Oregon Coast – Day 6

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon

There are places we visit that never grow old. We on the other hand have grown older between each successive visit and our knees and backs are sure to remind us, should we forget. While we gauge the change in ourselves by looking in the mirror, we calculate the change to cities by what businesses have gone away and what new ones might have opened in their wake. We occasionally see changes to forests and coast lines as Oregon is a state that allows clear cutting of their wild lands and nature will do what she will with the shoreline. The Haystack at Cannon Beach is a constant unchanging reminder of where we are; it is also effective at hiding its age. Cannon Beach in this respect remains timeless to us.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Excuse my poor metaphor, but it is as though the foam of wealth washes over this enclave, keeping its prosperity and quaintness alive and fresh. There is many a community along this coast where poverty is gnawing at the edges and the accumulation of detritus appears as an open sore on a once thriving small town that has grown stale. The ocean along the entirety of the western edge of Oregon gives no mind of the goings on of our economic plight and remains persistent in its gentle and sometimes aggressive lashings of the land it crashes into. Along this border of the two worlds of land and sea Caroline and I walk hugging the shoreline where my wife collects bits and pieces of discarded plastic convenience from the sand, hopefully sparing a bird or fish from gobbling it up. If only the foam of knowledge could wash over all of us to pick up and clear away the trash that not only fouls the view but our minds along with it.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

While we’ve been out on this coastal sojourn we are hearing grumbles of changes afoot in Astoria up near the mouth of the Columbia River. It turns out that Portlanders are gentrifying that town. Instead of embracing the dawn of what hopefully will be positive change, the locals are lamenting perceived social changes and the springing up of businesses that cater to hipsters. Just as lumber and forestry products made Coos Bay and idle wealth helped Cannon Beach flourish, those changes likely altered the character of what had been there before, if anything. The ocean of time must crash into these communities and in some way wash them clean as they are dying with the decay from those afraid of an uncertain future.

Oswald West State Park at Arch Cape, Oregon

Here in the forest the symbiosis of existence is plain to see, the new grows healthily upon the old. Sometimes humans believe that the slate must be wiped clean, so we can move in later to plant anew, allowing the destroyed habitat to rebuild itself with our help. The Oregon coastal communities in some ways need to be clear cut. There is great opportunity to live along this beautiful shore, but the amenities that would foster a dynamic economy have not happened here and require fresh planting and investment. Why is the coast of Oregon so neglected? Some might argue it is perfect and I certainly love how quiet and relatively uninhabited it is, but without people earning enough to support livelihoods and families, the small businesses along the coast will cease to operate and the death spiral of economic collapse will take hold.

Oswald West State Park at Arch Cape, Oregon

So there’s a conundrum between new and old thinking where those who’ve been here or visited frequently and like things the way they are might be in conflict with the reality that without renewal and greater opportunity, those who could plant the financial seeds may never arrive. Weed stores are hardly the solution, though they might help dull the pain of change and or stagnation. Places like Jacobsen’s Salt Works and Oregon Coast Wasabi along with some of the breweries, cheese makers, fish smokers, bed and breakfasts, and restaurants are a large part of the needed change, but they are not stacked in a central location nor are they marketed as part of a destination trip.

Oswald West State Park at Arch Cape, Oregon

Imagine a coastal journey that started on one end or the other of the Oregon coast and brought visitors in for a complete sensory experience. Live music, book stores, cooking retreats, kayaking, glass making, horseback riding, beach walks, tide pooling, photography workshops, forest hikes, and more biking trails that didn’t force the riders onto the busy highway 101. These would all make for experiential outposts that could be planned for along the route and bring the visitor into a true adventure that they could invest a couple of weeks on to accomplish. I believe these types of semi-structured journeys are the future of travel and would allow regions like the Oregon coast to compete with places like Venice in Europe.

Oswald West State Park at Arch Cape, Oregon

Ultimately overly popular locations around the world will have to go to a lottery type system or price visits so high as to discourage people of lesser means from being able to afford seeing these magical places in person. This is not necessarily a bad thing as overcrowding puts a strain on resources and often harms the very environment we are trying to best appreciate. The dialog of how this evolves will be fraught with arguments of classism, but with greater wealth distribution the potential for overwhelming numbers of visitors becomes a distinct possibility.

Oswald West State Park at Arch Cape, Oregon

Take for example the year I was born: In 1963 1.5 million people visited Grand Canyon National Park. Today that number is over 6 million per year. So what happens if the current visitor trends were to continue in the next years? In about a dozen years there will be between 13-15 million people vying for a spot along the canyon rim to look into its vastness. Maybe that won’t be horrible, but what then in 20 years if we approach 25 million visitors? The point is there’s going to come a time when some type of restrictions will have to be established. For example in May 2009 we visited the White House in Washington D.C. and were just a few of the 100,000 people to visit that month. Two decades before and the White House welcomed about 180,000 visitors per month, but that number was scaled back and has never been returned to. This means that in my life time a little more than twice the population of California will be able to visit the White House, to the exclusion of anyone else that may want to walk in this historic presidential home.

Oswald West State Park at Arch Cape, Oregon

While there’s certainly a mystique walking in the halls of the White House or an incredible sense of history to be experienced while in Florence, Italy, there are also opportunities in discovering wild cascades, random places where mushrooms grow, newts crawling across forest floors or spiny cactus sentinels standing guard over desiccated desert landscapes. These places are largely devoid of visitors and while that suits Caroline and I perfectly for the solitude we are able to experience, there’s also the need for these locations to be appreciated so their economic value as attractions is appealing to governing localities that protect their assets. Without appreciation for the remote wilds of a land it isn’t long before industrial interests set their sights on upsetting the natural balance and potentially destroying what natural beauty had been there.

Oswald West State Park at Arch Cape, Oregon

We humans cannot build a forest like nature can, we cannot construct mountains, or assemble oceans and yet we have no compunction in spoiling them. These systems are what brought us to our current state of being as a species and for the majority of history we were not able to interfere with their stability or health. While we’ve certainly wiped out forests thus changing our well being in relatively small geographic regions, we have been relatively benign; that is until the last few hundred years. We have the knowledge, but not the wherewithal to respect the balance of our planet. For the past 100 years it has been a small cadre of stewards who have taken on the roll of being the voice of reason, this is not tenable for a positive future. The voice of reason has approached a critical juncture where it must act to overwhelm our destructive tendencies and self-inflicted wounds from denigrating the environmentalist and intellectual who has been working diligently to protect us from our worst inclinations.

Oregon, Coast

Just as we hope the sun will rise with the new day we must also hope the sky clears along with the fog that has shrouded people’s better senses regarding the ransacking a world that is also responsible for sustaining us. This is not just about beautiful vistas for those of us lucky enough to visit them and witness their magic firsthand, it is about the underlying symbiotic relationship that shows us that a dead system supports nothing of any value. Look to Mars and the Moon for proof that grass doesn’t grow and water doesn’t flow in an environment hostile to the propagation of life.

Kilchis Point Reserve in Bay City, Oregon

The magic of life is all around us, but here in our modern age we are more interested in the second-rate antics of pseudo celebrities who have a shtick of absurdity that has proven popular among the under-educated. Nature, knowledge, and nurturing relationships have taken the backseat in order for us to not look too deeply at our own shallowness. This in my mind begs the question: what possible purpose are we then serving here on our planet? I for one cannot be happy being part of a giant nothing. I am not only an observer. I want to participate. I need to know that my mind and my efforts in life were for some positive movement forward of our species and the hopeful betterment of our earth.

Kilchis Point Reserve in Bay City, Oregon

Our personal window of opportunity is a relatively brief 80 years or so, give or take a decade or two. If more of us were helping others pull out their roots of stagnation and encouraged them to jump into the waters of active living, to adopt crafts, languages, and the skills that would make themselves more interesting to not only their own perception but to their family and community too, we’d possibly accelerate human progress and ability to share a greater quality of life with more people across our planet.

Kilchis Point Reserve in Bay City, Oregon

How might we begin this journey? I think it could be as easy as taking a vacation with the mindset that everything one encounters is perfect. Do not rely on guided mass-market expeditions where you join 8,000 others on a cruise ship or get on a crowded bus where you have 12 seconds at 1,000 locations to be rushed through a place. Take a slow walk somewhere you are unfamiliar, do not carry old, well-worn biases where you dismiss the unknown, keep an open mind that you are a discoverer on a quest to inform those back home of the amazing encounters you had.

