Eleven lighthouses stand guard along Oregon’s rocky coast. We stopped just north of Newport to see the tallest of them, on Yaquina Head. There’s a little fee station at the top of the road where you’re supposed to pay for day use, but it had closed for the day and the entry gate was locked. We parked on the side of the driveway and walked the mile or so to the lighthouse.
Luke for scale:
We – and by we I mostly mean Luke – worried that the car would get ticketed parked where it was. We met other walkers on the lighthouse road, but ours was the only vehicle there. So when we were done looking around, Luke jogged ahead back up the road to make sure the car was okay.
I was about three-quarters of the way back to the fee station when Luke came breathlessly around a bend in the road. “There’s a bunch of guys on motorcycles around our car! I hope they’re not motorcycle cops!”
“I don’t think motorcycle cops travel in packs,” I said, “Especially on quiet roads like these. Probably just a biker group touring the coast. I don’t think they’ll bother our car.”
The motorcycles were peeling back out toward the highway when we came around the last corner. Luke said, “Mom, did you leave the window down?”
“No…or…what the hell, it is down.”
The driver’s side window was indeed all the way open. I had rolled it down at the fee station and apparently forgotten to roll it back up.
The car was absolutely packed with valuables – iPads, MacBooks, camping and hiking gear, my wallet. Nothing had been touched or taken. Humans are okay sometimes.
We stopped in Newport to try the clam chowder at Mo’s Original Location. We had heard good things, and the chowder lived up to its reputation.
Tangent: The best clam chowder I’ve ever tasted is at a little kiosk in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, just outside the Pieces of Eight souvenir shop. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since we left California. All of the clam chowders we sampled in Washington and Oregon were objectively fresher and higher-quality than Disneyland’s, and very tasty, but it’s hard to compete with the magic of gustatory nostalgia.
I like this mural we saw in Newport:
We watched for real whales all the way down the coast, since late May is still at the tail end of their migration season. We never did see any, but we did enjoy a few lively rounds of “Is that a rock or a creature?”
The original plan was to spend Tuesday night at a campground wherever we happened to end the day, but none of us were feeling it. Instead we searched along the highway until we found a motel with a vacancy. “The only room we have left doesn’t have an ocean view,” the clerk said apologetically. I assured him that it made no difference. The room was twice the size and half the cost of the one at Lake Quinault Lodge, with more amenities. Shoutout to The Dublin House Motel in Yachats.
Our first stop Wednesday morning was the Devil’s Churn. The Devil apparently stores his kitchen accouterments along the Oregon shoreline.
The Devil’s Churn is hard to describe, and I wish I’d taken a video of it. It’s a narrow channel carved by a stream joining the sea. Waves roll into it and back out, so it’s nearly empty one minute and overflowing the next. From the highway it looks almost serene:
Luke for scale:
Up close it’s loud and violent and a little scary as the waves roil in the chasm and sometimes splash high into the air.
People have died here, washed into the Churn by the crashing waters. We kept our eyes on it and still got splashed unexpectedly. The sense of energy here is incredible.
We continued down the coast to Thor’s Well.
In my last post I included a video that I had misidentified as the Devil’s Punchbowl. Elizabeth pointed out that it was in fact a video of Thor’s Well. I have relocated it accordingly:
The tide pools here are full of life. And here’s something the GoPro can do that my camera couldn’t: underwater photos.
Next stop, Heceta Head Lighthouse.
We had arrived during proper visiting hours, so we paid our day use fee and got to speak with an attendant inside the lighthouse.
A little farther down the coast we pulled onto an overlook that offers another scenic view of Heceta Head. And here we saw sea lions sunning on a rock just below the turnout. This was the first time I really missed my camera with its lovely zoom lens. The GoPro failed miserably at capturing both the sea lions and the lighthouse in the distance.
Looks like a paint-by-number.
Got photobombed by a majestic raven.
Next we came to “America’s Largest Sea Cave,” where you can buy a ticket to get a closer look at the sea lions in their natural habitat. The GoPro utterly failed to do it justice. Trust me, there are sea lions in all three of these pics:
They are vocal creatures. Interestingly, they made different noises depending on their surroundings. Inside the sea cave they sounded aggressive and “liony.” Frolicking in the surf they sounded playful. On the sand in that bottom pic they sounded like a herd of drunk cows. That was a fun stop.
Moving on to Florence, we took a small detour off the highway to visit a quiver of cobra lilies.
These carnivorous pitcher plants grow wild here.
In North Bend we stopped at Captain’s Choice Fish House, an unassuming little place that served one of the best fish dinners I’ve had in my entire life.
A hand-rolled cigarette hangs from the mouth of the wooden fisherman in the foyer. Seriously, how high does this dude look?
Elizabeth ordered a seafood alfredo, Luke got the fish and chips, and I got fish and chowder. The waitress asked Luke and I what kind of fish we wanted: cod, red snapper or halibut. We both chose cod. Then she asked how we wanted our cod prepared, and offered a list of options. Luke got his fried, I got mine lightly breaded and grilled. It was A M A Z I N G. The chowder was delicious too.
A few days after I got back home, I was shopping at Costco and missing Oregon, so I impulsively grabbed some beer-battered cod from the freezer section. It tasted like disappointment.
More Oregon Coast to come!