Saturday, October 18, 2014

Oregon Coast Romantic Rock Hounding

Oregon Coast Romantic Rock Hounding

When things get a bit stressful and life is pushing in on you past your accepted boundaries, it may be time to consider an Emergency Coast Rendezvous (ECR). As one might suspect, ECR requirements tend to soar as the After Work Sun Availability (AWSA) dwindles. This is how my Kayak Partner and I found ourselves on the road to the coast on an early Friday afternoon just around the equinox (autumnal). She had suggested a yurt with kayaks. I had agreed. She had revised to a condo with Kayaks. I had agreed. We ended up in a plush resort with no kayaks. I also agreed. I mean...... you get your own Robe !! And they have a spa!! And there is a rumor of..... wait for it....... Agates!
(Editor's note:  the reservations were a direct result of what happens when life is pushing in on you past your acceptable limits)

(Special Alert for those of my readers that have some off color expectation for blogs that have the word 'Romantic' in the title: “Robe” is all you get. Perhaps later, in my Novel)

Clouds and perhaps threatening rain in Portland. On the Coast? Sun, Sun, Sun!! It is like a weather inversion weekend. You will hear more non-complaining from me on this.

Sun on the Beach (At Fogarty Creek)

There are a lot of places to stay up and down the Oregon Coast. Some are modern establishments, and some are old kitsch 50's style mom and pop joints left over from another age. This weekend we are staying in yet a third type of place, the “old posh golf club resort”. This arose out of logging fortunes and was actually built on an old logging site. The great big tree stump out front has a great big brass plaque celebrating the life of the stump as a WWI fighter plane.

Yes, you guessed it, we are staying at Salishan on the bluff's overlooking Siletz Bay in the south of Lincoln City. Not only is it built up on the hillside, it is sort of built up in the Trees. With the building designed to fit around the majesty of the old growth forest. Well, unless the old growth forest got in the way, then we would have the majesty of an old dead stump in the breezeway. Still, you gotta admire wood.

My first thought upon driving up was noticing the many people out on the putting green in their Resort Robes. “Oh,” I thought, “This must be a custom of the insanely rich to go golfing in their Robes. They certainly seem to be having a great time.” I mentioned how cool I thought Robe Putting was to the front desk clerk and she frowned and hurried off out the back door. When we emerged from the lobby with our room keys the Robe Putters were no longer visible. Perhaps they had moved to the driving range (kayak partner points out that “drinking range” is more likely).

Our room was very nice. Up on the third floor with a view of the upper canopy and a fireplace. There may have been a bed. I will have to consult with my kayak partner about that.

For once I was really glad we did not bring the Kayaks. Lugging those things around takes a lot of work. But that isn't the bad part. The bad part is that once you have gone through all of the work of lugging them you feel obligated to use them. And using them just eats a day. Good exercise, good fun, great adventure, but eats the day. We were looking for something more open ended and relaxing. We went rock hunting.

There are a lot of resources you can get on finding interesting minerals on the Oregon Coast. All of those resources advise that the best time to go is “in the Late Winter or Early Spring after a Storm”. The idea is that you want to get there after the storm surge and rain have washed the top level of sand off of the beach and exposed the underlying rock and newly churned gravel. You also want to get there at low tide and before anyone else gets there and takes all of your good stuff. If you read between the lines here, you will see that the WORST time to go is in the late Summer or Autumn when the sand has washed in and covered the rocks and all of the readily available good stuff has been previously scoured or buried. So the haul we are going to get this weekend is a data point for the Worst Time.

Duly Noted.

We picked out a few beaches up and down the coast from our base of operations and set out on a mission of discovery.