Sunset at Oceanside, Oregon

At the end of our road, at the end of our personal journey, do we find yet another extraordinary sunset that allows us to bask in a life well lived or do we reconcile ourselves that we did the best we could while not actually trying to do much at all? Each and every setting sun I witness is the greatest I’ve ever laid eyes upon while every rising sun casts the potential to find greater enlightenment of what might otherwise be a dull life if my attitude were any less determined to embrace opportunities. The world is not dismal, it need not be rife with fear. We cannot continue to blame others for our own poor outlook when the only thing between us and happiness are our own closed eyes and minds. Nothing may be perfect, but maybe if we worked on making our own attitudes a little more positive we might see the glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Oregon Coast – Day 5

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon

It’s windy out here at Cannon Beach in the shadow of the Haystack Rock. Prior to venturing out on the beach we’d walked down the street to one of our least favorite breakfast establishments called the Pig ‘N Pancake. There are times along the Oregon Coast where choices may not be many. Early, as in well before 8:00 in the morning on certain days, the only option might be this coastal version of IHOP. We certainly prefer the funky little joints instead of the chains.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

The wind was intermittently kicking up with a bit of driving rain thrown in, ensuring those of us who wear glasses would try avoiding walking into it. After dinner last night we’d heard the area was supposed to get hit with a gale starting in the late afternoon today, but there is conflicting information on the internet so who knows? And in any case that’s later.

Caroline Wise and John Wise at Sleepy Monk coffee in Cannon Beach, Oregon

What it is out here right now is wetness. So we are using the falling rain as an excuse for taking refuge at the Sleepy Monk coffee shop. Caroline is plugged in to an audiobook while she whittles away at knitting my next pair of socks with yarn we’d collected in Vienna, Austria, this past summer. I’ve got the notebook propped open trying to find words to accompany some of the images from this traditional journey along the Oregon coast we seem to be on every Thanksgiving.

Bathroom art at Insomnia Coffee in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Our goal for the day should be stated as to just what we are trying to accomplish here and that is: nothing. From our sheltered outdoor table we stepped next door to the Cannon Beach Hardware & Public House for some lunch. Their motto is “Screw and Brew” and might be the only hardware store in all of Oregon or along the Pacific coast for that matter that sells wrenches and lunch all from the same place.

Caroline Wise knitting socks at Insomnia Coffee in Cannon Beach, Oregon

As the Sleepy Monk reached the end of their business day at 3:00 we had no choice but to transfer to Insomnia, a coffee shop that stays open until 5:00. The wind is certainly picking up as the day progresses but it is still a far cry from a gale force onslaught. After we closed Insomnia it was dark already and it felt that we were keeping with our lazy day ethos by grabbing an early dinner. Back at our room I found enough wakefulness to play with patch cables and knobs on the synthesizer while Caroline buried in the couch next to the fire finished the first sock of my new pair.

Going to sleep with the wind howling was a chore and by 11:30 we lost the electricity for nearly 30 minutes before it popped back on, only to go out again 15 minutes later. Not sure this rose to the level of a gale, but the wind hammered at the trees and drove the rain hard on our roof making for a fitful night of sleep for me while Caroline slept soundly through most of it.

Oregon Coast – Day 4

I could have posted a photo of our yurt from the night before, but I’ve probably posted that exact yurt half a dozen other times. Last night though we had a new experience here on the coast as we stayed in a cabin and so here’s a photo of that deluxe cabin complete with shower, toilet, and rudimentary kitchen. Was it worth $100 considering we had to supply bedding and head to the store to buy two towels? Nope. Had we been better prepared with wood for the fire pit, coals for the barbecue and had a couple of friends with us it would have been a great deal. While I’ve said it before it bears repeating that coastal Oregon State Parks are amazing for their proximity to the ocean and their fully equipped campgrounds.

You are looking at the mouth of the Columbia River and the end point of Lewis & Clark’s journey across the western United States. It’s blustery out here and significantly colder than other places along the coast we’ve been so far, must be cold air blowing in from Washington across the river.

