Sunday, June 30, 2019

Foggy Southern Oregon Coast

Fog ruled the weekend.

In early May, I scheduled a repeat of last year's wonderful Southern Oregon coast trip, again traveling to Oregon's most SW corner, the border town of Brookings.

Harris Beach

After an insanely busy month at work, I was more than ready for a few days on the coast.  Driving down the highway, the stress melted away with each passing mile.  By the time I reached my yurt at Harris Beach State Park I'd nearly forgotten all my real life woes.

First night's sunset was a stunner

Upon arrival, of course the first order of business was to head for the beach!  I was more than ready for a spectacular ocean sunset.  And that night the skies delivered.

Sunset afterglow

Oh yeah, this was what I'd traveled here for!  Lingering on the beach after the sun had finally dropped watching waves crash against the rocks, I was totally relaxed.  Here for three days, I looked forward to more colorful evenings.

Second night's foggy sunset wasn't so great

Except.....that sunset was as colorful as things got.  On day two, driving back from my jet boat ride (read about it here), I hit a fog bank about 5 miles North of Brookings.  The state park, along with it's shoreline, were totally socked in.  Although I still went to the beach that evening, all I got was one quick burst of light before the sun sunk behind the clouds.

Meyers Beach

Day three, I awoke to fog and mist.  I'd planned to hike several short trails along the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor that were known for fantastic coastline views.  But the blah skies wouldn't make great photographs, so I headed north to see if I could escape the fog.  Nope.

Not much color

I finally ended up at Meyers Beach.  The sea stacks rising out of the clouds were kind of scenic and drew me in.  And there was a short 2-mile hike along the beach concluding with a quick climb up to Cape Sebastian.  Better than nothing.

Foggy hills above the beach

I followed Meyers Beach to its very north end, past tall sea stacks and wave-sculpted rocks.  I was totally by myself save for a small group of vultures congregating on a nearby hill (hmmm.....maybe that's not a good sign)

Deep purple wild iris

The beach dead-ended into a tall, sandy slope.  Someone had left a rope tethered into a few stakes to help hikers scramble uphill.  Although it looked kind of sketchy, I successfully hoisted myself up the steep section.  There was actually a trail on top, and it wandered through a thick coastal forest.

Cape Sebastian

Adventurous curiosity won out over caution, and I followed the trail as it climbed past a few patches of lovely purple iris.  It didn't take long before I came to a clearing.  A huge expanse of light-colored rock dropped off to the churning ocean below.  This must be Cape Sebastian!

Churning waves below Cape Sebastian

By now the fog had cleared enough to glimpse the ocean and  a few nearby sea stacks.  Considering the weather, I was happy for any views.

Selfie for the blog

I had a snack, snapped a quick selfie, and then retraced my steps back through the forest and down to the beach. 

Another lovely iris

One portion of the beach was a bit narrow and with the incoming tide, I was concerned about getting trapped.  That was my motivation not to linger too long on Cape Sebastian.  But no worries, although the tide had come in a bit, there was still plenty of sand to walk on.


I passed by the vultures once again, and remembering the tips from my friend Cheri, tried to capture a few action shots.

Cape Sebastian from Meyers Beach

I took one final look back at the tree-lined cape in the fog before returning to my car.

Lovely unnamed cove off of the Boardman Scenic Corridor

Where to go next?  It was still extremely foggy.  But after traveling a long distance to be here I wasn't about to sit in my yurt.  Bad weather or not, I headed back to the Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor. 

Oregon Coast Trail wound through here

Stopping at an unmarked pullout I'd noticed earlier I walked along a short portion of the Oregon Coast Trail to an overlook.  Below was a pretty cove, it's green-blue waters surrounded by lush cliffs.  Time to have a closer look.

The iris were thick!

I followed a rough user trail nearly all the way out to the point of the furthest rocky sea stack.  Along the way I passed fields of lovely purple iris.

Iris patch

The flowers were so thick here!  And one advantage to cloudy skies, it made the colors pop.

