Oregon beckons

Published 1:31 pm Saturday, June 20, 2015

by James D. Howell

It’s a wonderful experience to wake up, step out of the trailer, and look around at these majestic Redwood trees. The view up is dizzying; the smell of evergreen and earth settles my spirit like no other. Walking among the giants brings instant awareness of why John Muir, and countless others, considered these forests worth preserving. This is old growth, never been harvested, some trees 2000 years old and counting.

We pack up and head north. Just past the northern boundary of the state and national parks we come upon the “Trees of Mystery” tourist attraction. Guarding the parking lot are huge statues of Paul Bunyan, his blue ox Babe and assorted other forest creatures, some larger than life, some more realistic. We turn in.

When our eyes drift down from ol’ Babe’s horns, we see an ice cream vending window open to the parking lot. It’s a warm day, and ice cream is always welcome. We check out Paul’s boots and a bears ears; we pose for pictures. These roadside attractions really became popular during the ‘50s, those halcyon years after World War 2. We enjoy the break from driving.

From Paul’s place, the road never ventures far from the ocean. Many rivers flow from the east into ocean surf; bridges, towns and smaller villages dot this coastline. The land changes from thick old growth to newly harvested hillsides.

Beach sand changes to black, indicative of its volcanic origin. Rough rocky hills to the east have been fractured and pushed to the shoreline over geologic time. The waters here are the coldest in the continental states. That water lost much of its heat to Alaska in passing. Swimming is not a regular pastime. Walking the beach, looking for objects carried all the way from Asia is a favorite. Glass fishing floats from Japan are a rare find.

The entire coastline of Oregon is state park. As land is sold or owners die, the property is acquired and protected by the state. Some private parcels remain, but access to the beach is assured for residents and tourists alike.

We are surprised to find large sand dunes along one part of Oregon’s shore. These are the typical bright tan, sandy color that we are used to. We stop in the parking area and climb to the roofline of the nearest dune. There are several, varying in size from a few to around 500 feet high. Our dog, and all humans plow through the loose, grainy mixture, laughing and playing as if in a schoolyard. I’m told this is the largest stretch of coastal dunes in America. I can’t attest to that; I just know they are big and there are a lot of them. The sand dunes are a anomaly along this coast line; they occupy about 25 miles.

To the north we move back alongside the typical black sand beaches. Late afternoon finds us at Cape Lookout State Park. This is an amazing place, just west of Tillamook, Oregon, the place we established as our last day traveling north. It’s as if we stepped back in geological time to tropical rain forests and dinosaurs. This is old growth forest, nurtured by cool Pacific winds and fog. Trees, dense lush ferns, and moss covered fallen tree trunks line trails. We don’t have enough time to fully explore this park; it’s too late in the day and we need get settled.

We find a campground nestled in a coastal grove with beach access. Everybody is ready to get out of the car.

Oregon does a great job of keeping their natural resources available to the general public. Our two sons, Brian and Barry, and the Basset puppy, Happy, run free on the wide black expanse. Evenings are cool and long in this northerly latitude, and we take advantage of it. We sleep well in this cool, naturally air conditioned environment.

We pack up this last day along the coast, say goodbye to cool, black sand beaches and look at the maps for the trip home. It looks about two days. It’s an easy transition across the coastal mountains to the flatlands of central Oregon. We gently turn along and between beautiful grain fields, green stalks heavy with seed; I think it’s barley and rye. It’s close to harvest time.

Highways get larger, traffic gets heavier and our speed picks up noticeably. We turn south in the middle of the Willamette River valley. This rich fruit and grain farmland is a major provider of premium tree and bush fruit to markets worldwide. A patchwork pattern of multiple shades of green line our highway home.

One last night in an Oregon county park is a fitting place to unwind, remember our trip, and plan the last leg home.

JAMES D. “ARCHIE” HOWELL is a Southampton County native and 1955 graduate of Franklin High School. He can be reached at archiepix@kingwoodcable.com.