From there we drove into Warrenton to find some breakfast at Arnie’s Cafe. They do a great job, so great that you have to wait for a table. Breakfast foods don’t often photograph well so instead I present you with a small lake we drove by after our morning feast.

We checked in with Fort Clatsop National Historical Park to make sure Caroline wasn’t missing any levels from her Junior Ranger badges, as she thought there was an award she didn’t have. Turns out there was a consolidation of awards and so she already had everything she would ever earn here. While in the visitors center I noticed a road through part of the park we’d not previously traveled and so that’s where this part of the story picks up. We are at Netul Landing taking a walk over to the South Slough Trail.

The first part of the path is flat and takes us along the Lewis & Clark River. We could stay on this trail which would bring us back to the visitors center where we could turn left and hit the “Fort To Sea Trail” which is a 6.1-mile hike, but we are more interested in the slough today.

At a fork with a sign pointing to “Steep Trail” we crossed the road and nearly immediately climbed the equivalent of about 15 flights of stairs (not pictured). This was a thigh burning climb that had us thinking that we wouldn’t want to go down the same path on a wet trail. Fortunately it’s a loop so there won’t be any backtracking today.

The area shows heavy evidence of a clear cut done in the past with large old tree trunks still rotting in the steep hillside. The entire area including the slough is going through a restoration in order to restore the habitat that had been left in ruin.

How long has this tree been dead? How long until what remains today no longer does so? Time and nature provided the fertile ground where the tree lived performing its job of helping keep the surrounding soil stabilized thus allowing the other plant and animal life to also thrive for a moment. When men came along they harvested the trees and in their wake left the hillside torn to shreds. Fire could have just as easily done the bidding of mankind by disrupting the balance, so in some ways all things are equal. The flames that catch hold of dry terrain though don’t move out of greed or malice, while we hardly have the patience to work sustainably and will move against nature and our own best interests.

The lessons are all around us: live symbiotically within your environment and your place on earth will sustain you. We are a reckless species armed with the knowledge that should allow us to know better and yet we continue with our destructive ways while the information abounds but is ignored. We too often deride those as kooks and crackpots who advocate for a healthy attitude towards planetary well being and recently have lumped scientists into the same bag. Yet nature continues while the biped that claims superiority lives with poor intentions and worse practices.

Whenever we find ourselves away from home in any of earth’s biomes we have to stop and look deep into its ecosystems and reflect how unnatural we live in comparison. True, we have 7 billion fellow humans with complex needs and a kind of mobility that no other species can claim. Collectively we have the skills, knowledge, and more importantly the need to make our nest the most healthy and beautiful place it can be, just like this little garden of of moss and lichen perched on the edge of a fallen log that is thriving and apparently doing well to my untrained eye.

Islands of hope are where restoration begins. The engineers and scientists that worked to rebuild this wetlands had to dig channels that would allow an exchange of waters in an area that had long been fouled. Over time opportunistic pockets of life take hold and lay a foundation for further expansion of more complex ecosystem elements until things can fall back into balance thus negating our previous abuse of the lands along the river.

So being out here on the South Slough at this stage of its regrowth can be seen as a treasured peek into our futures. The trail forward may be steep and the damage under repair disheartening. We took things to the brink of total destruction, but there are glimmers that cooler heads will prevail. I remain ambivalent that as I write this and have a desire for more people to take an interest in these lands, there is a consequence of too many of us being a personal witness as we often bring more damage.

In front of us is the network of water veins and grasses that filter the environment and thus do the bulk of the work in restoring this system back to equilibrium. Knowledge within people works much the same way, but where we can apply a bulldozer to moving earth around we haven’t found an equivalent able to move stupidity out of the way of the masses. At this point my hope for our species takes a nosedive, as I’m afraid we’ll have to nearly extinct ourselves before restoration is able to take place.

A bridge as metaphor is needed here along with a spark that ignites hope that our way ahead is achievable. Will we flow with the river of life or fight the current of survival with outmoded archaic thinking that places the will of humanity in the hands of an unseen deity that has failed to show its face to any of the 7 billion souls on earth that require a healthy thriving planet? Why are we diseased with this lack of will to knowledge at this critical juncture in our evolution? How have we been so corrupted by our embrace of blind stupidity masquerading as some kind of perverted intelligence? Is that the sound of Nero fiddling while the fire roars?

