon Beach. Which, as I think about it, isn’t a difficult thing for a day to achieve. Sun in the sky and a beer in my pack, are really the only two qualifications I have that can change.

Today’s selection is Ninkasi’s “Spring Reign”, nummy.

On this particular day, we hiked from the Roads End State Recreation Site to a little access that is the entirety of  NW 35th Ct. Which I failed to mention was the end of our hike northwards on a different  day.

The beach had several nice spots to look for agates, many small rocky “islands” just out in the breakers, and for being adjacent to the Chinook Winds Casino was relatively uncrowded. The best place I found for agates was just south of Roads End. Although with the shifting sands of summer, there is no way I can vouch for it’s continued existence.

Memorial Day Madness

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Looking back it seems obvious. If you go to the beach on a sunny Memorial Day, you are going to have company. Lots and lots of company. Yet somehow I was in last-man-on-earth mode as I headed to the beach. I was… disappointed.

It didn’t help matters that the next stretch of sandy beach I was planning on traversing started at the D River State Park, one of the busiest beach accesses in Lincoln County on normal day. You might be interested to know that the D River is the shortest river in the world. As you might imagine it is a rather unimpressive sight to behold.

From the moment my feet hit the sand, people were all up in my business. It was like everyone from a thousand miles around came to the beach that day and were acting like they owned the place.

There is a little known place in Lincoln City where you can drive your car onto the beach. Every once in awhile there will be a car or two parked down there. On this day there was somewhere around two dozen. And all of the owners of these cars as well as the passengers were out on the small outcropping of rocks, terrorizing the local wildlife. Every sea anemone there must have been poked in the mouth a thousand times that day.

Besides being Memorial Day, it must have been national Take-Your-Dog-to-the-Beach-Off-Leash Day. I know I’ve gone on and on about keeping your dog on a leash while at the beach, but if you can get your dog to stay with you, I honestly don’t have a problem with it. However, if you are like one of the many people I ran into, and your dog pretty much does whatever he wants, perhaps one of the busiest beach days of the year isn’t the best day to take Fido to the beach off-leash for the first time.  As it happens my dogs are lovers not fighters, and are very human and dog friendly. What gets me is that people seem to take this as a given. My dogs are both young, athletic, fast, have very strong jaws, and are always together. If my dogs weren’t lovers and were instead fighters, they would tear your labradoodle asunder before you could say “Poopsie, come here”. I would like to reiterate that in reality, a three year old could push my dogs around.

Play time.

Okay, enough complaining. The weather was great, I found a nice gravel bar with a surprising number of agates considering it was literally fifty feet north of the D River, and the beach was closer to normal occupancy once you were a hundred feet away from an access. The entire beach is lined my houses, condos, and hotels. However, what this does to the ambiance is somewhat made up for by all the very nice public beach accesses.

Roads End

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The beaches of Lincoln City are frequently punctuated by access points. There is one access point that is so far north they call it Roads End. Well, they call it Roads End State Recreation Site, to be entirely truthful. 

I’m not sure about the particulars, but the area known as Roads End isn’t exactly part of Lincoln City. The houses in the area are something like 75% vacation rentals, which is a shame in my opinion, as it could be a thriving beach loving community otherwise.

If you are coming to the Oregon Coast to hunt agates, this beach is a must. The agate beds were out far into the spring this year, and come back in the winter every year. However, if you don’t like company you might consider a different beach. Those, 75% vacation rentals are filled with vacationers who go to the beach 100% of the time it seems.

I saw eight other dogs on the beach that day. One was on it’s leash.

If you walk north until you run into the massive headland, you might think you’ve reached… well… the end of the road. But if you are there during low tide, are nimble, and are a little adventurous, you are in luck. There is a path of sorts that will take you around to a hidden beach. By “hidden” I mean you can’t see it without going around. I do not mean “hidden” as in nobody knows about it. Everybody and their vacationers know about it, but it’s still fun to “find” it. Not to mention that it is an awesome beach,  in a very literal sense of the word. The rock formations are pretty darned impressive, and make a great end to a hike.

A view of the hidden beach. (yes I’ve used the pic before… just breath… it’ll be ok)

 

Update : It seems during the summer enough sand builds up that you can easily walk around the headland. I saw a guy with a cane do it.