View from Thunder Cove

Moving on, I returned to my car and drove to the parking area for Thunder Cove.  One of my favorites from last year's trip, I followed a short trail to this breathtaking ocean viewpoint.  The rugged coastline stretched out before me with rows of seastacks.

Beautiful mossy coastal forest

Through photography forums I'd heard of a nearby place called Secret Beach.  It was supposed to be an especially lovely location to capture sunrise and sunsets.

Secret Beach

From Thunder Rock Cove, a primitive sign directed hikers to "the beach."  Tired from a long day of hiking, I'd skipped this trail last year and regretted it.  I wasn't going to miss out again.  Time for more exploration!

Sea stacks at Secret Beach

This steep, rooty trail dived downhill and wound through thick, mossy forest.  Parts of these woods were downright spooky.  I began to wonder if this was a good idea.

Fairy Bells

But after a long downhill trek (at least it seemed to take forever!) I came upon a clearing.  Perched on a rocky peninsula, it jutted out over the ocean.  About 10 feet straight below was a tiny beach lined with sea stacks.  It was indeed a pretty place.  However, I could see that I'd have to slide down a rocky slope to access.  Tired from my downhill trek, and seeing the incoming tide (and not wanting to get trapped) I decided to admire from above. (Later that evening, reading my guidebook, I found out that this isolated place was indeed Secret Beach.)

Thunder Rock Cove

On my way back, I made one final stop at the overlook to Thunder Rock Cove.  The series of wave-eroded arches always make good photo subjects (even on cloudy days!)

The fog cleared for a decent sunset

That night, I again headed down to Harris Beach for another sunset try.

Sinking through the cloud layers

Although a bit better than the previous night, I only got one brief flash of color before the sun hid below a band of low clouds.

Looking into China Beach

My final morning I had time for one quick hike before checkout.  I decided to hike down to China Beach, another scenic spot recommended by photographers.

Wild strawberry flower

Again, as with many of the trails along the Boardman Scenic Corridor, this beach trail is not signed, and I relied on vague directions from an online source.  From the parking area, right away I took the wrong trail and ended up on a clifftop looking down at the beach.

China Beach

The forest had a lot of primitive user trails, and I took one more dead end before finally getting on the right track.  The trail to China Beach wasn't very long, but I probably traveled double the distance just trying to find the correct trail.  And sadly, once I arrived, the foggy weather didn't really produce good light for photography.  Guess I'll have to try again on a sunny day.

Of course, the fog cleared as I was leaving!

Speaking of sun.......After packing my car for the day's trip north to Bandon I headed up Hwy 101.  Not 10 miles north of Brookings, the clouds suddenly cleared.  I could see blue sky again!  Of course the sun decided to come out on the day I was leaving.

Sea stack view from Arch Rock Pullout

But my trip wasn't over yet.  I planned to spend a night in Bandon, one of my favorite towns on the Oregon coast.  Surely these sunny skies would hold on for sunset photos.

Or would they?  Find out in my next post.....

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Ridin' the Rogue

Ever wanted to take a jet boat ride on a wild and scenic river?  Driving by the coastal town of Gold Beach last year I glimpsed a sign for Jerry's Rogue Jets, a company offering guided jet boat rides up Southern Oregon's Rogue River.  It looked like a lot of fun.  Intrigued, I told myself "I gotta do this sometime."

Fast forward to late April - while planning this year's annual Southern Oregon Coast trip, on a whim I decided to treat myself and gave Jerry's a call.  I told my hubby to think of it as an early Mother's day gift.

Jet boats in Gold Beach harbor

A repeat of last year's journey, in early May I traveled as far south as you can go on the Oregon Coast to a state park yurt in Brookings, Oregon.  The town of Gold Beach, my meeting spot for the jet boat ride, was 25 miles north.  The morning of my scheduled ride, I rose early and arrived with plenty of time to stroll around the dock, snapping photos of colorful jet boats waiting in the early morning sunshine.

