Seals, Sea Lions and Anemones!

Friday afternoon, I got on the road heading out to the Oregon Coast. Having grown up on the southeast coast, I’m used to long stretches of flat sand with no other defining features than a great many people in bikinis gathered beneath the hateful orb of the sun for the sole purpose of getting skin cancer. I knew that the northwestern coast would be substantially colder, and that the view would therefore be different, but I wasn’t prepared for the enormous disparity between the two. The Oregonians that I’ve spoken to about the coasts have said that, if anything, their coastline resembles Maine more than anything else. And yeah, Maine is on the list. 🙂

Sea Lion Caves – Florence, OR

I arrived at the Sea Lion Caves in Lane County, Oregon at a little after 6pm. The ‘tour’ is $12, and it’s all very tourist trappy. Sure, the cave itself is pretty cool, but there really isn’t much to it. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t really it. This being said, the sea lions made FANTASTICALLY eerie sounds that echoed throughout the sea cave chamber, and I got some decent footage of it, which made me happy.

The Cave

Up at the viewpoint upstairs, you can see the large colony of Sea Lions below, rolling around on top of each other and dipping into and jumping out of the water to sun themselves. They were all very cute – OVER THERE. I’m certain that if I directly encountered one in the wild, the cuteness factor would drop to zero rather quickly. They do, after all, have very large, sharp teeth and are really strong from all the exercise they get chasing down their dinner in the waves and currents along the coastline. Getting killed and eaten by a Sea Lion isn’t really a way in which I’d choose to expire.

Sea Lions of Lane County, OR

With cries that sounded like a chorus of very satiated and lengthy after-dinner burps, they talked to/argued with and nudged each other. Nature is awesome like that. I didn’t spend too much time at the Sea Lion caves, but am still glad I went. (pix from Sea Lion Caves)

Thor’s Well at low tide (Cape Perpetua)

The next stop on the trip was a rock formation on Cape Perpetua called Thor’s Well. I’d seen glorious videos and pictures of it online, and had been wanting to go check it out during my trip around Oregon. Again, I wasn’t prepared for how overwhelming and gorgeous Cape Perpetua itself is, even at low tide. Uncountable numbers of mussels, barnacles and patches of tide pools with bright green sea anemones cover portions of the rock.

Thor’s Well with the tide coming in

The cape is apparently named for the date on which it was sighted by Captain James Cook on March 7, 1778. Spruce, Douglas-fir and western hemlock cover the surrounding hills, along with what looked like loganberries, morning glory flowers and a bevy of other brightly colored flora. A popular place for migrating gray whales, one can usually view the whales from up at the Visitor’s Center. Sadly, I did not see any whales during my visit. At some point before the light went completely out friday night, I wandered all the way down to Thor’s Well, getting fairly close to it. It was pretty dry, since the ocean was at low tide, and I was very eager to see the resulting surf pounding through it at high tide.

Thor’s Well

Shortly after arriving, I walked out to the viewpoint up on the parking deck and ran into the most fascinating guy – Mick, who was just hanging out, taking in the scenery. An older British ex-pat dude of over thirty years, this guy had recently purchased a mobile home and was kinda taking the same trip I was around the country, trying to remind himself – amid the political poison that’s currently infesting the airwaves, what he loved about America. We both agreed that nowhere else in the world can you just pack everything up and drive thousands of miles from coast to coast, encountering WILDLY different types of natural environments, without having to provide a passport. Or without it being a rather enormous and eternal pain in the ass.

Spouting Horn at Cape Perpetua

He was a fascinating guy, and a splendid conversational companion throughout the night as we hung out in his RV at the Cape Perpetua pulloff parking lot, drinking tea and rum and talking politics, social edification issues and generally shooting the shit until 6am the next morning. He kinda reminded me of Ian McShane – very gregarious, mischievous smile. All ’round cool effin’ guy.

Dramatic ocean spray at Cape Perpetua

Throughout the night, we kept popping out of his RV to listen to the sounds of the surf pounding into the rocks far below, then gazing up at the stars through the holes that would appear in the surrounding clouds and mist. Large patches of what looked like somewhat phosphorescent sea schmutz bobbed in the surf, being pushed rather dramatically around by the tide. There was so much mist that when cars would come ’round the corners, their headlights would throw off the most amazing light show.

tide pool at Cape Perpetua

It was one of those brilliant nights where you run into a like minded, utterly engaging person and you don’t want it to end because you’re completely enjoying the conversation and the general event so much. The only downside is that by 6am I was so tired that I’d forgotten to exchange contact information with him, and haven’t seen him again since friday. I do hope his journey’s going well, and that I’ll end up running into him again at some point on the road. Splendid tea that man made. 🙂

Strawberry Hill Wayside – Florence, OR

After I bade Mick farewell, I wandered off to another state park and pulled in to get some rest, but was only able to get about two hours of sleep before it became too hot in the van to continue sleeping. I then got out and wandered around Strawberry Hill, a place Mick had recommended the night before – saying that there were tons of starfish, purple sea urchins and the like to check out around there. I was blown away by how clear the water along the coast is, and how gorgeous the colors in the various tide pools are.

