More Lighthouses

The Oregon coast is dotted with lighthouses, and we are diligently working on seeing as many of them as possible.  Next up: Yaquina Head lighthouse – a very picturesque spire near Newport, OR.  We got passes to take a tour inside the lighthouse, hefting the oil cans that the keepers had to haul up the stairs to keep the light burning before modern bulbs replaced the whale oil and kerosene, and seeing a slice of history in the keeper’s log book.We climbed the spiral stairs to the top, worth the effort to see the light mechanism and the massive first order Fresnel lens.Just below the lighthouse sea lions were hauled out on rocky islands, barking and cavorting in the waves just off a beach made of cobbles……basalt tumbled by wave action to a smooth rounded finish.  We hiked around the Yaquina Head promontory, enjoying views in all directions. 

Not to be confused with Yaquina Head, there is a small lighthouse to mark Yaquina Bay in the town of Newport.The tower just to the right of the lighthouse is a Coast Guard observation tower, actively manned, looking out towards the rock jetties protecting Newport’s harbor entrance.Like many of the other jetties that have been built at harbor entrances, this jetty helps to keep sand moved by ocean currents from building up and shoaling the inlet.  Wind sculpts the sand, making wave-like patterns in the beach dunes.We strolled the beach until the angled light nudged us towards the shops and restaurants on the working waterfront for some dinner.  We were drawn to the barking of sea lions, harbor residents perpetually napping or arguing about someone disturbing their nap.These are California sea lions, smaller than the beefy Steller sea lions we see at home in Petersburg.  But they behave much the same way – real characters!Newport is a pretty town with plenty of working boats to look at, a great aquarium, and a marine science center to explore.  With our background in diving and love of sea life, both spots were a favorite.You’re never to old to have a happy childhood!

A Little Glass Adventure

The town of Lincoln City, Oregon hosts the Finders Keepers event where beautiful blown glass floats are hidden on the town’s beaches for anyone to find.  We walked a lot of beaches looking for these treasures but never found any.  But since there are a number of glass art studios in the area we decided to take advantage of the chance to try our hands at making our own glass creations.For a fee, we were each allowed to “help” a professional glass artist make a float or a fluted bowl with colors that we chose.  We’ve watched demonstrations in glass blowing “hot shops” before and found the process fascinating, so it was great fun to get up-close-and-personal with it.

Starting with a “gather” of 2400 degree (F) molten glass on the end of a blow pipe, the artist adds color by picking up colored frit from a steel table.The glass begins to cool very quickly so it’s put into the “glory hole” to be reheated, fusing the colored frit into the gather.The process continues as the artist puts a small puff of air into the glass, allowing the moisture of his breath expand in the heat to form a bubble.  We repeatedly reheated the glass in the glory hole, and we blew more air into it, enlarging the piece and shaping it with a wet wooden form in between.Jim made a float, so the process for his project was just about complete at that point.  I made a fluted bowl, so the next step was to turn the hollow ball into a flat piece.  The artist took a hand torch and heated the end of the ball while I blew more air, until the weakened hot spot broke open.  He then heated it and opened it further.The final touch was to spin the flat plate at varying speeds and angles to create the fluted shape.

The pieces are finished by adding a glob of glass to form a flat base, then rushed to an annealing oven to cool slowly overnight.We had a blast learning a little more about glass and making some pretty creations to bring home to the boat.

It’s Not All Beaches

Oregon’s wild beaches are certainly beautiful, but we also love forests… and there’s plenty of those along the coast too.Douglas fir, red cedar as well as the more familiar Sitka spruce and hemlock tower over the ferns and the rest of the understory. A hike to see Drift Creek Falls featured a nifty pedestrian suspension bridge in the woods……and some unique mushrooms, among other pretty sights.We checked out the Tillamook State Forest Center, with neat interpretive exhibits about the history of the region and how the forest has recovered from widespread fires in the 1930s and 40s.  The center also had a pedestrian suspension bridge leading to hiking trails, and it was a nice spot to watch a little dipper bird fishing in the creek.  Ferns lined the hiking trails……and fall color made for beautiful reflections in the water.While the dominant fall color in the Pacific northwest is yellow, red is always my favorite.After getting a nice forest and fall color “fix”, we headed back to the coastline and beaches… I can’t even remember them all – there were so many!We decided that “too many beautiful beaches” is a great problem to have.We finished up with a late afternoon stop in the small town of Depoe Bay, watching gray whales blow and admiring the narrow inlet from the ocean into the protected harbor, where two Coast Guard 47′ Motor Lifeboats waited to assist anyone in trouble.

Tillamook

As mariners we have a special place in our hearts for lighthouses, so we wanted to check out as many of Oregon’s as possible.  They are set on headlands about 40 miles apart, with a light that’s visible for 20 miles so with reasonable visibility a mariner should start to see the next lighthouse just as they’re starting to lose sight of the last one as they move up and down the coast.  In the Tillamook area we were able to visit Cape Meares lighthouse……and enjoy the view as the fog rolled in.Notice in the photo above that the water around the rocks looks blue (reflected from the sky), and the color in the foreground is gray reflected from the fog.

Since the fog put a damper on seeing sweeping ocean vistas we headed back to the town of Tillamook, which is an agricultural valley – particularly for dairy.  You may or may not have heard of the Tillamook brand – it’s well known in the northwest for cheese and ice cream, and they have quite a big visitor center to show how they make some of their fabulous products.They had free samples of cheese, but you had to buy the ice cream… even though the length of the line made it look like they were giving it away for free!  Their store had some special varieties and flavors.  Hard to resist.Another cheese maker had a shop and farm yard nearby, so Jim couldn’t resist climbing up on a tractor – one of his very favorite things.And I found a sheep to pet!  As a knitter, I look at sheep as “sweaters in waiting”.The next day was bright and clear once again, and we spent the day exploring Cannon Beach just to the north.  It’s known for a beautiful beach as well as for a particularly large sea stack – a free-standing rock.  Haystack rock is 235′ tall – a big beastie!The tiny dots to the left of the rock are people.  And at low tide there are some marvelous tide pools at the base, full of tiny hermit crabs, chitons, starfish and anemones.The sand on many of these Oregon beaches is pretty firm, which makes it easy to walk on – not so tiring – and we enjoyed taking long strolls down the beaches as well as checking out the town’s shops (microbreweries, yarn and ice cream).