My ride for the day

Jerry's Rogue Jets offered three different trips, a 64-mile, 80-mile, and 104-mile "wilderness whitewater."  It didn't take me long to decide which one I would take.  Anything with wilderness and whitewater in the name had to be fun.  Sign me up!

104 mile round-trip journey up the Rogue River

On the wall of Jerry's office was a detailed map showing their tour routes.  From the coastal town of Gold Beach (at the mouth of the Rogue River), the boat would travel upriver 52 miles to Blossom Bar Rapids, before turning around and riding the river back.

The Rogue is divided into different sections.  The day's trip would start out in the recreational section, pass through the scenic section and finally end up in the wild portion of the river.  The Rogue was one of 8 rivers originally included in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.  Portions of forest land adjacent to the Rogue are roadless.  Homes and lodges in these stretches are only reachable by boat or helicopter (or hiking).  Jet boats were originally used to deliver mail to these remote outposts.  The upper Rogue River is often shallow and rocky, and the jet propulsion system allowed boats to safely traverse these hazards.

Issac Lee Patterson Bridge

This sunny spring day brought out the customers.  There were so many people wanting a jet boat ride that Jerry's had to add second boat to their lineup.  All seats are first-come, first serve, so wanting to get a good seat on the first boat I cued behind a short line next to the dock.  As I was waiting a big pickup pulled up and a very loud, obnoxious large man rolled out, jabbering incessantly about seeing seals in the bay.  Ugh - I hoped he didn't end up on my boat.

Another view of the bridge

Finally our captain opened the gate and escorted the first group down to the dock.  After explaining, "the front seats get splashed the most and the back seats have the smoothest ride," he let us choose our spots.  I slid into the middle section, and claimed a seat on the outer edge.  I wanted an unobstructed vantage point for photos.

For awhile I was all alone in my row.  Secretly hoping I'd get the entire row to myself, my hopes were dashed when I heard a loud voice, and looked up to see the large obnoxious man from the parking lot lowering himself into the boat.  He slid down my row - and plopped himself right next to me!

Lucky salmon fisherman

I eyed the row behind me, which was still empty, and tried to decide if it would be rude to suddenly change places.  But the man held out his hand and introduced himself and his wife.  He seemed friendly, so I smiled back, shook his hand and decided to give him a chance.

Towards the wilderness

Although sunny, the morning air was chilly, and I'd donned three layers to keep warm.  Our boat captain introduced himself (but of course I can't remember his name - that's what I get for writing this blog post two months later!) and slowly maneuvered the boat into Gold Beach's wide harbor.  We motored under the lovely Issac Lee Patterson Bridge, which carried US 101 traffic across the Rogue River.  Once safely on the other side, our captain warned us to "hold onto our hats."  With that, he gunned the motor and our boat shot upstream.  I just barely caught my hat before it flew off.

Buzzing the fishing boats

Our boat effortlessly glided across the water.  We passed wide gravel bars and rolling low hills covered in trees, bright green with new spring foliage.  The lower (recreational) portion of the Rogue was full of fishing boats, their occupants all trying for spring salmon.  At each boat, our captain slowed down and asked if they'd had any luck.  One man proudly held up his catch for us to see - a nice, fat salmon!

Blue heron sighting!

Wildlife was abundant on the Rogue.  Right away, our captain pointed out osprey and blue heron. One blue heron even posed on a rock for us.  Not knowing how much splashing would occur, I'd opted to bring my smaller Fujifilm mirrorless camera and lens (easier to stash under my rain jacket if things got wet and wild).  Now wishing I'd brought my big zoom lens, I had to make do with a measly 18-55 mm landscape lens.  (Can you spot the blue heron in the above photo?)

Nice reflections

Then our eagle-eyed captain spotted a weasel peeping out of some shoreside rocks.  He slowly edged the boat closer.  The weasel was on my side, and I got a front row view of him.  The little guy lingered just long enough to snap a few good images.