clusters of mussels and starfish at Strawberry Hill Wayside

Brightly colored starfish and sea anemones were everywhere, but there was nary an urchin to be seen 😦 There were, however HARP SEALS! They lay on a section of rocks, lounging and taking in the sun. I watched them for a little bit, then continued my long hike all over the rocks at Strawberry Hill, before going back to Cape Perpetua as the tide was beginning to roll in. Thor’s Well was quite a different sight this time. The ocean did not disappoint as large waves crashed into the rocks, forcing spectacular sprays of water up and out of the well itself. Water would surge in and out at times, almost looking like an aquatic gate to the underworld. It was fantastic! (full run of pix from Cape Perpetua)

tide pool at Strawberry Hill Wayside

I stood damn near the edge of Thor’s Well for about a half an hour, laughing with joy every time I got sprayed with ocean water. Several of the people I spoke with after said that they were worried that the ocean itself would rise up and crash around me, pulling me in – but I just enjoyed the show. Ah, the might of the ocean. Maferefun y Modupue Yemaya! Kindiambo y Nsala Malecun Kalunga! Water always wins.

There’s a section of the rock over by the Spouting Horn where the water makes a low bass THUMPing noise, reverberating along the coast as it the surf rocks along, then slams into into the long curve in the stone. I could feel it shake in my chest cavity every time it happened. At times, it would get loud enough to hear it through the walls of a vehicle.

tiny crab at Strawberry Hill Wayside

Along the rest of the coastline around me, the ruckus continued, sending tall sprays of waves up and over the rocks to splash down refilling the tide pools and softening the sand in between craggy rock surfaces. Just as high tide started to hit its peak, I started shutting down due to lack of sleep. Only two hours really isn’t enough to function, unless you’re under 20. I stopped at the Visitor’s Center and crashed out for about three hours, then drove over to Devil’s Churn – a narrow inlet that ocean water rushes into, crashing up against the sides and the end of the inlet itself. Apparently, during high tide, spray can sometimes reach several hundred feet when reaching the end. Many signs around the Churn warn of the dangers of the area at any time. (pix of Devil’s Churn)

Devil’s Churn

I stayed there for a few minutes, then realized that I was fairly hungry, so I ended up heading north to find a place to eat. Along the way to Newport, I kept stopping at State Parks and RV Parks, but everybody was full up. Unsurprising, really. After all, it was the weekend. Most of the remainder of the day was spent hitting several other parks, which were pretty, but I think I’d used up all of my childlike wonder for the day. Exhausted, I finally found a cheapass motel in Newport and crashed for the night.

Seal Rocks State Park

The next morning, I headed back south to visit Seal Rocks State Park. The coastline in this park is peppered with large, off-shore rock formations that is a habitat for seals, sea lions, a plethora of sea birds and other marine life. As well as a long strip of sandy beach, there are large, low rocks that seem almost to creep up out of the sand. (full run of pix from Seal Rocks State Park)

Seal Rocks State Park

These are covered with seaweed and contain multitudes of tide pools with various kinds of marine plant life. While I saw no seals or sea lions on my walk around Seal Rocks, the place is lousy with seagulls that fly down to bathe, preen and snatch dinner up from the tidal pools. Elephant rock is a protected bird habitat, so they all perch there screeching and darting from place to place. It’s all very lively and beautiful.

Devil’s Punch Bowl

Further north, I discovered a place called Devil’s Punch Bowl. Just spotted the sign along the side of the road as I was moving along, and said to myself, “Self? How can you NOT visit a place with that name?” Unable to argue with this logic, I followed the signs and pulled into Devils Punch Bowl State Natural Area. (pix from Devil’s Punch Bowl State Natural Area)

Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area

It’s a day use park in Lincoln County, Oregon, and features spectacular coastlines along the right side of the walk up to the punchbowl itself. Surfers bobbed out in the surf, sometimes catching waves successfully, but mostly being dumped into the waves. The Punch Bowl itself is a large, naturally formed bowl through which one can look down into and see clear water swirling around the large stones that perhaps formed the top of a cave that collapsed a long time ago.

Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area

Again, completely startled by how clear and clean the water along the coastline is up here. It’s completely wonderful. After walking around for about fourty five minutes, I then headed inland to McMinnville, where I’m currently staying now with a friend of a friend who has been lovely enough to provide me with a place to stay for the next two weeks. Yay, meeting new people, and yay, having a place to stay! Awesome trip continues to be awesome.

I’ll be heading out with them to Devil’s Punch Bowl around midnight sometime this week at low tide. Apparently, at low tide you can walk INTO the Punch Bowl and there are irridescent if not phosphorescent fish and plants throughout the area. VERY exciting!

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One thought on “Seals, Sea Lions and Anemones!

  1. Pingback: TRAVELOG: Seals, Sea Lions and Anemones! | Jhada Addams - Superhero at Large

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