Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sea Lions and Sand Dunes

NOTE: We had some issues with Internet access the past few days, so have been unable to post blog entries until today. Note that I have posted four entries under today's date, so keep scrolling on down to catch up on our whereabouts and activities. This entry brings us up to today's date.

Awoke to the sound of the pouring rain – dang! No wonder it’s so darn green around here.

We had planned on visiting the Sea Lions Cave just north of Florence, so headed out in the rain, fully prepared to be awestruck by this amazing display of nature.

Turns out that there are NO sea lions or seals in the cave this time of year. Apparently the bulls head up to Alaska for a spell, and the females and their young stay out in the ocean and fill up on fish in anticipation of the winter. They don’t actually come back into the cave until sometime in December.

Oh well – at least there were no crowds of people. We literally had the place to ourselves. I’m sure the weather didn’t help much in attracting people. It was cold, windy and rainy. The waves were pounding against the cliffs. Appreciating the fact that the cave itself is worth seeing, we paid our obligatory $10 entrance fee and took the 208 foot elevator down into the empty cave. There were some interesting displays covering the history of the cave (privately owned), and informative videos regarding the formation of the cave, and of the sea lions, seals and sea birds that inhabit the area.

There were stairs up to a view point that looked out towards the Heceta Head Lighthouse (apparently one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world). We spent a lot of time looking out to the ocean, and did spot a number of sea lions/seals (not sure which). They seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely – porpoising out of the water, surfing through the waves, etc.

This lookout is also one of the best to look for gray whales, but we didn’t see any.
Not too successful a 'wildlife viewing day.

On to the sand dunes. Our campground is close to the famous Oregon dunes – the ‘Himalayas of Sand’. It is quite a phenomenon. Picture a ski hill, but take away the snow, and replace it with sand. Very cool!
We hiked up a big hill and took in the fascinating landscape. This is the place to go touring on an ATV or dune buggy, but not in the rain. Definitely a ‘must return to’ site as well.
For those who would like an explanation of how this phenomenon happens: "For millions of years, the Coast Range has been rising, pushed upward by the incredible force of colliding tectonic plates. But what goes up eventually comes down. Wind and rain grind rocks into sand, which is carried by rivers to the ocean’s shore. Strong winds and tides coming off the Pacific blow and push the sand into undulating ridges along the 50 miles of beach between the Heceta Head and Coos Bay.” And, according to the literature, these are dynamic vistas, ever-changing. As you can see from the pictures, there is evidence of the European Beach Grass, which was introduced to stabilize the moving sand, and shore pines that grow in fantastic twisted shapes. This looks like rock formations in the pictures. Plus, there are “tree islands, remnants of larger forests that were overrun by sand, and are isolated strands of trees that look as though they’re floating in a sea of sand”. Very surreal.

In the evening, we took a tour into the Port of Siuslaw, and toured ‘Old Town', which had many eclectic shops and seafood restaurants. Quite nice.

But – it is pouring, pouring, pouring rain. We have had about enough of this, and are considering moving away from the slower coastal tour, and moving inland to the I-5 to see if we can outrun the rain, and get into warmer, dryer weather. We’re planning our itinerary tonight. Stay tuned!

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