Our captain spotted a weasel

The scenery was incredible  Steep cliffs rose from each side of the river, thickly covered in trees and other vegetation.  Waterfalls tumbled from cracks in the rocks.  Everything was so lush and green.  After passing into the scenic portion of the Rogue, we saw no houses or other structures.  It truly looked wild.  Our captain said there was only one long, winding Forest Service road to serve some of the tiny towns along the river.  And that road ended at the hamlet of Illahe, about 35 miles upriver from Gold Beach.

Landslide aftermath

When the boat was zipping along at full speed, it got mighty cold.  I pulled my jacket's hood over my  head (kept my hat from flying off too) and placed hands into pockets.  But luckily there were many stops - to look at scenery, say hello to fellow boaters, or when someone spotted wildlife.  Our captain pointed out a huge landslide on one side of the river, likely caused by last winter's heavy rains.  

One of the many riverside waterfalls

Spring runoff was in full force, causing numerous waterfalls to gush from side creeks.  Simply lovely! 

Photo op

Due to the morning's chilly temperatures, our captain was careful not to splash his customers too much.  (I suspect midsummer riders aren't as fortunate)  But upon reaching a wider spot in the river, he gunned the motor, cranked the wheel, and whipped our boat into a 360 degree spin.  People whooped as water splashed over the boat front and sides.  Oh how exhilarating!

Fishing platform

Onward up the river our jet boat sped, gliding like silk across the water's surface.  I was amazed how close the boat got to the many rocks sticking up in the current, only to smoothly veer away at the last minute. 

We passed many river rafters

We passed by a floating fishing platform, complete with holders for fishing rods.  Further upriver, our boat began to meet a few rafting parties.  Several companies offer guided raft tours of the entire Rogue, from the town of Grants Pass to Gold Beach.  But private raft trips are regulated.  Running the Rogue has become so popular, a lottery system was enacted to keep the river from being overrun with people.

Tree growing out of a rock

Further upriver the riverside became steeper, and canyon walls on either side moved closer together.  The shoreline now consisted of huge rocks, tumbled down from vertical cliffs above.  One rock must've been in place for awhile as it had a tree growing on top.

My river view

Our boat passed by the confluence of the Illinois River, another wild and scenic river draining from the Klamath Mountains in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Fantastic scenery

Beyond the Illinois was the tiny riverside village of Agness.  High time for a potty break, our boat tied up at their dock and the captain directed passengers uphill to Cougar Lane Lodge.  Perched on a hill above the river, it was a stunning setting for a country inn.  The place featured a full service restaurant (our lunch stop later that afternoon), rooms, campground and a general store, where I purchased a much-needed bottle of water.  (Jet boating makes one thirsty!)

Another tiny waterfall

Beyond Agness the river transitioned into churning whitewater rapids.  Returning from our break, the captain instructed passengers to don lifejackets for this next segment.  Ulp!  Things were about to get real!

Time to run the rapids!

Upriver we sped, past a few remote lodges, only accessible by boat, hiking, or helicopter. The scenery continued to impress, with steep, rocky shorelines and tall, forested canyon walls.  Then we hit our first rapid.  The boiling water, spilling over several rocks looked mighty intimidating.  But our boat bounced over with no problem, save a few huge splashes.  What fun!

Here's a video so my readers can experience it too.

Getting up close and personal with this waterfall

Our boat jostled through several more rough patches, we passengers getting doused with spray.  I was impressed by how easily the jet boat navigated the rapids.  Now I understood why they were preferred over regular prop motors.  Finally we came to Blossom Bar Rapids, the end of our day's journey.  The boat hung out below the churning water, watching a group of rafts bounce through before turning around. 

Rafters setting up camp

But our captain had other tricks up his sleeve.  It was now past noon, the day warming up considerably since our chilly start.  Spotting a nearby waterfall, he drove the boat up to it's very base, giving front row passengers an up close and personal (although wet!) view.

The other jet boat passes by

Then it was back downriver, seeing familiar sights once again.  We passed by a group of rafters camped out on a gravel bar.  And we met the second tour boat, heading up to Blossom Bar.


