Pursuing Brown Pelicans and Coastal Calm at Newport, OregonOct. 20, 2013
More photos at www.tripper.smugmug.com
On Monday, Sept. 13, 2013, I drove Darlene, Nora and myself nearly 400 miles from Walla Walla to the Best Western Plus Agate Beach Inn at Newport, Ore.
The trip took about 10 hours, maybe a tad more.
I felt poorly most of the way, apparently from jousting with a common cold, and especially when we pulled away from home at 7:33 a.m.
My throat ached slightly, and my body felt feverish and sore.
Darlene expressed similar symptoms.
Nora expressed nothing. I assume she felt fine.
On top of physical distress, we groused about the crippling 14-day-old government shutdown that pundits predicted would cost hundreds of thousands of workers and the American economy millions, if not billions, of dollars.
We groused about possibly having no access to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Nature Area. It's one of our favorite places, especially in October when the brown pelicans flock to the sea stacks, waves and beaches.
We reached Tillamook after about 320 miles.
We had very little traffic on Washington Highway 14 to the I-5 at Vancouver. Then, despite the clogged lanes, we zipped through Portland and onto Highway 26, Sunset Highway, to the west.
From Tillamook we turned south for nearly 70 miles, a slow scenic drive, along the coast on Highway 101.
We stopped often.
We had a late lunch at Mo's in Lincoln City, fish sandwiches and chowder, after which Nora and I spent an hour on the Siletz Bay beach while I snapped photos.
We saw dozens of the pelicans, too distant for decent images. Yet, their presence in such large numbers raised my spirits.
In previous October trips to Newport, dozens of brown pelicans loafed and fed at Yaquina Head, on Colony Rock near the lighthouse, as well as other formations near the tide pools.
Denied that access on Tuesday, however, we dined early at the motel's Starfish Grill before driving nearly 20 miles south to the massive, pelican-and-seal friendly formations at Seal Rocks.
On the way we stopped at Ona Beach Park and Beaver Creek.
Nora and I walked a path to the wide, shallow mouth of the creek on the ocean where two men cast flies.
As sun cast sparkling jewels on the ripples, I saw what lured the anglers to the stream.
Steelhead or salmon, perhaps both, churned up glistening plumes of spray in as they thrashed into the fresh water in search of spawning beds.
I snapped several photos before realizing that I aimed the camera into the sun. So, urging Nora to hurry, I quick-stepped back along the path, crossed the stream on a wooden bridge and resumed snapping images of the large fish struggling across the smooth, rocky shallows, often with their dorsal and tail fins flying like sails.
On the way back to the truck, we stumbled into a squadron of dragon flies along the shaded stream. One landed on my leg and posed for a close-up.
Then we hurried on down to Seal Rocks where we enjoyed seascape scenes with waves crashing between massive stacks.
We saw no seals or pelicans, however.
After that, we returned northward through Newport to visit the Devil's Punch Bowl. Dozens of pelicans, gulls and cormorants sunbathed on the rock formations as the sea crashed around them.
We spent a long time there. An hour. Or two.
On the way back to town, Darlene spied a carpet of pelicans, gulls and cormorants spread across a section of sun-drenched Beverly Beach.
Nora and I climbed down a steep red bank to the beach. Along with four other people, we (Nora on her leash) did a semi-sneaking slow-step march toward the birds.
As we drew within close-up camera range, a woman with a dog on a long string drew too close and the birds flew. Even that, however, made interesting images.
Then we dined in the McDonald's parking lot because the sunshine made the truck too hot for Nora to remain in it alone, even with the windows halfway down.
On Wednesday, we again drove north to Siletz Bay, but at a very low tide no pelicans frolicked along the shore.
Nora and I walked the beach beyond the mouth of the Siletz River without seeing a pelican close enough to photograph.
So, we took the opportunity to visit the Tanger outlet stores. Nora and I waited in the truck while Darlene trolled for bargains.
She came back unencumbered, however. Shopping is like fishing, I guess. Sometimes you don't get a nibble.
We spent what remained of the afternoon window shopping and sea lion watching with Nora along the main street at Old Town Newport. Nora watched the sea lions as intently as she watched Shadow, the cat next door that loves to tease Nora from just beyond the fence.
The large morning breakfasts at the Starfish became important because, alas, for lunch we dined again, and sparsely, at McDonald's.
Finally, the Yaquina Head Outstanding Nature Area opened with brilliant sunshine Thursday morning.
Nora could stay in the room during breakfast, as long as we informed the desk, but I didn't tarry.
I shoveled down my two eggs over easy, four slices of bacon, a slab of hash-browns and two pieces of toast with jelly, chased by four cups of coffee, and waited almost patiently for Darlene to finish pancakes et al before we could fetch Nora and dash to the natural area.
Pets aren't allowed near the lighthouse. So, Nora and Darlene waited as I hurried to the deck below the lighthouse and perhaps 20 yards cross from Colony rock.
Sure enough, a large colony of brown pelicans frolicked and preened on the rocks. And they sailed between me and the rocks an their way to and from hunting for fish.
Despite the harsh, cheek-chilling breeze snapping in from the sea, I stood taking photos for hours. I had set up a tripod with a gimbal head and swiveled the camera with the long lens from side to side and up and down while locked on passing pelicans like a B52 tail gunner firing at swooping, diving enemy planes.
That may be a mean simile, but it was fun.
Then the gravy-thick fog arrived, dwindling visibility to almost zilch.
After creeping along the fog-bound highway, we tried the Devils Punch Bowl and other venues, but visibility remained opaque.
With the cooling fog, however, Nora napped comfortably in the truck while we dined leisurely at the Chalet Restaurant and Bakery on the main drag, near Safeway and Fred's.
Darlene had an inch-thick chicken quesadilla. I had a molten, thick cheese-and-potato soup, sweet cornbread with soft butter and a saucer-sized salad.
On the clear Friday morning, we skipped the motel breakfast and left Newport before 7:20. We paused for Egg McMuffin's at McDonald's in Lincoln City. We detoured from Highway 101 to go through Pacific City, over Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout, and along Netarts Bay.
We stopped to observe a fleet of brown pelicans feeding near the road in the high-tide at Netarts Bay.
We stopped at Tillamook for Darlene to browse at the Blue Heron.
She returned with a heavy sack full of bottles containing such cooking ingredient's as BBQ and Marian Berry sauces.
And she had a small white box containing a box with four divine chocolate truffles with soft centers, two white chocolate and two milk chocolate.
We opened the box immediately.
Then we headed home. We stopped a few times for Nora to rest and sniff.
And, of course, we crossed the Columbia River from Highway 14 to dine at Spooky's Pizza in The Dalles.
I munched the Oriental Salad, partly made with crunchy Napa cabbage, among other delicacies, and a Black Butte Porter.
Darlene ate Buffalo Wings with ice water.
We reached home at shortly after 5 p.m.
My lance had unhorsed my cold.
Darlene felt better.
Nora dashed toward the bird feeder, flushing the sparrows and two squirrels.
All three of us agreed that the trip had been a pleasant one.
Heck, even a downright hoot!