I still have some photos of Eugene to share, but after a total of three hours over as many days, I finally have all the pictures about my Monday in Florence uploaded, so I’m giving this post top priority! I had wanted to integrate pictures into the post, but do not want to push my luck with the connection dropping out as it does, so please scroll down after all the bla bla bla for the illustrations.
The Oregon coast wasn’t on my bucket list. To put things into perspective, remember that I have seen the Pacific Ocean from Baja to San Francisco, Bellingham to Skagway. I’ve tasted the Arctic Ocean and traveled the Atlantic from Gaspé to Jacksonville. I’ve been around the whole of the Scottish coast, splashed around in the Hebrides, and the Orkneys, and have very nearly been sea sick on a choppy North Sea crossing. In short, I’ve seen more ocean than many people see in a lifetime.
I think that the niggle that I just had to see the Oregon coast started with Croft. Then just about every person I spoke to since I got to Oregon told me to make a detour to the coast. The guy at the Eugene Starbucks told me it would break his heart for me to miss the coast when I was so close. I decided that coming out to Florence with Miranda, two hundred kilometres round trip, could be fit into the budget since I’d have a free place to stay.
Florence is almost right in the middle of the Oregon coast. Once here, and settled, it was time to decide which way I’d explore on Monday, north or south? I did a bit of research and decided that north had more things I was interested in than south. I’d been given a list of suggestions for things to do in far flung corners of the state, like Tillamook, but I decided to set my limit at no more than about one hundred kilometres, the town of Newport, so as to give me a full day, yes, but also plenty of time to savour the sights along the way.
I quickly learned just what it is that makes the Oregon coast so special. Most of it is still truly wild since the government had the foresight to reserve most of it for park land. I have never seen coast like this before! It just goes to show how there is always something to astound the most jaded traveler.
First stop of the day was the Heceta Point lighthouse. It’s quite a hike to the top!
Next stop was Cape Perpetua. I did a lot of hiking here, but did not take too many pictures since I was in rain forest like any other and also because I’d forgotten to charge my camera the night before. Better save it for more memorable shots.
Newport was anti-climatic. They’re doing major roadwork and my GPS couldn’t keep up, taking me down dead end streets and through constructions before leading me to The Steepest Hill in the Universe. Seriously, do not wander around Newport in an RV without a topographic map! Newport also has the most randomly placed dump site I’ve ever seen. Anyway, I had a full morning of hiking behind me and was ravenous, so lunch was foremost on my mind. I wound up having truly forgettable teriyaki at the Yummy Noodle. I knew what to expect–very North Americanized ‘Chinese and Japanese’ cuisine, and I was right. There was nothing wrong with the food; I just don’t think it’s necessary to deep fry everything or add a ton of sugar to it.
Newport has an aquarium with a $16 admission cost. Research on it told me that it was a mid-range aquarium, the kind that is good value to those who have never been to that sort of establishment and over priced for those who have seen larger facilities. I passed.
Coming home, I stopped at a number of turnouts to get some photos, most notably of Cook’s Chasm bridge and Devil’s Churn. The latter particularly impressed me! I also talked myself out of going into a fudge place, with my will power astounding me.
The final stop of the day was the Sea Lion Caves. I was really apprehensive about this. A fellow on the sea lion dock in San Francisco had told me back in ’07 to add the Sea Lion Caves to my bucket list, but hadn’t really recorded that memory. I’d seen a few reviews and they varied too much for me to be able to determine if they are a tourist trap or not. I decided to let the admission price decide for me if I was going or not. $15 or less, go, $16 or more, pass. Admission was $12.
You have to go down two flights of stairs then down a long exterior concrete pathway to reach the Elevator that will whisk you down the equivalent of twenty stories in just fifty seconds! When the doors opened in the cave, my first thought was ‘tourist trap’: I was looking at a very dark cave with a few exhibits and the walls seemed to be made of paper maché. But the strong animal smell boosted my confidence a little and I followed the sound of non-human chatter to a platform that looked out onto one of the most amazing vistas I have ever seen…
There had to be hundreds of sea lions below me on the rocks and dozens playing in the water. The cave itself was immense. I stood there for a full half hour entranced, listening to the sea lions chattering and watching the waves come crashing in. The two dozen or so human observers were deathly quiet, all entranced. A young girl next to me could not be convinced to leave. If the sea lions noticed their audience, they did not let on, remaining very dignified in their poses, occasionally scratching an itch or body surfing the waves.
From the cave, it’s possible to climb up a staircase to a viewpoint for the Heceta Lighhouse. From there, I could see more sea lions, and whales, playing in the surf, enjoying the rare sun.
The Sea Lion Caves are completely worth a visit. Just be sure to do so when the sea lions are in. Summer is not the best time to go. Late winter, early spring, and the fall are perfect.
After all the hiking and climbing I’d done today getting back to the entrance in the gift shop was a lot of work. I was headed for the door when I heard the most damnable words in the English language: “Would you like to try our fudge?” Oh, what the heck. I had a bite of savoury chocolate and pecan and the burst of sugar and protein was most welcome. Unlike a lot of fudge places that sell pieces that are too big for a single person, this one was okay with my buying just a small chunk for a treat. It was a nice dessert that night!
The camera was out of juice by then, but still managed to get two final pictures.