Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day Twenty-Five: Along the coast and inland

 We awake to rain.Which explains why Oregon is so green. Mist hovers over the trees, adding a pale haze to the surroundings. We travel south, where sand dunes rise in immense piles, interspersed with lagoons and ponds of lilypads. We head inland, towards the mist shrouded hills and through the town of Gardiner. It is set by a large lagoon and a bit rundown. Then back towards the coast and across the Umpqua drawbridge. Through the small township of Reedsport, home of chain fastfood joints and down to Winchester Wharf where we stop for a time and take in the harbour views.

On the little peninsula bit known as "Ork Rock" we find no orks, just a cute little sparrow who is very determined that we shall not come any closer to him. Until we come too close, and then he stops singing and flies away, roosting a short distance off and yelling at us some more.
White-Crowned Sparrow
As you can see, in the US sparrows sometimes look a wee bit different. The most common are still the House Sparrows, which are now considered vulnerable in the UK, but as they are the most widespread bird in the world, I doubt they have much to fear. In the US we have white capped ones, yellow capped ones and various other takes on the same theme. Some are easier to identify than others.

Following Holly's instructions we try and find our way to the Umpqua lighthouse. Due to a lack of signposting, however, we end up entering the loop road from the south end instead of the north end, and pass a rather creepy looking camping ground (looming trees, deep shadows) before coming to the small and peaceful Lake Marie. Birds sing in their trees, but the only other noise is the lapping of water. Clouds of midges hang in the air.
Lake Marie
Around the next corner, however, the trees suddenly give way and we find ourselves overlooking the coast again. Rolling white sand dunes hum with dirt bikes and off in the distance a sea wall juts across the bay. There is good whale watching here, apparently, but I'm more interested in the pair of cedar waxwings that flutter through the scrubby bushes. There is a lighthouse too, but it is small and relatively non-descript.
We continue south, into Coos county. ATVs drive up and down the massive sand dunes. Which, regretfully we could not stop and photograph, and had to pay if we wished to run up and down on them ourselves. A bridge takes us across into North Bend, where we pass an estuary rimmed by hills and evidence of the timber industry - stacks of logs and piles of sawdust. It flawlessly merges into the town of Coos Bay which is calm and quiet. After roaming the streets aimlessly for half an hour, we do not find a promising cafe and decide to head back towards North Bend to the Pancake Mill, which was calling to me when we drove past it. I have my pancakes with fresh fruit and my request for "only a little cream" still ends up with twice as much as I require. The whole building shivers when the big logging trucks trundle by, but the food is pleasant and very filling.

Then it is inland and up through winding Pine forest, where more of the logging industry becomes evident. The river outside Coquille is filled with floating circles of logs and the never-ending pine forest sports the occasional bald patch.

At the Ten Mile store, a tiny store/post office in the middle of nowhere, I post my letter to Chatty (hope it gets there!) and make use of what must truly be the foulest portaloo I have ever seen. Hawks and crows hover over the road, perching on power lines and hunting for fresh roadkill or tender prey.

We pass through Winston, a town claiming to be home of the wildlife safari. This claim intrigues me, and once we are back in 3G range, I do a little research, learning that it might have been an interesting place to stop. Oh well, maybe next time.

I ring Holly from a rest stop about half an hour north of Grants Pass.

We have been communicating via email more or less throughout the day (whenever we have access) and she had mentioned that she would send her husband, Paul, out to meet and escort us to the house. "We'll be fine", I informed her, "we have GPS." I later check and see that her final email said "Call us when you get lost" and "we'll be waiting for your call." Aware that such things indicate that their place is a wee bit difficult to find, GPS or not, we take the correct exit and follow the correct road around. The correct road makes a left turn, whilst another leads on straight ahead, but Tim flawlessly takes the turn. First obstacle avoided. Also, the GPS had a different name for one of the roads, but I don't think that made too much difference. We reach the appropriate number, to the side of the road, at the foot of a narrow, steep road heading upwards. This, I inform Tim, is probably it. We drive past the first house and continue up this narrow road, hoping we don't meet anyone else coming the opposite way. There's no turning and the drop to one side is pretty steep. We come to an automatic gate - it is open. They must be expecting us. Then it is up and into a little carpark next to one of the most beautiful houses I have seen this trip.
A large white dog comes to greet us, before shying away a little nervously, followed shortly by her owner, Paul. We have found the right house. The dog's name is Lucy, and she is gorgeous. What follows is a very pleasant evening, as we are given the tour of Holly's beautiful garden - surrounded by high fences to stop the deer eating it, take a short walk into their acreage, watching out for poison oak, study birds on their feeder (black-headed grosbeaks) and fuss over the dog. We are fed on burritos and I have a chai, and shown Paul's pride and joy:
The stationary Indian.

Lovely Lucy
With WildHolly
I cannot help but wish that we were staying here longer. Holly's studio is similar to mine - in that it is upstairs and has good lighting - but her views are infinitely better. 

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