After visiting Alie and Michelle’s cousins, we headed back to the coast, first driving through the rugged Hellgate Canyon where a scene from the movie Rooster Cogburn was filmed. The Bear Camp Coastal Road is closed in the winter, and we saw plenty of signs saying it was closed, but the Oregon DOT website listed it as open, so we forged on. The road is paved except for spots where it had given way in the winter. Most of the approximately sixty miles is two-lane although there is also a long stretch that is one-lane with wide spots to pass on-coming traffic.
Fortunately there was not much traffic. Counting a parked truck, we saw three vehicles. But wouldn’t you know, one was on a narrow snow-walled portion that required me to back up because I was closest to a wide spot – I love my Jeep’s back-up camera.
The fog was thick, and one could not see much of the valleys, but that gave the road its own unusual beauty. When we finally did get down to the coastal community of Gold Beach, we learned the road had just opened that day and would officially open the next weekend.
I met Hugh in 1973 when he was a very liberal Democrat working for the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee and I was a rather conservative
Republican working for the Nixon Administration at the Department of Labor. Today’s politicians take note: despite our political differences, Hugh and I have been friends almost forty years. Therefore, I had to say hello to his brother Dave who publishes Backwoods Home in Gold Beach.
Fortunately, Gold Beach is a small town. The young woman behind the counter at a book store was able to direct me to Dave’s “shop” next to the Subway. When Dave wasn’t in, assistant Jeff urged us to come back and directed us to Mike at a myrtle wood gift shop. Mike showed us his workshop and told us how he acquired the hardwood which just grows on the Pacific coast. Finally, we returned to Dave’s shop. A picture of the two of us taken on my phone (we have finally moved into the 20th century, if not the 21st) was emailed off to Hugh, and we were on our way again.
We found this portion of the coastal highway to be the most beautiful we had been on. The coast is rugged. The rainforest comes down to meet the sea. And as it is spring, every path is lined with an incredible variety of flowers.
We walked back the heavily-wooded John Dellenback trail at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area to get a glimpse of the magnificent sand dunes along the coast at that point.
Later,at Cape Perpetua, where the mountains come right down to the water, we walked another trail among the volcanic rock in order to watch waves crash in and rush up narrow channels to create water spouts. It was mesmerizing and hard to leave.
Finally settled in to our motel by the Columbia River in Astoria, we heard “seals” barking outside our windows. I took a walk and found they were actually sea lions who were resting all along the Port’s docks. I was able to walk to within ten feet of one when I thought better of it. He outweighed me by about five hundred pounds.