Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Exploring Sand Dunes

We started off our day today at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Mark joined a couple on an exciting high-speed ride up and down some dunes on a dune buggy. I stayed behind with River and Mark said that was a good decision, since the driver caroused over steep sand cliffs. The woman who went with them spent the ride with her eyes closed. Mark enjoyed it though.

We then went to the park, stopping by the visitor’s center for some information, then driving to a viewpoint. On one side, I could walk over small dunes to the beach – a long stretch of sand with waves crashing up onto the sand. On the other side, all-terrain vehicle tracks extended up into the dune hills. I think the best way to explore them would be on a four-wheeler, following a guide who knows the way and with the ability to control one’s own speed.

We then continued on and took a one-mile hike recommended by the visitor’s center. The trail went through a forested area, past water, and led us into an area of vast sandy dunes. I climbed up the tallest one and looked out over a beautiful vista – to the ocean on one side, forested hills on the other, and in between, ripples of sand inclines dotted with coastal grasses.

From there we continued south, heading further down the Oregon coast. I was able to throw off my winter jacket today, replacing it with a light windbreaker. We’ve continued our sunny streak, but as we head south, it’s becoming warmer as well as sunny. My favorite town we went through was Bandon, which had an attractive old town on the bay. It was a nice place to stop for a bite to eat, with several seafood places along the waterfront, as well as shops selling sweets made from the locally produced cranberries.

As we continued toward northern California, we continued to stop at the lookout posts and occasionally took short hikes toward views. We gazed out upon crashing waves, rock outcroppings, mountain promontories, winding roads, rocks formed into arches and natural bridges, rivers entering the ocean, small towns, strip malls and towards the end of the day, the sun falling into the horizon like a half egg yolk.

I love how the ocean is so calm on the Oregon coast, crashing only towards the shore, but extending out toward the horizon in mere ripples. I enjoyed going through one state park after another and how so much of the coast is sparsely populated. I loved the seafood, the friendly people and the lack of sales tax. I liked how large developers hadn’t bought out the coastline, so that there are plenty of motels, modest homes and other small properties with fantastic views. Most of all, I liked the sense of freedom that I felt in Oregon. It’s a great place and one I’d be happy to return to and explore more thoroughly.

We traveled through the first 20 miles or so of northern California. We found lodgings at an oceanside motel on the edge of Crescent City. Crescent City is full of motels, grocery stores and chain restaurants. But it’s also the northern edge of the Redwood National Park, our destination for tomorrow.

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