Everyone smile and wave!

And just for fun, whenever our boat hit any wide, calm spots in the river, our captain threw in a few more 360 spins.  Wheee! 

Bear sighting!

We were almost back to Agness when our captain slowed the boat and directed everyone's attention to a spot high up a tall cliff.  A tiny black spot was moving near the top.  It was a bear!  Wow!  Now I really regretted not packing my big lens.  Of course, I tried to take photos anyway, but the bear only showed up as a very small black dot.

Ok, now do you see the bear?

A little creative cropping later, and now you can see that it was indeed a black bear.  Our captain said the bears had just come out of hibernation, and were ravenously hungry.  This one appeared to be munching away on vegetation.

Lunch break at Cougar Lane Lodge

Although I really tried to make the best of my large, obnoxious seat partner, by the time we headed back to Agness he was really getting on my nerves.  Not only did the guy continuously complain about the bumpy ride and getting splashed (that's what you signed up for!) he took up more than his share of the seat and started to manspread, squishing me up against the boat's inner wall.  When our boat finally docked for our lunch break, I was the first one off.  I literally sprinted up the hill, hoping to get a spot in the dining room as far away from him as I could.

The food was delicious

Cougar Lane Lodge had both indoor and outdoor dining areas.  Off the boat and out of the wind, it was suddenly toasty hot in the sun, so I chose a shady spot in the very back of the outdoor deck area.  Not only did the lodge have a delicious pulled pork meal, they also offered a great beer selection.  I decided, "hey I'm on vacation" and ordered a brew with my lunch. 

Lovely river views from Cougar Lane deck

With over an hour for lunch, I had plenty of time to eat and hit the restroom.  Done with my meal, I was sitting outside on a picnic table enjoying the view, when a lady in the row behind me stopped by.  We struck up a conversation and I learned she was a local, living in a house along the Rogue just outside of Gold Beach. She said we'd passed right by her home that morning.  The lady was a wealth of information about the area.  She said I'd taken the boat trip at the right time of year - the river was so green and beautiful in spring.  Apparently by mid-summer everything turned brown.

Looking upriver from the boat dock

I groused to my new friend about my seat partner and she offered the same opinion of the guy.  The lady said there was room in her row if I wanted to change places.  Back at the dock, since my seat was on the end, I waited for everyone else in my row to board first.  As I was waiting, the local lady motioned for me to get into her row.  Since her row wasn't full, there was plenty of room.  Not caring about appearing rude anymore, I gratefully accepted her offer.  Hooray - no more being squished against the boat!

Homes across the river in Agness

By now the sun was high in the sky, beating mercilessly down upon everyone seated in the boat.  I removed my layers down to a t-shirt.  Our captain mischievously remarked that we looked too hot, and began spraying us with a large squirt gun.

Our captain didn't think we got wet enough

The ride back was quicker than our initial journey.  By now, tired and sun-baked we riders quietly took in the passing scenery.  But I enjoyed a nice chat with my new seatmate.  She was an interesting woman, definitely someone I'd be friends with if I lived nearby.  We spotted lots of birds both in the sky and on the shore - ospreys, blue herons, and bald eagles.  One eagle even flew right over our boat and hung there for a moment.  I was so enthralled, I didn't even think to grab my camera and capture it.

Row of riverfront cabins

Passing by a tall bridge over the Illinois River, our captain talked about several great floods that in the past had roared down the Rogue, taking out bridges.  On this placid spring day, it was hard to believe the water could reach such heights!

Tall bridge over the Illinois River

Of course, our captain couldn't resist throwing in a few more spins every chance he got.  And we passengers (save for my ex-seatmate) loved every minute!  In the hot sun, the wind and river spray felt great.

When our boat docked back at Gold Beach, I was sad that the trip was over.  What a unique way to experience the scenery along an otherwise remote wilderness area.  Definitely a lot of fun, I'd go again in a heartbeat!

(I've received no money or other compensation from Jerry's Rogue Jets for mentioning them in this blog post.)