On our first day, we headed north up Highway 101 towards Coos Bay. The largest town along the coast, it's also a good place to get advice at their visitor center. We walked the Coos Bay boardwalk, and found this old tugboat on display. There must have been some disagreement about how to spell this town's name, as we have seen more than one spelling. This tugboat got named Koos instead of Coos.
It was low tide, so the pleasure boats moored at Coos Bay were almost in the mud.
This is also a working bay. There are tug boats to guide large boats into the bay or to push floats of logs up the river to be loaded on the train. This picture shows the pretty pleasure boat on the right, and the tough working tug on the left.
Our next stop this day was the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. We started at the John Dellenback Dunes Trail that looked like another forest trail until it opened into the sand dunes.
Then we left the forest behind for white sand as far as we could see.
There were occasional blue ponds surrounded by trees in the middle of the sandy wasteland.
This trail leads three miles through the sand to the Pacific Ocean. We could see the blue ribbon of the ocean behind that speck in the sand that is Denisa.
It was sure nice to see some blue sky behind the hills of sand today.
Denisa was wishing for our sand slide when it was time to run down that mountain of sand. Sliding would sure have been more fun!
Heading back towards the car, we returned through the island of forest in the middle of all that sand.
We are seeing manzanita trees again in this forest. Their dark red trunks certainly contrasted nicely with the blue sky today.
We knew that cranberries are the main crop raised in this area, and we stopped by the local candy store in Coos Bay. "Cranberry Sweets" has a video of the day that Rachel Ray visited their store and featured them on her show on the Food Network. Cranberry Sweets is also famous for the free samples of all their products, and this probably isn't a good place to visit when one is hungry. We felt obliged to try a little of everything, and came out of there on the edge of a sugar coma. When that sugar rush wears off, we can start eating the goodies we purchased at the store.
For now we are heading down the road through the little town of Charlotte, Oregon. We passed several oyster farm signs, and found huge mounds of oyster shells near the dock. These people shuck a serious amount of oysters. We'll be missing the "Aw Shucks Oyster Feed" this weekend. But we're not sure that we have lived on this coast long enough to develop a taste for oysters anyway.
We also watched as ships returning from sea were unloading their crab cages at the local sea food store in Charlotte.
Today's route is a loop drive, that will now take us off Highway 101, onto a little road called the Cape Arago Highway. Closer to the ocean, our next destination is Shore Acres State Park.
This was a beautiful place to visit at this time of year because the azaleas . . .
and rhododendrons are blooming at their peak right now.
Denisa apologizes right now for way too many pictures of flowers. So scroll down if you can't stand the thought of seeing every conceivable color of bloom.
This formal flower garden is situated right on the Pacific Ocean. It was once owned by Louis Simpson, an early timber baron. He and his wife had a botanical garden planted with flowers from all over the world that was tended by a staff of gardeners.
Their mansion burned down and Simpson lost most of his money in the stock market crash of the 1930's.
But the botanical garden lives on as a state park, and admission is free to people like us who are camping at a nearby state park campground.
It was an unexpectedly beautiful stop on an itinerary filled with beaches and crashing waves.
The Simpsons also had trees planted around the formal gardens. One hundred years later, they are grand specimens. Who knew that there were designations like "largest of its species"? According to the placard, this is the largest Monterey Pine in the United States as recognized by the National Register of Big Trees.
Just a short hike from the botanical gardens is Simpson Cove. We looked down from the viewpoint, to confirm that we needed to hike down to the beach.
We are coming to love these cozy coves that are carved out of the shoreline. The high rock walls make a private beach that the Simpsons enjoyed sharing with their guests.
Today they shared it with us. Mark climbed up one of the rock walls for a great view of the cove. The crashing waves continue to wear away the stone walls, leaving curious bowling-ball-sized knobs. These are called concretions, where harder knobs of stone remain when the softer rock washes away around them.
There was a nicely sculpted bench that had weathered into the rock wall.
We sat on that natural bench for a good long time, enjoying the views of the waves crashing around us, and the seals playing in the surf. We have wandered into another of God's wonders today, framed by blue skies!
The seals were playing in that surf, but popping their heads out of the water to keep an eye on us too.
We wandered on down the coast, enjoying the views of the rich and famous from the state park viewpoints.
Our next stop was Simpson Reef and Shell Island. This is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. But more importantly, it is the largest haul-out on the Oregon Coast for marine mammals.
We learned that a haul-out is a place where sea lions and seals get out of the ocean to rest. The little islands of Simpson reef were covered with thousands of animals, and hundreds more bobbing in the water.
There was a volunteer at the view point, with spotting scopes focused on the islands so visitors could see them up close. Mark took the following picture through one of those scopes.
Our next stop was just a few miles down the road at Cape Arago State Park. We're learning that many Oregon beaches look pretty from the top, but it will take a steep walk to get down to that sand.
Yes, of course we made that steep hike. Unlike the last cove, this one is protected from most of the powerful waves and features a beach of large rocks rather than sand.
There is a lighthouse by the same names not far from the state park. Cape Arago Lighthouse is the second one on Denisa's list of 9 on the Oregon coast.
The least accessible of the Oregon lighthouses, Denisa had to be content from viewing it through the zoom camera lens. We still think it looks good framed in its blue skies.
It's been a good long day of sights that are very close together. We have turned the car towards home now, and we had one more stop before we get home. South Slough National Estuary Research Reserve Visitor Center was already closed by the time we pulled into the parking lot. So we helped ourselves to the two-mile loop hike down to the river.
We didn't get to see any wildlife in the slough, or on the trail. So the most interesting part of the hike were the enormous skunk cabbage plants that were taking over the boardwalk. With leaves as big as Denisa, they grow quickly in the spring.
We read that the eastern skunk cabbage doesn't smell good if the leaves are crushed, and the bloom has a putrid odor that attracts flies and bees to pollinate it. We are glad to report that their western cousin didn't seem to be as stinky, since we walked through large patches of plants on our hike.
It's been a full day of hiking and sight-seeing in southern Oregon. The blue skies were a blessing, and we enjoyed a good day of sunshine. We've heard a lot about this Oregon coast, and it certainly hasn't disappointed us!