I wanted to make a point here. Have you noticed that I keep referring to the “Oregon Coast” and not “The Beach”? This is a distinction that Oregonians insist on making. I believe this is partially to discourage people from California from showing up on their waterfront but it is also to draw attention to the fact that you don't go to the ocean to go sailing and surfing and swimming and laying in the Sun. Not In Oregon. You go to take long walks in the rain and enjoy the stark and majestic Coast Line. My Son learned this idea one Spring Break when he visited me from Southern California. I asked him what he wanted to do and he said, “Let's go the beach!!”. I figure he wanted to see bikinis and I was new enough to Oregon to entertain that as a sane idea in April. So we packed up the car and headed that way. Going over the coast range on Highway 26 the temperature dropped 20 degrees and it started to snow so hard that we had to detour into the Rest Stop for a while. We built a snowman. First one he had ever made. Spring Break on the Oregon Coast.

I don't know what all this talk about The Beach is about.  I went to The Beach in California a few times.  Once I went to Santa Monica for a training.  The beach was beautiful except for the two feet of trash that lined the entire coastline.  So much trash that I couldn't walk in the sand safely.  So I thought I'd walk in the park on the bluff.  There was a beautiful grassy park running the length of the beach.  Full of homeless people.  Not a few, mind you, but on every bench and on the grass and all over.  Not a very pleasant early morning walk for a woman alone visiting The Beach in California.  This past May I was in Carlsbad, during a heat wave.  We had a beautiful room with an ocean view.  I went to The Beach to play in the ocean.  It was full of people.  I mean, there may have been some sand under them all but who could tell? And they weren't doing anything!  Nothing at all!  Just laying around, looking at their phones, and each other.  I don't even think they knew there was a Huge Ocean right there!  I, of course, went swimming, with maybe six other people who dared to touch the water.  OK, it was warm, I must admit.  And the waves were great. Big, fun waves.  When I'd had enough, I got out and couldn't find my stuff.  Where did I leave my stuff?? There are acres upon acres of people laying on the beach, how am I ever going to find a little towel that is mine?  In Oregon people go to the beach to be out in nature.  We play in the sand, get wet in the water, and the rain, and get sandy and sloshy an walk on rocks and try to stay warm (or just get numb quick, that's my best motto).  And there are rarely any other people there, unless you go to Seaside in July...   

But the weather this weekend was sunny and hot and wonderful. Why..... it was Beach weather!

We had set out pretty early on Friday from Portland. I think we just barely stayed ahead of the wave of traffic toward the shore (not beach). We made such great time that we had some sunlight left to go out and look at some beaches. My MIL had said that she has found some nice agates down at the mouth of Schooner Creek, by Mo's. That was only 10 minutes away and so we head over there. On the way we had to drive along the road that runs on the shore side of Siletz bay. This is a really nice tidal estuary area. The bay is typical of many of the Oregon Coast tidal bays. There is a river that dumps in (usually at the north end) and this seems to create a sand buid up that grows into a barrier spit that defines the bay. If you look on the map and follow down the coast you will see this kind of bay pattern repeated a number of times. This one has some really nice dead logs out in it. It also has some rather fierce tidal changes.

So, we park close to Mo's and then walk out on the beach near the mouth of the bay. We got there as the tide was right at its max flow going out and the water was really roaring along. Much faster than you could swim or kayak. There were seals out on the other side playing in the current. We found some little gravel beds and a few nice but tiny stones. We also had a very nice walk down the beach to The Inn at Spanish Head. We got back near the car just in time to watch a wonderful Sunset.

My Partner took this one.

“You know where the good agates are?” asked my Partner. “Over there on the other side of the channel. On the Spit.

The rocks are always better on the oher side of the impassable stream.

Impassable stream

So, we went back to the Resort and had dinner. The food was great, the service was a little iffy. They like to give you plenty of time and not pressure you. While they were doing that we got bored and went and found the hostess and paid her.

We could walk back to our room along this outdooor corridor. It started out at ground level but then went over a bridge through the trees to the other side of the property where our room was located. Very swank. We sat up in our bed later and planned our attack on the rest of the weekend.