Time to leave the frying pan and flames behind and head somewhere else, like up this grassy knoll over to the beach here at Gearhart. My aching desire to find beauty and drag others to help celebrate what we have before we lay waste in such a totality that we’ll never again be able to crest the hillside is a burden I can’t tell you that I love. I do wish I could leave my concern behind and go about every waking moment blind to everything other than my own existence and happiness, but I don’t seem to have the DNA to muster that disregard.

Even though the day may be gray and blustery with the threat of the tempest beyond the horizon I still have something worth celebrating in the most joyous way.

That celebration is found in the incredible love Caroline and I share where our smiles are genuine and heartfelt. I believe that we equally enjoy the sensation and elation of each others touch and presence. We comfort one another in hugs and the spark in our eyes allow us to look forward to another day indulging in the beauty of the world we are exploring. Maybe it’s my dream for others in love to one day share in the wonder of seeing the magnificence that can be had walking through their world and being witness to things large and small, beautiful and stupendous that motivates these musings.

When all else fails in saving the planet, there’s always more yarn. Welcome to Seaside Yarn & Fiber that just opened this past October here in Seaside, Oregon. This nice little shop is next door to a bakery and next to it is Beach Books. After collecting more yarn we headed to the bookstore where Alexa, a very enthusiastic bookworm herself, recommended we grab a copy of Rising Out of Hatred by Eli Saslow. Her solid endorsement convinced us and with it as one of three books we bought she asked that we reach back to her and let her know our thoughts when we finish it. We will.

Into Cannon Beach we had enough time for yet another yarn store and even more yarn. If you are thinking that we are running out of room in the car for anything else, you’d likely be right. This isn’t our first time to many of these yarn stores and here at Coastal Yarns we once again leave with sock yarn that will one day likely grace my feet.

Before dinner I finally dragged this small fragment of my synth out of the trunk and played with a patch for a short while. By the time we were stuffed to the gills following dinner I was hardly able to focus on a return to playing with knobs and patch cables and instead allowed thoughts of the cozy bed to lure me to another great night of coastal sleep and dreaming.

Oregon Coast – Day 3

Long fall nights and short days in the cool climes of Oregon make for some serious cozy sleep as we consistently fail to wake with the sunrise. Being in a yurt requires you to bring your own bedding and so having our feather blanket and pillows from home only adds to the comfort, making it easy to sleep in. Another contributing factor is that we are in a darkened forest and use the justification that there’s not enough available light to take photos so we may as well stay cozy and warm. By the time we finally emerge from the yurt we are already packed up and have had a bite to eat in preparation of exploring the familiar trail awaiting our visit. We know this routine as everything that is going on this morning has been done before, we are well practiced. Our next steps take us out on a loop trail that heads into this most southerly of temperate rain forests here at Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park.

Trying to find something new to say about this trail will probably take my words down the path of those already written here more than a few times. Talking of the quality of light, the shades of green, or dew covered mosses are now well worn tropes I will have to revisit unless I can find some other angle to deliver how they talk to me on yet another trek through their home.

Maybe our visit is more like small talk made with an old friend where you needn’t say anything in particular but simply walk through old memories reminiscing about the warm thoughts you keep around. Caroline and I rarely actually talk with one another here in this forest, as we are both intent on hearing every detail that makes itself available. From the trickling streams to water dripping off the lichen upon the ferns below, we listen. Occasionally a bird offers a quiet call and we strain our ear to hear if another bird in the distance answers. Sometimes I stand especially still hoping to catch the sound of a mushroom breaking out of the earth or maybe a newt stepping gingerly over the damp forest floor.

The sun enters silently, though its light screams vibrantly through the mist, delivering god rays upon areas of the forest that seem to receive direct sunlight only rarely. We look into that light flirting with blindness as subtle rainbows on the edges of the rays can be seen from just the right angles. When a mushroom or particular patch of undergrowth is the beneficiary of the fleeting light show we scramble over to see the magic of momentary full illumination and once again exclaim our incredible good fortune at being here.

This is a common pose on the trail, we call it “imitating trees.”

