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Rainy Days at the Beach

Pacific Northwest jokes

You know the state flower is mildew.
You know the state motto: “Rain? What rain?”
You have a T-shirt that says, “200 Billion Slugs Can’t Be Wrong!”
You never go camping without a poncho and waterproof matches.
You rejoice at a forecast of “rain with sun breaks.”

Need I go on….

So, my hope for “unseasonably mild weather” I mentioned in an earlier post for my visit to the coast has been drowned by the monsoon I have been experiencing on my final stop on the coast – Florence, OR

Yup – the rainy season has begun with a vengeance – nearly 2 inches one night alone

But, some people walk in the rain, others just get wet – Roger Miller

Can’t let a little rain slow me down – time to see what this area on the coast has to offer – the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America, more lighthouses, and some surprisingly good chow for the “journey de cuisine”, and another boom town…

Florence has been growing rapidly for several decades and has been one of the fastest growing cities in Oregon. A large number of people who choose to retire to the Oregon Coast have made Florence their home. It is also the northernmost edge of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which extends through Reedsport and down to Coos Bay

The drive down from Newport was outstanding – in fact, the drive south from Newport through Yachats to Florence is a rugged, undeveloped stretch – one of the most scenic drives along the coast that I had encountered – yup – eyes on the road but it was damn hard – reminded me a lot of the Maine coast

As I mentioned in the last post, every town has its own flavor and Florence was no different – Florence has a small “Historic Old Town” that sits below the 1930’s era Siuslaw River Bridge – a very cool art deco structure – one of many of the bridges built to complete scenic highway 101 decades ago – overlooking a number of shops and restaurants

The area is also home to a couple of lighthouses – Haceta to the north ; its twin at Umqua to the south

Haceta Head Lighthouse is said to be the most photographed lighthouse on the OR coast – it sit 205 feet above the Pacific Ocean- and was built in the early 1890’s with its beacon first shining in 1894 – its light can be seen 20 miles out to sea

I had a nice visit with the lighthouse volunteers but no postcard worthy pictures on this trip – not only was the Haceta Head Lighthouse covered in dense fog and mist but the lighthouse itself was covered in a damn condom of canvas – it was getting an extensive remodeling – maybe next time 🙂

By the way – just south of the lighthouse is the Sea Lion Cave – the world’s largest sea cave and only mainland rookery of Steller sea lions in the lower 48 – there were only a few hanging around when I visited – the rest had headed offshore to roll in the surf below the cliffs

Fortunately, south of Florence sits Haceta Head Lighthouse’s twin – an exact duplicate – sitting over the Umqua River – the Umqua River Lighthouse. This lighthouse stands close to where the very first Oregon coast lighthouse was built – but the first was built too close the river – erosion eventually toppled the original structure but the lighthouse was rebuilt and re-lit in 1894.

The first order Fresnel light, built in Paris France, emits a distinctive red and white flash that is visible miles out at seas

Florence is also the northern tip of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Wind-sculpted sand dunes towering to 500 feet above sea level provide numerous recreational opportunities including off-highway vehicle use, hiking, photography, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding and camping. Visitors enjoy thick “tree islands”, open dunes, marsh-like deflation plains and beaches.

yup – 40 miles of dunes that begin in Florence – these are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America and in some places the sand dunes run two and half miles inland and at points rise 500 feet above sea level – it’s a multi use area and large areas are set aside for ATV’s and other areas are dedicated for day-use, horses or hikers – very nice – except in a downpour 🙂

Unlike other dunes I have visited in Death Valley and White Sands , these dunes are not just sand but an incredibly varied eco-system of high dunes, low-lying lakes & plains, tree islands which are small isolated remnants of older coastal forests, as well as sand plants, coastal forest and beach – a veritable smorgasbord of an eco- system

Well, let me tell you – after a day in the fog, mist – changing to heavy rain – then a bit of wind to make things interesting – there’s nothing like some good food and an adult beverage to warm the soul 🙂

Waterfront Depot – in the converted old Mapleton train station below the Siuslaw River Bridge – offered up a very nice haven from the weather – their house special – crab encrusted halibut with a light chili cream sauce accompanied by a Caesar salad – yumm!

And, one of the biggest surprises on this “journey de cuisine” – Aloha Sushi – like something straight out of Food Networks “Drive-In’s, Diners, and Dives” – a shared space – breakfast/lunch café by day – sushi by night. Christian “Kane Haole” Jakobsen was raised on Maui and is the son of a well known Hawaii chef – after the military, culinary school, and some surfing, Christian ended up here in Florence – one the areas best kept secrets – but as I have mentioned before – a foodie has to do his homework on this “journey de cuisine”

I am here to say that nowhere else will you find a culinary experience quite like the flavors, textures and colors found in Aloha Sushi’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine. I may have been in Florence OR but felt like I was on a tropical island – Aloha offers up a combination of the freshest local ingredients with Hawaiian sauces and bold Asian spices – outstanding! If you go be sure to try the Hamachi as well as the Godzilla Roll

“ a manifestation of grilled kalbi beef, spicy tuna, unagi, sambal, slivered onions and seaweed salad. Rolled in panko and deep fried, emerging from the depths as a pissed off, fiery monster and topped with spicy mayo, unagi glaze, smoked salmon, fresh mango, tobiko caviar, slivered sweet onions and fresh cracked pepper”

Despite the weather, I enjoyed my stop in Florence – after months of virtually no rain and only smoke in the air, things were due to change – and when it changes in Oregon it only means one thing –

You know that a forecast of “rain, changing to showers” means “constant drizzle changing to intermittent drizzle.”

Well, the forecast is for rain for days – but time to move on

More to follow as always – take care – see you down the road

[Nomad Note: Many of you have dropped me notes re the images in the blog and it’s worth noting that as I travel I use a number of resources to do the “scouting” – I have on occasion hired a guide but for most destinations I have found that a good photography guide will supply me with tons of information – I have virtually the entire library of Photograph America Newsletters from Robert Hitchman; for Oregon used the Middleton/Barbee guidebook as well as Greg Vaughn’s Oregon book – even bumped into Greg at Ecola SP north of Cannon Beach – he was leading a small workshop – small world as always – very nice photographer ]

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