The next morning we ate breakfast at the resort. The service still sucked. My partner used to run a place like this and she said it is very hard to get trained waiting staff outside of a big city. Instead of getting the professional waiters, you get the kids that didin't get out of town and go to college.

Oh well, Time to go.

First we headed south, through Depot Bay (Whale watching capitol of the world. Home of the worlds smallest Harbor) to Beaverly Beach State Park that had beach access that was listed as a good spot to rock hound. We found a few pretty stones, but no agates. Next we tried a creek (Fogarty) on the way home. Some interesting gravel beds, some red jasper.

Funny ways to Die at The Coast

We moved on. I wanted to hunt for stones at “Roads End” so headed out there. Roads End is, as one might surmise, the end of the road. I am guessing that at one time this was the actual end of the paved road as it was hard to get around the Cascade Head headland that starts up just north. Perhaps you had to go inland a ways and that was just the end of the beach road (sorry, The Coast Road). Hell, it is still that. Sort of a cool place, you drive out past the Road's End park down a row of cute little beach houses. (Most of these places are for rent, which is yet another way to stay on the beach. We picked a couple out that we might want to try in the future.) Eventually we came to a little 3 car beach parking lot and we set off from there. We picked this weekend as a matter of anti-stress need, we really lucked out with the Sun and More Sun, but the tides were not in our favor. The place we really wanted to get to, which is beyond the end of the beach north of Roads End, is really only accessible during low tide. So, when the tide is low, you can get out around the rocky point into the agate infested beach and cove on the other side. But if you get trapped there by the rising waters you die a horrible death which is filmed by people at the top of the cliffs and posted to You Tube. (or, as happened last week, rescued by helicopter. I will see if I can find that video). However, we were spared that fate by the fact that low tide wasn't going to be until after sunset. Not very easy to hunt Agates in the dark, you know.

These are Rocks embedded in solid (once Molten?) rock

However, we did have a really nice walk down a beautiful beach. The tide was (at least) going out, so we did have a chance to get some of the first occasional stones on the sand. Some of them were very pretty (nice grain) and others were even agates. We went as far north as we could and then started back toward our car (we were getting a bit peckish). Then in the waves ahead, we saw this guy. He was, well, perhaps fishing? He was struggling mightily to do something and he was concentrating on something out in the waves in front of him. Cold waves that were lapping up to his waist but not stopping him from his work... what was that? Something in the water. We were getting closer. There WAS something in the water. It was a dolphin!! NO..... a fish of some........ It is a Mermaid !!
Yes, and he wasn't fishing, he was photographing. He was taking pictures of a Mermaid. We walked closer and took picture of him taking pictures. The mermaid turned out to be a girl in a Mermaid fin and wet suit, but it looked so adorable and fun that we watched for awhile. And then, since it was going to happen whether we participated or not, we stopped and watched the sun set. It was a really great sunset. That was our second one of the weekend.



We had dinner at 101 Roadhouse. Or maybe not. Let me check a map. No, it was Pier 101. This is a quaint local watering hole containing lots of quaint locals. The place was really hopping when we got there and so we ended up in eating at the bar instead of waiting the 20 minutes for a table. I like eating at the bar (on occasion). The people in the bar are usually happy and talkative, they all know the bartender, and the bartender gives good service. The people watching is good too. We had the very young girl (why didn't she get carded?) out with the older guy with a very big beard. Second Date thinks my partner. I was thinking first date. Hard to see how that beard wouldn't be a deal killer. The older couple next to us was dressed in their Saturday Night out Cowboy gear including matching shirts, hats, and boots. He too had something of a beard, but he was a old guy and looked more refined in it. They were pretty cute. The young woman next to them (and they themselves) had just come back from a psychic reading. The young woman was not very impressed. Didn't think the reader was much of a psychic. She put her hand on my shoulder to ask if she could sit beside me, bought herself a shot of whiskey, conversed with the older couple and then disappeared. I find it strange that a seemingly self possessed young professional woman, buying her own whiskey alone at a bar, would be talking to strangers about her expectations vis e vis psychic readers and their magic abilities. Does that show two ways of looking for a man? (Magic and Bar) Or is that just me projecting my sexist attitudes onto the limited data available. Please insert your own interpretation in the comments below. Also please feel free to insert your own facts including mysterious strangers and zombies.