Japanese Dock / Tsunami Debris

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Well it’s here. The first (that I’ve heard of) large piece of debris from the Japanese tsunami. It’s a large dock section of some kind that washed up on Agate Beach. As it so happened my brother Josh and I were working on a job at a house overlooking Agate Beach. We were just finishing up and I happen to stop for a second to admire the view of the beach. I saw something that looked to be rocks made visible by the receding tide. The only problem with this involuntary hypothesis was that there are no such rocks at Agate Beach, and it was high tide. It also had a very regular shape. We decided that it must be tsunami debris, so we rushed to finish picking up our tools and were off to the beach for a quick look-see before we went to the last job of the day.

Our first glimpse of the dock.

As we were looking for parking at the Agate Beach Wayside, we saw a Channel 8 News van and a cadre of reporter types. We tromped down the beach to the wreckage but couldn’t get very close to it because the tide was then at it’s highest point for the day. We took a couple pictures and decided we might come back later.

Josh snaps a picture of me and the dock with his phone.

I wasted no time once I got home, I loaded up the dogs, put on some shorts, grabbed my camera, and headed for the beach. I used the access nearest the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse because it seemed to be closer and have far fewer people using it.

After reaching the dock I took a good long look at the flora and fauna growing on it’s sides. I even found some detached mussels in the surf that I put back on the dock. Wouldn’t want to have the little buggers taking root here now would we.

Mussels, barnacles, kelp and many of critters have made the trip form Japan,

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Gooseneck Barnacles just like the ones on bottles you find from Japan.

There were several people on top of the dock and they were going inside of it somehow. Not only that but they were bringing things out. A small room in the dock was filled with concrete ballast cylinders about a foot long. Being the kind of person that I am I could not sit by and not do some exploring for myself. So I called Josh and told him that he had better get down there before they were all gone. You see, I needed Josh because I needed someone to hold my dogs leash, and because the thing was about seven feet tall. While I was waiting, a nice teenage girl that was up on the dock was getting ballasts for anyone that wanted one. Not being one to turn down the kindness of others, I accepted. After a few more minutes my brother showed up. His girlfriend, Brittney, was kind enough to hold my pack and watch my dogs while Josh and I made quick work out of scaling the dock. We do after all have quite a lot of practice at shenanigans of various kinds. After a quick survey of the top of the dock we found that others had only managed to open one of the two hatches and that they had only gotten the one open because the lid was broken. Fortunately, opening things that haven’t been opened in a long time is another one of Josh and I’s fortes. With nothing but Josh kicking at the lid and me prying at it with my fingers, we got it open. Unfortunately, the room under the second hatch was too full of water to get to the ballasts. After a couple of other folks cleared out, we took our turn down in room number one. I had seen some ballasts with labels with Japanese on them. I did my best to find another with a label but was cut short by the arrival of a State Parks Beach Ranger.

Spreading misinformation to the public.

The Beach Ranger attempted to feed us a line of BS about salvage laws. Laws that he was wrong about. Items unintentionally lost at see are defined as flotsam by maritime law. Which means the can be salvaged by anyone. But I complied, dropped my ballasts, and  got off the dock. Then I and many others waited for the Beach Ranger to leave. When he did so, a couple of guys went up and started tossing a bunch of ballasts down for just whoever wanted them. We all took one and were on our way.

Mine

North Side of Yaquina Head

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If you travel north of Newport and use the beach access at 68th st and walk south, you will run smack into Yaquina Head. The stretch of beach you walk on is actually part of Moolack Beach but the pictures I’m using are from a trip that I only walked this particular section, so it gets it’s own post.

This section of beach is simply covered with interesting rock formations. So much so, that there might actually be more rock than sand. There are large flat sections of bedrock with deep channels cut into the rock, all covered with a variety of algae. Some of the flat areas that the bedrock forms is several feet above the level of the sand. The entire effect gives the beach a very unique feel.

You can see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the moment you set foot on the beach. It is the tallest lighthouse (93 ft)  in Oregon, after all. Built in 1873, many believe they built it at the wrong location, insisting Cape Foulweather would have been a better choice. If the lighthouse and the jagged rocks in front of it look familiar, it may be because they were used as the lighthouse in the film The Ring.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse

There is also a decent gravel bar covering much of this beach. If you are doing some agate hunting and find that you aren’t having very good luck, try crossing to the north side of the creek at the 68th St access. For some reason, likely having to do with most people not wanting to risk getting their feet wet, the other side of the creek has more agates.