Day 1: The Oregon Coast

December 17, 2006.

One of the benefits of being a teacher is the schedule. I have two weeks of vacation for the Winter Holidays, and I took full advantage of this by planning a week-long road trip in my new home state. I’d only seen the West coast on one occasion, so this was a good chance to check it out again.I left Portland before noon and drove out towards Tillamook on routes 26 and 6. By the time I left the metro area behind, I began to feel a wonderful tingling sensation throughout my body. Roadtrip euphoria, I like to call it. The feel of the open road, no schedule, and endless possibilities ahead… there’s just nothing like it. I wonder if it’s a documented psychological condition. I’ll have to Google it, right after I search for information on the biology of tickling.

My first stop was the Tillamook dairy plant, since I’d been told it is a must-see. It was Sunday, so nothing was running, and it was almost a complete waste of time. I did pick up a nice sandwich there for lunch and bought some local goodies to eat on my trip. A choir was singing Christmas carols in the lobby and the sun shone warmly through the big windows. It was very nice, but I was ready to move on.

Next stop: Yaquina Head. There weren’t any long hiking trails here so I combined a quick walk around the lighthouse, a short jaunt up Salal Hill and an exploratory trek through a man-made tidepool area just down the road. I stood in awe watching the huge waves pummel the rugged, rocky shoreline below me. I couldn’t believe how big everything was. The waves, the rocks, the beach, the seaweed…

The seaweed might have been my favorite discovery. As I walked down to the tidepool area I met a fellow traveler and we chatted a bit as we climbed up onto the rocks. “Oh, you’re from Massachusetts, my sister lives there, bla bla bla…” He was very nice and for the only time on my trip I had someone to take a picture of me. As we were talking I stopped in my tracks and my eyes grew huge at the sight of giant, spaghetti-like tangles of kelp strewn about the rocks. I kept a watchful eye on the impressive waves coming to shore as I checked out the decaying algae. Yes! Science! This is when my new companion seemed to grow tired of me and he headed back 🙂 I continued along the shore, stopping to pick up dead stuff and take pictures of things that had washed ashore. Come on, isn’t that a good time??

As I retreated to the car I saw a few surfers riding the waves. Insane. They were framed in a backdrop of pink and purple hues as the sun started to set over the ocean. It was a near perfect moment.

I continued the drive along the winding, coastal road (101) and stopped at a pullout just before sunset. I made my way down a steep, eroded path to the beach and walked across a vast sandflat to get to the water’s edge. It felt like I could see for miles, and not a soul was out there. As the sun set and the wind blew, I enjoyed the serenity and beauty of this place. In the distance, a couple of lighthouses marked the coastline. The ocean roared, drowning out the sounds of traffic on the road behind me.

At the end of the day, I set up camp at a state park just outside of Florence and wondered what adventures the next day would bring.

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