Oh, we had fish for dinner. It was really good. I recommend the place. You might consider shaving off that beard, though (People will talk).

The next morning the sun rose bright and warm once again. What is gong on here? We can't just let a sunny day on the beach go. We must explore more. And it turns out.....

Salishan, the resort, is also Salishan the Golf Country Club and Salishan the ritzydo House by the Golf Course and Ocean place. As such, they have their own private road that winds around the golf course and beach homes until it finds its way out to the end of the spit across from Lincoln City. This spit is a sandbar thrown up by the ocean and the Siletz River and is what creates Siletz Bay. This is the very spit that my partner said the good agates would be found on earlier is this very blog! You need a card key to get through the gate off of the highway. We had one from the Resort that they told us it would work until Noon.

But first we had to pack our stuff and get out to the car. So I am carrying my bag down the stairs to the parking lot and I hear a something hit the roof on the landing above me. What was that. There it happened again. Sounded just like a golf ball hitting the roof. There was another one. What is going on? You know what it is..... this place is so swanky that it has a putting green or perhaps a chipping practice area in their top level rooms. How cool is that? Then I think about it and realize what a silly idea that is. So what is making that noise? Is the sky falling? I get in a positiion where I can see up to the roof and I see a pine cone rolling off the roof and falling to the ground. What? Then I see one fall from a branch. And another one falls. Then I see the squirrel. He is up going along the branch and cutting off one pincone after the next and dumping them onto the roof. Proabably for winter. Sneaky little bugger. He notices me watching him and starts yelling at me. Yeah, Yeah, I am going. Geeze.

We went through the gate, drove a ways, parked at the end of the road and walked the 100 yards across the dunes to the shore. There were a few people walking out there. But not many. It is, essentially, a private access beach. Keeps out the riff raff.

We were directed by a fisherman with a popeye corn cob pipe (perhaps not all of the riff raff) to a little bed of gravel. This was in the sand a few hundred feet south of the parking lot. The gravel was pea to lima bean size and was just below the high tide mark. The tide was making so we had a few hours. (Editor's Note:  The tide was flood, which means coming in.  I can't find anything online about a "making tide" except the title of a fiction book)  Turned out the gravel was full of little agates and it was a little wet still so it wasn't too hard to find them. We ended up laying down in the rocks and digging through the stones and filling up our pockets with treasure. Such fun. Nothing big. Nothing too exotic. But lots of little very round orange and yellow agates.

There Be Agates, ARRRRRRRR

Seals on the Beach.

When we got tired of that we walked out to the end of the spit to see the seals. They were just lazing around. At this point we were across the mouth of the bay from the place we went walking on Friday evening. This time the tide was coming in and the current was not quite as daunting as it had been the other evening. But still, it didn't really look like ideal Kayak Portland Meetup type conditions. I was thinking that we might like to host a KP event out here some time, but I need to figure out good take-in and tide conditions before I do that.

We found a few more agates. We went back to the car.

Then we headed North. Our plan is to have a nice lunch at a place we like and then continue up the coast to 100 Stair Beach and have one final shot at rock hunting before we admit the end of the weekend and start home.

Our wonderful lunch place was right off the road in Nescowin. The Hawk Creek Cafe. It is a very nice little place. We sat on the patio in the last sun of the season and had yummy sandwiches and great service. Go there. Tell them Jon sent you. That always gets a laugh.

I think I want to end this here. I am rambling and it is getting late. And we didn't find any agates at the next place anyway......

Well, 100 stair beach is always scenic

I think that is an agate still in the rock. Left it on the beach for another century or so

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