A Travellerspoint blog

Ocean On The Left

The Pacific Coast, Cape Lookout, Lake Sylvia and Seattle

We’ve reached the western coast of the U.S. and the Pacific Ocean. This marks the midpoint of the figurative “L” we are traveling on. We’ve reached our southern boundary on the coast, and everything that follows will be further north. From this point, navigation is easy, just keep the ocean on our left, and keep driving until we hit Prince Rupert. So far we’ve driven an enjoyable, 2800 miles since leaving Minnesota. I can tell you that it’s great to be back on the Pacific Ocean again, I always enjoy my time here.

I’ve spent the last couple days at Cape Lookout State Park. This nice little park is located southwest of Tillamook, Oregon along the “Three Capes Scenic Byway” which also includes Cape Mears and Cape Kiwanda. The park is busy, there are a lot of people who want to enjoy the beautiful spring weather, and the gorgeous views along the coast. I can’t blame them, that’s why I’m here myself.
I woke up to a beautiful, blue sky day. I decided to take my bike down to the ocean, and go for a long bike ride on the shore to the north, possibly biking as far as the small coastal village of Netarts. Distance wasn’t really my goal, I just wanted to ride my bike along the beach. A lot of the sand beaches along the Pacific coast have excellent hard packed sand from drastic tide changes that take place here, making an excellent riding surface. I had checked the tide schedule the night before, and learned that there was a minus low tide, and it would reach its lowest point at 10 a.m. Perfect for a morning ride. I filled my water bottle, applied sunscreen, grabbed my backpack (containing camera, tripod, binoculars, water, book, wasabi peas, and leatherman), and pedaled off to the beach access point.
I love the Pacific shores of the U.S. The sand beaches are immense, and the tides continually change the features of the shore. Like a fickle landscape architect, it will add logs, rocks, dead animals, shells, and stumps one day, only to change its mind, and remove everything the next. When the tide is out, the beach is immense (at most beaches), reaching out to sea at least the length of a football field (if not longer). I like to ride my bike right along the edge of the water, making a game of it. The goal is to ride right along the edge of the wave as it glides towards shore along the sand; a thin salt water carpet, foamy and viscous. I pedal as fast as I can when I see that my timing is just right to “ride” the incoming wave. It’s pretty easy to avoid the wave, but on occasion I’ll screw up and end up getting soaked with cold salt spray from my front time. Another example of “making my own fun.”
It was a great ride, I enjoyed the morning, finding the ocean environment in excellent condition. As I said, the ocean is always offering up bits of interesting stuff. I found a couple of crabs that had seen better days. Crab, anyone?
I stopped at a likeable spot several miles from anyone. I sat down on a driftwood log that had been washed ashore and sun dried. I ate some wasabi peas (my newest addiction), and read my book in the morning sun while occasionally gazing out at the ocean. In the distance, the “kissing turtles” still sat, oblivious to the pounding surf around them. The “turtles” are made up of huge rock islands that have been sculpted by wind and wave over the eons. Kind of a neat backdrop for a picture.
I was washing out my coffee cup at the campground spigot on the morning of departure from Cape Lookout. A white dog trotted up to me, and asked me (with his eyes) if “I would be kind enough to turn on the spigot for him, as he couldn’t do it himself, because of his paws.” I shrugged, and turned on the faucet for him, and he started lapping away at the falling water, in the way that dogs do. He drank his fill, thanked me, and trotted off back to his own campsite. I immediately felt better. I believe that dog gave me some good karma for the day.

After our stay at Cape Lookout, we motored north along Highway 101, one of the most amazingly scenic highways in the United States. Highway 101 runs the entire length of the west coast, running from northwest Washington all the way down to southern California. In northern California, Highway 1 takes over the scenic coastal duties, as 101 becomes a heavily used freeway farther inland. Over the past 8 years, I’ve driven long portions of this highway 5 times, and I never tire of it.
One of the cool things about Oregon and Washington is that they have made their entire shoreline along the ocean a public space, meaning everyone has access to it, and it cannot be privately owned. Oregon has no problem selling the land next to the shore. Indeed, there are clusters of expensive ocean view villas on almost every scenic vista; all of the houses are packed together like sardines. If I was going to spend a lot of money on a house, I wouldn’t want a neighbor in sight, but that’s just me. Anyway, there are hundreds of access points to the shore, and state parks every few miles. Heading north, I decided that I would make a few stops at some of the state parks that I haven’t visited before, just to check them out. Here’s what I found.

Our first stop was at the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, Oregon. Tillamook cheese is probably my favorite cheese on the market. I love their Pepper Jack and White Cheddar, though I’m fairly certain that they anything they make is good. It was cool to take the self guided tour, watching the cheese blocks roll through the factory being sliced, separated, weighed, and packaged. I also enjoyed the free samples of cheese and ice cream. It was an easy decision to buy some fresh cheese, and get an ice cream cone for the road. There’s nothing wrong with eating an ice cream cone at 8:30 in the morning.
I really liked Oswald West State Park. Walking through the thickly foliaged coastal forest was terrific. I’m glad there are trails through these woods, if there weren’t, it would be a nightmare just trying to navigate. One consistent theme I see re-accuring throughout the Pacific Northwest is the color green. Plants thrive in this moist environment.
I love it when I ‘m the first person on the beach after the tides have erased all evidence of other people. I like the unblemished sand around the boulders, logs and stumps. I think it makes a much more compelling photograph, and it makes me feel like I’m the first person to ever see this place.
It was raining when we crossed the Columbia River for the third and last time this trip. It always rains along the Washington coast when I come to visit. Our destination was Long Beach, we needed to do some laundry, catch up on some phone calls, and get a couple bowls of clam chowder to go from the 42nd St. Café in Seaview. The chowder from 42nd St. is the best chowder on the west coast (my opinion). We brought the chowder to one of my favorite state parks in Washington, that being Cape Disappointment State Park, just west of Ilwaco. We obtained the best campsite in the park (#104), set up the van, and got dinner together. Dinner consisted of the aforementioned Clam Chowder from Seaview,WA, Grilled Cheese sandwiches using fresh cheese from Tillamook and Bread from the Otis Café in Oregon. We used butter which we purchased in North Dakota, and used spices we bought in Idaho. That was probably the best meal we’ve had on this trip, delicious. It rained almost the entire time we were at Cape Disappointment. I still enjoyed walking the shore line, playing chicken with the waves, and watching the incoming tide, smash against the rocks at the base of the North Head Lighthouse. Moving right along through Washington, our next stop was Lake Sylvia State Park, just east of Aberdeen.
Lake Sylvia State Park is a small park, near the small town of Montesano. It encompasses Lake Sylvia, a small fresh water lake, popular among fishermen. My favorite part of the park was the 2 mile hiking trail that circles the lake. I liked walking among the old growth forests full of gigantic Sitka spruce and Red Cedars. The forest is thick and lush, and full of plants. The undergrowth is a tangle of moss covered fallen branches, ferns, shrubs, and debris. It has a jungle like feel to it. The topsoil is spongy and dark, a thick layer of rich decaying matter; a natural potent compost. These coastal forests of the northwest are amazing.
Seattle is a fun city to visit. We made a daytrip into the city, spending time in Pike’s Place Market and Discovery Park. We had a guide for our visit, a native Seattle resident who showed us around the city, and gave us an insider’s perspective to the city.

Pike’s Place Market is a couple block section of the city way up on the north side. It is a collection of traditional market kiosks selling anything imaginable; fruit, veggies, art, jewelry, food stuffs, clothing, photos, fish, etc. Intermixed with these shops are restaurants, businesses, tourists, street musicians and traffic. It’s a neat place to visit, and to check out, especially if you want to browse through a variety of items to buy. We ate lunch there, looked at a few shops, and crowd surfed for a couple of hours. We saw the “flying fish” for the first time (which wasn’t that impressive, but I deal with fish all summer long). We went into “Ye Old Curiosity Shop” which had a collection of macabre artifacts, including two mummies, some shrunken heads, and other random bizarre, old fashioned curiosities. I thought it was a cool collection. Lastly, we browsed through an antique shop, and found a dresser full of old family pictures, which was fun to browse through. It was kind of voyeuristic in a way, sifting through other peoples pictures and history. We left PP market and drove off to Discovery Park.
Discovery Park is a beautiful city park, and a great boon to Seattle. It’s big enough to allow you to get the feel that you aren’t in a major metropolitan area, something that a lot of the bigger city parks sometimes have trouble doing. We walked the “Loop Trail” a couple mile loop through old growth forests, grassy meadows, and coastline over looking Shilshole Bay. While walking through the woods, a tree caught my attention. To me, it looked like it had two ears, a crooked nose and a mouth. All it needed was eyes, to create a tree face. My friend added some rocks for eyes, and there it is, the Loop trail tree man.
One of the ways I judge a city is by its green space and parks, and Discovery Park passes with flying colors. Good for Seattle.

Posted by Rhombus 07:40 Archived in USA Tagged photography

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Been enjoying reading about your travels up the Oregon coast. Nice pix, and great narrative. Your bike ride on teh beach is especially nostalgic, since that's how it became public in the first place ... when Gov. Oswald West (!) declared the beach itself a public highway in 1913.

Chris, Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept.

by Chris Havel

Thanks Chris. I'm envious that you get to play in all the great Oregon Parks all the time. Thanks for making them so awesome!

by Rhombus

Yeah the fish throwers at Pikes Place kinda loose their coolness factor after a summer throwing fish yourself. I was thinking of trying to get a job there during the off season.

by EJ

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.