We are lucky to be out here early in the chilled morning before others start down this trail. I cannot tell you that they are as observant of this pristine forest as I believe we are. We’ve heard people in the distance who are apparently trying to be the apes of the forest letting their call be heard in order to establish primacy through loud vocalizations. Others bring their dogs and must be oblivious to their barks or believe the noise is keeping bears at a distance. These acts of serenity pollution only work to spoil their visit by ensuring they miss fully half the experience of being in such a beautiful place. Too bad this isn’t called a church or hospital as I believe then they would at least make some small attempt at being respectful.

No matter the number of times we’ve visited Carl G. Washburne we’ve seen something new; even the old feels new. This mushroom that looks crocheted to Caroline is one of those new things. As for the old things, we are content to not only be such ourselves but have thoroughly enjoyed our time among the others.

From this favorite spot nearly in the middle of the Oregon coast we continued our drive north stopping in Newport for some lunch. The Newport Cafe was once again chosen though this time we opted to not up the ante and go for the 8-pound burger though I worked hard on trying to convince Caroline that the photo opportunity alone would make it worthwhile. Instead it was time for an oyster sandwich for her and a seafood scramble for me. Even though we had coffee with our lunch we still had to stop at Dutch Bros. for yet more coffee because Oregon demands that you always drink more coffee.

Our destination tonight is the most northwestern point in Oregon at Fort Stevens State Park and so that we don’t have to drive a lot under dark skies on narrow twisting cliffside roads we try to get serious about moving ourselves along. We didn’t get far before we spotted the pull off for Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge that we’ve passed many times but always failed to stop for. Not today will this go unexplored, we are soon out of the car and seeing what we can.

Every time prior to heading up the coast there’s a feeling that we’ve seen the majority of what’s to be seen. Then once we arrive and start looking deeper at the landscape we discover places that we’ve been aware of and are even somewhat familiar with, but we realize that we’ve never properly gotten out and spent time there. The trail map shows us the best way to witness Siletz Bay, traveling by small boat. Unfortunately we don’t own kayaks nor do we know where to rent them nearby and so we’ll have to be happy to walk the short trail around Alder Island.

Alder Island is undergoing a restoration in what looks like an attempt to save the shore from disappearing into the wetlands. When we pulled up to the small parking lot there was one other car here, but there’s been no sign of others. Maybe they had a canoe with them and are somewhere out on the looping waterway?

If only Caroline and I could figure out a way to eke out a living here on the coast we could call this home. Time to hit the road again.

That stop at Siletz wasn’t our last one. We had a date with the Tillamook Creamery and their newly finished supersized visitor center. While others stop for a factory tour or maybe to load up on some cheese, Caroline had her sights set on a scoop of Marionberry Pie ice cream. Note to management: she’d prefer you leave the pie crust chunks out of the ice cream and focus on the marionberry.

After checking into our deluxe cabin at Fort Stevens State Park we drove into Astoria for some dinner. Our first choice proved too laden with darkness combined with a limited menu and so we headed over to a little Bosnian place called Drina Daisy where we split a rotisserie roasted lamb plate for two. A quick stop at Fred Meyers because we didn’t bring towels and we were once again in the super dark forest ready to write and knit. Well that lasted maybe an hour before we were lulled to sleep by the serenity of the woods and nearby ocean.

Oregon Coast – Day 2

Caroline Wise and John Wise on the Oregon State Line

Is this age rearing its ancient head? We slept for nearly 10 hours. Sure, we had fitful sleep the night before due to not being in our own bed and yes we’d driven 700 miles to get to our motel yesterday, but we dropped into bed by 9:15 last night, certain we didn’t need an alarm. Well, that was until the blackout shades let us sleep until 7:15. So it goes. We were on our way to Oregon in the rain and from the looks of things we’d be in rain all day. Approaching the border we were anticipating taking a selfie of the state sign until we saw the “Stateline Cannabis” shop sign letting us know that this was the first stop in Oregon where we could buy recreational weed. Good thing we were hungry for breakfast instead of edibles, otherwise the rest of the day might have been spent right here in the car.

