Sunday, February 23, 2014

Yaquina Head

Quaint little Newport was a busy place during our visit. Turned out the population of little Newport had tripled overnight because of  the Seafood and Wine Festival. Presumably enough wine was drunk to stave off the effects of ciguatera (an illness caused by eating bad seafood), or at least it looked that way, judging by the overly boisterous and festive patrons in the restaurant we ate in. And Newport should be a happy place what with all the good food, good wine, and totally awesome scenery abounding in the Newport area. 

Yaquina Head Outstanding Lighthouse
And speaking of totally awesome scenery, Dollie and I got an early morning start at Yaquina Head. Amusingly, the official name for the head is not the Yaquina Head Natural Area but the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Seriously, that's what the natural area is called. What's next: Crater Lake Super Dooper National Park? Boulder Creek Totally Awesome Wilderness?

Who made these tracks?
The track-making culprit
Over-the-top name aside, the scenery really is outstanding at Yaquina Head. Initially we had the entire place to ourselves, which might have been attributable to the wine portion of the Seafood and Wine Festival. We began our exploration of the Outstanding area by grabbing a very civilized paved and railed path down to Quarry Cove. Scooped out of the head, the quarry has been reclaimed by the sea and the rocks provided some great tide pools to explore.

Small cove on the head

There is an upper quarry above Quarry Cove which the visitor center now occupies. The scenery was sort of otherworldly with the modern building at the bottom of a sparsely vegetated, treeless and rocky bowl. The sea was hidden from view and it felt like we were on Mars. We grabbed another paved path that crossed under the roadway and returned us to Planet Oregon.

Great view with some surfer dudes in it
As we walked, views were awesome and expansive, the Oregon coast arcs gracefully past Newport to the Yaquina River, the rock jetty seemingly frail and delicate off in the distance. The bay was full of surfer dudes plying their passion as the waves marched in one after another.

Architectural detail 
A the end of the head sits the iconic Yaquina Head Lighthouse and it quickly became obvious this is where all the visitors go. A short path loops around the lighthouse and provided views of Moolack Beach stretching out all the way to Cape Foulweather (one of my favorite place names). At the foot of the head was a rock arch with the sea pulsing through it.

Stairway to the loud rocks

Below the lighthouse was a small beach comprised of round golf ball sized basalt rocks, the stones looking like a gigantic pile of fossilized rabbit poop. The sound the rocks made when people walked on them was something else, a loud clacking sound that reverberated from about a 15 foot radius from my boots. I wish they would have had these rocks on a couple of backpack trips I'd been on as the deer could never stealthily sneak into camp to steal hiking poles.

The slowest jailbreak ever
The main attraction at this little beach is not the noisy round rocks but the world class tide pools. It's a fairly civilized exploration of the pools as there are signs denoting walking boundaries and there is a nearby ranger posted to make sure nobody thinks the signs are dares. It sure was embarrassing when she yelled at me.

Nature's way of discouraging barefoot wading

The pools were filled with mussel beds and large starfish of various shades of orange and red were sprawled on top of the beds enjoying their own little Seafood Festival. Starfish eat by pushing their stomach out and then returning it back to the proper body cavity after getting sated. Now there's a new idea for a horror movie! Not as creepy but just as visually interesting, spiny purple sea urchins congregated, looking like a pincushion store's inventory before the big sale.

Women and children, be careful
Men, you are on your own!
The weather was beginning to turn a bit belligerent and cold but Salal Hill was calling my name. Dollie did not hear her name being called so she headed back to the car while I took the short side trip up a trail that switchbacked to and fro through the low growing salal. After a short stretch of trail on a narrow and exposed ridge, views were predictably spectacular from the summit.

On the way down, the rain started and it was a wet drive home to Winston. Back to normal, sigh. For more pictures of this spectacular Outstanding natural area, please visit the Flickr album.

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