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Published: April 8th 2013
We drove out of Redwood following the curve of a hard charging river. Local men stood up to their knees in cold water, casting thick lines into the foam for Steelheads. We crossed an old wooden, covered bridge and turned onto 101 heading north.
We got a break in the weather. Blue sky began tearing ragged holes in the grey overcast. We entered Oregon. The roadway climbed and twisted atop a wooded, shoreline ridge. Fraser Firs packed the steep slopes. We pulled over just outside Brookings into a parking lot. Below us spread a wide sandy beach. Large, jagged boulders were strewn about creating a giant Zen garden. Between them we found deep tidal pools filled with mudskippers, starfish and small octopi waiting for salvation in the next tide. Live mussels and barnacles battled each other over every square inch of submerged rock. Families cruised around the strand. Their large dogs scouted ahead of them in wide arcs, anchored by long orange leashes. It seems as if every beachcomber has a dog or two. Over the water lay a flat strata of mist and fog. On the horizon; small, tree-topped islands lay blurred by the distance. The whole scene looked
like a Kodai drawing.
For a hundred miles Oregon’s southwest coast runs like this. The State authorities have judiciously placed parking lots and overlooks at strategic locations. Views and trails abound. Natural granite bridges span narrow points and are bashed by the formidable surf for their trouble. Along the paths, firs grow so thickly as to be impenetrable and everything smells of Christmas. It’s a hoot.
We drove north passing small logging town and tourist Meccas like Gold Beach, Port Orford and Coos Bay. This being off-season, most of the restaurants and Myrtlewood shops are closed till spring which gives the towns a sad, abandoned look. We stopped in Langlois to grab a cup of coffee to go in a Mom and Pop convenience store. Inside, the shelves were stacked with gold mining equipment. Picks and shovels, pans and screens and complicated machines for sifting streamside gravels. Most of the equipment was made in China by more profitable prospectors. There were petitions hanging by the cash register. Petitions to protect mining rights and logging rights and trash burning rights and petitions to petition. Two Rubenesque women behind the counter gave me a soft smile and a hard look-over
as I paid for my hot Joe. I got the impression that they didn’t see a lot of fresh faces in Longlois. This is Ken Kesey’s neck of the woods and it becomes clear as to how he was able to write a book as good as his magnum opus; ‘Sometimes A Great Notion’. All of his characters live here.
The hillsides here are covered in a brilliant, golden-yellow shrub called ‘Scotch Broom’. Originally introduced by the Oregon Highway department to decorate the medians, it is now Oregon’s equivalent of Florida’s much despised Brazilian Pepper tree. ‘Scotch Broom’ is poisonous to cattle and the plant is highly flammable and fire is one thing that logging towns are very fearful of. Bovine fireballs. What a thought…..
We passed tiny, stand alone taverns where hard-looking men drank their breakfast from glinty brown bottles. We ate lunch in Coos Bay which is luckier than most Oregon towns as it profits from an active fishing port as well as a solid tourist business. We ate at a restaurant called the Blue Heron. Fresh seafood and German cuisine. Sound strange? It was outstanding. Fresh caught wild Salmon with all the trimmings for $15.
I can’t look at a wild salmon in Florida for $15. Real German Bratwurst made on the premises. All of it cooked and presented by a Chef so young that his future looks boundless. Imported German beer on tap. All of it good and all of it very reasonably priced.
People in this part of Oregon are friendly and courteous. Just ask and they’ll tell you the best places to see and eat and the best ways to get there. North of Coos Bay we encountered large sand dune areas and broad rivers that we crossed via old iron-work bridges. At Reedsport we left the coast and headed East to Eugene.
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