Caroline Wise at By My Hand Fabric and Yarn Store in Brookings, Oregon

I thought we came to the coast to indulge our senses with the sea, sand, ocean breezes, and lots of coffee, but Caroline had other ideas, such as seducing her need to fondle yarn, eyeball wool, and capture notions. Welcome to our version of communing with the rampaging hordes on Black Friday. We are in Brookings, the southernmost town of coastal Oregon, and we are visiting what will likely be one of many yarn stores along the way. This particular shop is called By My Hand Fabric and Yarn Store.

Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, Oregon

The rain has stopped, but not the threat. In reading that last word you should not infer negative connotations, as they are not intended. Our sojourns on the Oregon coast on so many late November visits are with the full awareness that should a tempest howl at our presence we are here to bask in its persistent ferocity. While others may associate sun and frolicking in the surf as de rigeur elements in order for fun to be pursued, we are content not only with that scenario but also with the melancholy gray and wet brought by a late fall transitioning to winter. Remember this view from Harris Beach State Park as we’ll be back a week from today on our way south before starting our return to Phoenix.

Lone Ranch on the Oregon Coast

The berries at Lone Ranch are gone with the passing of summer just as the tourists are. We are out here alone on the hunt for all things still wrapped in beauty. Occasionally we find a small blackberry but we are yet to find one at this time of year that doesn’t make us pucker at the sour it is able to deliver.

Slug at Lone Ranch on the Oregon Coast

Wildlife abounds for those willing to find it while out on the lonely path. Just right there on the side of the trail was an elusive banana slug who held fast and steady trying to remain quiet so as to not draw our attention. It was almost successful until it poked one of its antennae out scanning the world when the motion caught my peripheral vision allowing me to hone in on its camouflaged spot among the grasses. Let this be a warning that rice-free banana slug sushi is not good eating, or so says my wife.

Lone Ranch on the Oregon Coast

The mystery and misty beauty of trees bathed in low fog below heavy skies is the equivalent in art value of works any of the Dutch masters offered as they looked at their European world so many hundreds of years ago. We are not necessarily connoisseurs (though I have been known to behold some of those qualities) as much as aware humans that enjoy the luxury of making relatively small sacrifices in order to put ourselves in places where the payoff can only be in enjoying every possible moment offered by nature and the passage of time.

Lone Ranch on the Oregon Coast

Just as the intricacy of this developing pattern on a piece of driftwood has taken form and the surf has tossed it on the crashing waves before it landed at this location, we too are developing patterns of knowledge and experiences that life tosses on its waves of chaos. We then present to one another the self that draws the other in to find the qualities that might make it worthwhile to invest in appreciating what we’ve become. The alternative is to sink to the ocean floor in the dark abyss of being lost in the mud, of ceasing to exist.

Cape Ferello Viewpoint on the Oregon Coast

Our progress up the road is being hampered by the need to take every left turn that leads us to the sea or at least as close as we will get. Cape Ferello viewpoint is our third stop of the morning, not counting the yarn store and breakfast at Mattie’s Pancake House. It’s been some years since we’ve visited the south coast of Oregon. On previous visits to the state we’ve flown in to Portland. From there we drive out along the Columbia river to Astoria before starting our trek south, rarely progressing much past Newport. Many of our earliest visits to Oregon started right down here and so the return feels as though we are visiting an old friend.

Cape Ferello Viewpoint on the Oregon Coast

Maybe Caroline and I are like a moss, never really able to separate ourselves from the host? Our time on the Oregon Coast hand-in-hand is in some ways similar to this image. The moss does not care if it is sunny or rainy, windy or calm, seen or unseen. It is in a symbiotic relationship where existence and togetherness is realized perfectly in its natural setting. Our natural setting is when we are inside or outside exploring and finding our most human characteristics: a sense of wonder, love, and learning something new during these short lives we’ve been afforded.

House Rock Viewpoint on the Oregon Coast

Have we ever visited House Rock before? We may have pulled off the 101 and glanced at the overview in years past, maybe we even walked one side of the trail or the other. I might check my old blog entries, but we rarely have a strong enough signal out here to do so at the moment we are wondering. I suppose I should have kept a list of places we visited in Oregon but never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be back again and again. So today ended up being like the first time or maybe it was in fact the first time we stopped here. Faced with the decision to take the north or south trail, something about the southern path down through the forest drew me towards it.

