wild seas and ancient trees
I have only been in Gold Beach for six days. Twice now, I’ve been to Otter Point. The first time was the day after I arrived here, and then I went a second time yesterday. In between those two times, the coast of southern Oregon and northern California were subjected to battering gale-force winds and torrential downpours. Thanksgiving Day was wild. Mother Nature was showing her strength. The foothills and trees between the coast and this campground weren’t enough to hold back the winds as they unleashed their powers against the old wise ones standing strong outside the camper. Fortunately, the trees held their ground, only losing some limbs in the battle. The winds died down Thursday afternoon, but the rain stayed through most of the day, and the hazardous seas warning did not lift until late Friday afternoon.
When I checked into the campground, the very helpful owner here began filling me in on nearby sights to see. He is the one who told me about Otter Point. He also indicated that it is a good spot for whale watching, as there is a resident pod of whales in the area. Otter Point is up the 101 just a stretch to the north of Gold Beach. Oregon has a significant amount of land on the coast designated as a state park or state recreation area. And it stands to good reason. The coastal ecosystems are gorgeous. Everything from cliffs and sea stacks to sand dunes and tidal pools. There is a coastal trail system, which passes by Otter Point. If you head south from Otter Point on this trail system, it winds you through Old Growth spruce forest and down to the beach in a half a mile. I just discovered where the trail picks up heading north from the parking lot. Its entry point is not obvious, as the growth is quite dense, but I look forward to exploring up the trail on another day.
The first time I went out on Otter Point, it was windy. The kind of windy that makes you stand back from the cliff’s edge just a bit more than you would otherwise. The point is created from mostly sandstone. There are tenacious plants that cling to life, hugging the ground closely as protection from the wind, and feast on the moisture from the sea. The further out you get on the point, where the exposure is greatest, however, the plants give way to barren sand, breaking down on top of the cliff. Walking out on this end of the point in high winds leads to a beating. Sharp pricks of sand blast your skin and sting your eyes. But still, you don’t want to leave. Still, you stay, looking through sand-crusted, wind-induced tears trying to soak in the views.
I came here because I love Oregon. And I was ready for a change of scenery. I definitely got it. The November rainfall average for November is 9.2 inches. For December it is 11.6 inches. I think we got all of November’s rainfall in the first few days I was here. At least it felt like it. Yesterday, I went back to Otter Point, viewed the cove to the north, and then hiked on down to the coast on the Oregon Coast Trail and along the beach for a while. The tide was moving out, but high tide had hit only 45 minutes before I reached the beach. The contrasts between my first time at the point and this one were pretty stark. The winds were calm, but the seas were rowdy. Mists rose from the trees in the distance, the sun peeked from behind his hiding place. Walking the trail down to the beach brought me through a brief encounter with giant, old, spruce whose canopy blocked the light from above, darkening the forest, and transporting me to another time. I half expected to see a knight atop a horse galloping through the trees. Or maybe Big Foot lumbering.
The walk along the beach revealed evidence of the storm the previous two days. The once-living littered the sand. It was obvious most of what lie there now was newly deposited. Plants and sea creatures alike. It was a massacre. I saw a huge crab next to piece of driftwood. It looked like it was looking at me. I snapped some photos, but then thought I’d rescue it. Because that’s what I do. Except that this one was beyond rescuing. There was actually nobody home, as I discovered when I poked at the shell to see if it would move and it immediately flipped upside down because it was only the top shell with nothing inside. I saw bits of coral. And monstrous gelatinous blobs of jelly that I first mistook for a shiny rock or a miniature UFO. Might have been able to save those. Wasn’t about to try. Besides the numerous half clam shells and oyster shells, mostly what I saw littering the beach was the corpses of humongous tubular plants, roots still attached, and sometimes jumbled up together in large masses. These were everywhere. What I did not see, surprisingly, was any human litter washed ashore. No nets, no plastic, no random shoe or tin can or fishing line or Styrofoam.
force of nature
When I got back nearer the place where the trail meets the beach, I noticed how much less debris was on the beach. I took off my shoes and socks and let my toes and feet sink in the sand and skim across the waves as they chased up the beach to where I walked. I reached the cliff face at the base of Otter Point and stood on some low rocks and watched the white caps rise and rumble, stirring up the surface of the ocean, and filling in the space around the rock I was standing on. I felt in motion with the sea, standing above it, but at the same time moving within the depths, rolling with the water, and crashing upon the rocks. It’s a powerful feeling letting yourself go, moving with the forces of nature. Sure, my feet were firmly on the ground. But my mind was free to fly.