This past Friday was Aunt Ellen’s birthday. Since we’re now on the same coast, Laura and I decided to drive down to Coos Bay, Oregon, and celebrate it with her. We decided to take the Mini and drive down along the coast, catching some spectacular scenery along the way.
Day One – Thursday
We headed out early Thursday morning on a spectacular day. Despite the chill in the air we bundled up and put the roof back on the convertible. We would drive like that the whole day.
The most direct route from Samish Island to Coos Bay takes about eight hours, but we wouldn’t be taking the most direct route. From Everett to Olympia is solid urban traffic on I-5 and we didn’t have much choice as to the route. We managed to get through Seattle traffic, whizzed past Tacoma and Olympia, then made it through the amazing spaghetti junctions of Portland, Oregon.
When we got to Corvalis we decided we had enough Interstate driving. We crossed the Coastal Range over to the town of Newport and drove south along the coast on Highway 101. The views were incredible, and once again I found myself wanting to kayak the various coves and rivers we crossed.
Eventually we reached the Cook’s Chasm overlook south of the town of Yachats and decided to stop. We had been here before on our drive from San Francisco to Washington a couple of years ago. However, for some reason we missed the two most spectacular features of this overlook – Thor’s Well and The Spouting Horn.
Thor’s Well caught my eye first. It’s a circular hole in the rocky coast and at high tide water comes over the rocks, fills the well, then drains out. We hit it perfectly as the tide was coming in. A couple of photographers were right at the edge of the well with cameras on tripods.
The Spouting Horn was also in full swing with the high tide. Water rushes down the narrow channel then erupts through the hole. It was quite impressive.
Here’s a bit of video. Click the image to watch the video on Flickr.
I would have been perfectly happy to stay and explore the trails a bit more, but we still had a long way to drive. As we passed through the Oregon Dunes area the sun began to sink. I was hoping to watch the sun set over water, but Highway 101 had moved inland from the dunes. Finally we reached Winchester Bay near the Umpqua Lighthouse. I found a road that led out to a water view, actually a channel leading from the bay to the ocean. It worked quite well. The sunset was amazing, with mirage-like remnants of the sunlight lingering after the sun had set.
We drove on through the lake district north of Coos Bay and crossed the bay into the town of North Bend, then into Coos Bay itself. Turns out the hotel Laura had booked was the same place we stayed on our previous trip. We called to let Aunt Ellen know that we had arrived, then grabbed a pizza and headed over to spend the evening with her.
Day Two – Friday
Since we were in the Mini it would be uncomfortable for all of us to ride in it, so when we met Aunt Ellen that morning we switched to her car. Since this was her birthday we let her choose her activities for the day. We started by driving down to her favorite tourist town of Bandon, south of Coos Bay. We had lunch then walked through the shops. I remembered many of these from the previous trip.
After walking through Bandon we drove to Aunt Ellen’s favorite beach, Bastendorff beach, also south of Coos Bay. It was a bit chilly, but we walked along the water’s edge as the tide was coming in.
From the beach we headed back to the house for mid-afternoon cake and candles…
…then we set off once again in search of a sunset view and dinner. We drove north out of Coos Bay and took several side roads trying to get to a water view. Sadly, we didn’t find a beach access in time. I took a few shots of the sun setting over the Oregon Dunes.
We crossed back over the dramatic Coos Bay Bridge. This is one of a series of Art Deco bridges along the Oregon Coast. Many are on the National Register of Historic Places. With the twilight the old railroad steel truss bridge below was silhouetted against the water. I had Laura take these photos as I drove across the bridge.
We had a nice birthday dinner out, then headed back to Aunt Ellen’s house to hang out for the rest of the evening.
Day Three – Saturday
It was foggy when we got up. That fog would stay with us for most of the day. Even so, we still headed back up Highway 101 with the roof back and the heater on. We passed by the same overlooks that we had seen on Friday, but with the fog it made no sense to stop. It was still a cool ride back, despite the lack of ocean views.
We crossed the Siuslaw River into the town of Florence. It was about mid-morning and we were in want of more coffee, so we turned toward the historic waterfront district of the town. There we found Siuslaw Coffee with some most excellent coffee and a view of the bridge in the fog. The barista and I chatted about kayaking and for the umpteenth time I found myself wishing I had a boat and the time to explore these waters.
The waterfront of Florence looks like an interesting place with shops and restaurants. I could see staying here and using this as a base of operations for kayaking and coastal explorations.
We headed on up Highway 101. Since we had a bit more time I wanted to be sure to stop at the Cook’s Chasm overlook. It was still foggy but the tide was higher and the waves even more dramatic than when we came by on Friday.
Unfortunately, our day took a turn for the worse. Laura tripped over a high curb and fell, banging up her knees and one elbow. She didn’t break anything, but was hurting. I helped get her bandaged up, but still managed to walk down the trail and get some shots while she rested in the car.
We continued north. When we got to Newport we decided not to take 20 back to Corvalis. Oregon State is located in that city and they were having a home game today. We just didn’t want to get caught up in traffic. We stayed on the coastal highway.
At Cape Foulweather we stopped at the overlook. Last time we were here we could see whales off the coast. That wasn’t an option with today’s fog. I’d also bought a hat here which I’d lost sometime in the past couple of years. I was able to find a replacement.
On our last trip we had taken Highway 18 east above Lincoln City through the wine country of Oregon an on toward Portland. It looked like there were lots of closures for construction on this day, so we decided to continue on 101. We were on new roads. We continued through rural farmlands then through the cheese-producing town of Tillamook. They had tours and tastings, but Laura was not filling very well so we continued on. At the intersection of Highway 26 we picked back up on our trail from our earlier trip and continued on to Astoria. There we crossed a very foggy Columbia River into Washington. From that point we took pretty much a direct route home with a brief stop for dinner.
It was a great visit with Aunt Ellen. Since we’re this close I’m sure we’ll make more trips down to see her. I also want to get back down that way with my kayak and paddle some of those rivers. Perhaps in the spring that can be arranged.