Caroline Wise at House Rock Viewpoint on the Oregon Coast

While still out here at House Rock the sun cuts through the clouds giving us our first glimpse of blue sky and even casts rays upon Caroline’s face. Basking in the sun she suggests that one of these days we should plan on hiking between the parks along the Oregon Coast Trail. This then might hopefully work as a reminder to her and myself, should we just so happen to read it prior to our next trip to Oregon.

Pistol River North on the Oregon Coast

Stopping at every turnoff is slowing our progress to a near crawl which is the perfect speed for snails to travel at. It’s already 1:00 pm and we still have more than 100 miles to drive before arriving at our yurt at Carl G. Washburne State Park. With less than four hours of sunlight left we tell ourselves that we should make a serious effort to get up the road, but then we’re confronted with the question whether we’d ever walked along the beach here at Pistol River North before? We decided that we hadn’t and that we should take advantage of our break in the weather to enjoy the daylight and fair weather.

Caroline Wise at Pistol River North on the Oregon Coast

Our mission was to find a piece of seaweed long enough for Caroline to jump rope; we accomplished that task. Next up: finding wings to try the Icarus trick from one of the local cliff sides.

Sisters Rock Viewpoint on the Oregon Coast

We try to forge our way ahead and drive north but every beautiful horizon demands we pull over before clouds obscure the view and rain has us wishing we’d stay in the car where it is warm and dry. This is Sisters Rock and the reason why it is known as that was not made clear to us on this day.

Sisters Rock Viewpoint on the Oregon Coast

This was our first chance on this trip to see the sun glistening on the surface of the ocean from high above the sea. The silver gleam delights the two of us without fail. We have seen this countless other times and each encounter with this sight elicits our oohs and aahs, as though we were witnessing it for the very first time. We should never be in the state of mind where we take this for granted, especially when we consider that the majority of humanity will never see this for themselves even once during their lives.

From the dock at Port Orford, Oregon

We have stood here at the dock at Port Orford many a time and on one occasion even had the chance to feel that we were looking into the deep sea right from the dock. The ocean was wickedly angry with the wind howling mad that day. The view here has never looked the same way twice here, or so says my memory. I wonder if people that live in the area ever notice how dynamic the shifting views are?

Caroline Wise at Griff's On The Dock in Port Orford, Oregon

Not exactly hungry but that doesn’t matter because Griff’s On The Dock is open. Plenty of previous visits to the dock and Griff’s was closed, better take advantage of this when we can. For years we had to wonder if this joint was ever open as we could not time our visits to coincide with when those opening hours were actually happening. In any case, who doesn’t have room for a pot of steamed clams and a beer in the middle of a sunny afternoon along the sea?

Griff's On The Dock in Port Orford, Oregon

Due to the timing of our visits the fishing boats of Port Orford are typically out of the water and up on the dock for the season. Caroline is certain that we’ve seen Moxie down there at the end of the line of fishing vessels on everyone of our previous visits. Knowing her memory, she’s probably right.

Caroline Wise at The Wool Company in Bandon, Oregon

Welcome to yarn shop number two; The Wool Company in Bandon, Oregon. Caroline wasn’t just fondling the goods, she was taking those with her.

Caroline Wise at My Yarn Shop in Coos Bay, Oregon

My Yarn Shop in Coos Bay has to be the most well stocked yarn store on all the earth. From top to bottom and from front to back this place has a little (sometimes a lot) of every yarn brand and type made in the past 20 years. Caroline saw yarns she’d read about but had no idea of where to get them anymore. It should be noted that this is the first time in Caroline’s lifetime that she’s visited three yarn stores in a single day. I supposed if you asked her she’d tell you that this was the best Black Friday ever.

Luna Sea Fish House in Yachats, Oregon

We made it to our yurt under the dark of night. After a quick drop off of our stuff we headed north another dozen miles to Yachats and the home of Luna Sea Fish House. This is our second visit since first learning of this establishment and again they didn’t fail to delight us with some great steamers, scallops, ling cod, and halibut. In all we dined on a bit over a pound of fresh fish and Caroline even had the chance to try mincemeat pie for the first time in her life.

Back at the yurt we were lulled to sleep in minutes as the patter of raindrops struck the canvas roof while the crashing ocean in the distance gave company to our dreams.