Saturday, May 21, 2011

Oregon Coast Adventures: sandboarding, marine wildlife and heli rides

I honestly can't imagine how we fit so much into one day, but Thursday was more full of adventure than any other - a great day! In the morning we explored some tidepools at Strawberry Hill Wayside, which is part of Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint. I'd have to say that compared to the other two spots - which were truly amazing - it was not as good for exploring. The tide was slightly higher so maybe some of the best tidepools were not exposed, and the rocks were incredibly slippery. In the other two locales, there were more spots to put your feet that did not have seaweed covering them. You had to be very careful not to slip here. And it seemed like the tidepools themselves were not as full of critters. But it is still always fun to explore and shoot photos. This is a purple ochre seastar. A shot of the landscape at Strawberry Hill. Oh and I randomly ran into some graduate students from Jane Lubchenco's lab at Oregon State! As head of NOAA she surely isn't actively researching right now but she still has a lab doing research apparently! I remember reading about her ecology/tidepool research in my massive Biology 101 textbook so I have great respect for the fact that she is now the head of NOAA is pretty cool to me. I actually met her at the last SEJ conference in Missoula (speaking of which - I'm excited to sign up for the SEJ conference in Miami this coming October!!)
The orange-colored seastars are so bright you can easily spot them across the way as the waves crash on the rocks.
But look up close, and what do you see? This starfish has a smiley face on it!! I swear I did not Photoshop that in either!
I just love starfish!
Starfish lovers.
After exploring the tidepools, we went to Sea Lion Caves, a private enterprise north of Florence on the Central Oregon coast that has a great view of an overlook where hundreds of Stellar sea lions haul out to mate and have babies every year. Birthing will happen next month, so any of the younguns you see in the pics below are yearlings. These are a different species than the California sea lions that we saw on the dock in Newport. You can see how gigantic the Stellar males are - they are massive! Stellars are quite a bit larger than California sea lions, and the folks at Sea Lion Caves told us that they generally do not haul out together. However an interesting sidenote is that when all the sea lions disappeared from the San Francisco Pier 39 in Nov 2009 (which I wrote about for Animal Planet), they showed up in Oregon, right in this same area! They can't be 100% sure they were the same animals since they are not tagged or anything, but it seems likely. I also blogged about their return in May 2010 for Animal Planet.
A shot of the sea lions from a perspective of many feet above.
Now I swear I didn't Photoshop this either but what the heck is on that one sea lion but ... the mark of the beast! The number 666 is clearly etched on its skin - the antichrist sea lion! I'm wondering if a biologist marked it for research purposes. I have to show this to the Sea Lion Caves folks - maybe they will know. It could have been an injury because another sea lion we saw had fresh wounds on its fur, but I didn't get a photo of that one.
A big daddy sea lion!
While watching the sea lions with binoculars, we saw some gray whales passing by!Another shot of the gray whales.
One of the best ways to spot whales is by their blow, and then if you watch the ocean for a while they will surface.
The Heceta Head Lighthouse is also visible from Sea Lion Caves. It's apparently one of the most photographed in the nation because of the great view on roadsides and other spots like here!
Another view, closer in.
Another feature of Sea Lion Caves is that they have an elevator that takes you down some 200 feet below to the world's "biggest sea cave" - and thgough sea lions normally don't hang out there this time of year there were some. All my pics were out of focus but I wanted to show this view of the cave - minus any sea lions. Underground they have some interpretive displays as well. Out of one of the cavern walls, you could see this nesting pair of pigeon guillemots.
Next we went to the Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast for a tour and a boxed lunch from Ona Restaurant (which was fantastic - they made me a baba ganoush veggie sandwich- OMG it was so good!), which is owned by the same people (on a sidenote - I'm impressed by how many restaurants specialize in "farm to fork" and local and/or sustainable meat and seafood). The B&B is in the home of the former lighthouse keepers (not in the lighthouse itself) but it's a short walk to the actual lighthouse. Apparently the B&B is "haunted"...
While there I ate my lunch on a bench overlooking this beautiful view... with a bird perched in the treetop. NEXT we went on another adventure - sandboarding lessons. It was SO much fun! I didn't even know sandboarding existed! I had so much fun. We got 30-minute lessons from 2 sandboarding champs, Gabriel and Joey, who work at Sandmaster Park in Florence, which was started by Lon Beale who was a pioneer of the sport in the 1970s and helped create the sand boards, as well as Dune Riders International - a governing body of the sport. They created a park dedicated to sandboarding, and rent boards and offer lessons. We just went on the bunny slope! Check out the cool video of people sandboarding. But I did fall once!
Cruising down the sand hill - woohoo!
We each got a dune buggy ride too.This is Pat and Eileen. When it was my turn, I got a face full of sand when the driver turned into a bank that he didn't quite make it up! I found sand all over me for days...
I rode with Rebecah - doesn't she look like she is having a blast! This one was definitely milder than the 390-foot drop we would do the next day at Sandland Adventure Park! I didn't get any photos because it's a freaking wild ride and they recommend you not take anything along.
This is an accidental photo I took with my phone that turned out pretty cool. Hang ten!
This is one of the instructors, Joey.
And as if we hadn't already squeezed in enough adventure for one day, we next went on a helicopter ride over the coast with Apex Helicopters, which just moved to Florence from Bozeman, Montana. They will no doing sunset and other coastal tours as well as flight training.
And last, we went back to our rooms at the Driftwood Shores Resort, where we ate at the Surfside restaurant and then I shot these photos of the sunset as well as those I posted yesterday. Of all the places, this was not my favorite in terms of the rooms but then again we didn't have as large of rooms as in the other resorts. The rooms were a bit older, but they have done some upgrades to make the place family friendly like a waterpark-like play area for the kids near the indoor pool and a huge hot tub that seats 10 or 12 people. I think in terms of views, I prefer the rockier shoreline of the spots further north; however, I really loved the way the photographs turned out with the light reflecting in the wet sand on the long, flat beach. The manager Martin - who is from Great Britain - was truly delightful! He ate dinner with us and was just a really interesting and nice guy. He told us how his wife wouldn't let him get a motorcycle so instead he got a "scooter." Only it goes 110 miles/hour... At least that is how fast he has gone on it. :)
Driftwood on the beach in Florence outside of the Driftwood Shores hotel.
Pat, Eileen and me on the roadside at one of the roadside pullouts we stopped at for photos.


Tracy said...

I adore the Oregon coast! Oh, do these shots ever make want to be there! I haven't gotten a chance to go down into the sea lion caves yet..hope to someday soon.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comment! I know - it's definitely one of my favorite places!

Unknown said...

I just found your blog :) Beautiful shots. Oregon is so beautiful! Love the sea lion pics. I was there about 15 years ago and didn't get to see many sea lions at all :(

Unknown said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting! I love comments! I had such a blast on the Oregon coast - definitely going back! Bummer about the sea lions. I wonder if their numbers are increasing now? There were sure a lot of them!

Unknown said...

I Love the Oregon coast soo Much! I live really close to it so I get to go there a lot and it is truly a beautiful place! (: