We have been slowly working our way down US 101 along the Pacific Coast of Oregon and California on our way to the warm, dry desert country of the Southwest. Our first stop was the little town of Neskowin, Oregon, located a few miles north of Lincoln City. The campground where we stayed, Neskowin Creek Resort, has been a favorite of ours for some time, and it is an easy walk to the beach. It’s been a bit stormy lately, so the ocean was very active with an off-shore wind resulting in a lot of spray blowing off the tops of some of the larger breakers.
Ocean beaches are more than sand and drift logs. We get great pleasure out of watching the gulls and shore birds searching the surf and receding waves for bits that are too small for our eyes to even see. At Bullards Beach State Park, near Bandon, Oregon, we spent quite a while watching a small flock of sanderlings busily feeding at the leading and retreating edge of the waves.
The Oregon coast has eight of the best lighthouses to be found anywhere. For forty-three years, the Coquille River Lighthouse guided boats safely across the shallow beach at the mouth of the Coquille River until 1939 when it was replaced by an automatic light on the south jetty of the river.
In the 1920s, when they built the Coast Highway in northern California, a stretch of the coast from Mendocino County through the King Range in Humboldt County was too rugged for a road. Thus, this expanse of magnificent coastline was isolated and became known as the “Lost Coast” and is encompassed by the King Range National Conservation Area. We have been through the redwoods a number of times, but have never explored that area – so now was the time. A winding 23 mile drive from Redway brought us to Shelter Cove, a small community at the core of the Lost Coast. Set on a flat spot amidst a long stretch of rugged mountain cliffs, it has become a seaside resort catering to outdoor enthusiasts. For our day-trip, we centered on the little Mal Coombs Park where we found the Cape Mendocino Lighthouse. Constructed in 1867 in San Francisco, it was moved to high on the cliffs of Cape Mendocino where it began service in 1868. Decommissioned in 1951, it was slowly sliding toward the 422-foot cliff. In 1998, it was dismantled, restored, and reconstructed here in Shelter Cove.
After a short walk on the rugged beach to look at the pounding surf and the lazy seals relaxing on the rocks or playing in the surf, we headed across the street to Cape Mendocino Tea for an excellent lunch. We don’t normally talk about specific restaurants, but this one is an exception. It is run by a hospitable couple who have posted about the place the fact that they are retiring on August 31, 2012. If anyone seeing this is interested in running a cozy restaurant in a beautiful setting, it is for sale and they would love to hear from you.
A short drive from Shelter Cove brought us to Black Sand Beach. The very black sand of this beach is courser than many we have been on, but it is extremely uniform in size – no larger grains or pebbles. This particular beach shifts back and forth with the seasons. In the summer, the more gentle waves wash the sand in, thus raising the level of the beach. Rough winter storms erode the sand lowering the beach.
We were amused by a warning sign we found at both beaches – DANGER – INTERMITTENT WAVES OF UNUSUAL SIZE AND FORCE. Not because it isn’t very true, but because of its unusual wording.
After a beautiful, fun drive on nearly 80 miles of paved and unpaved roads (complete with small streams to ford), we arrived at Cape Mendocino which is only about 35 miles north along the coast from Shelter Cove. From there we climbed back over the coastal range of mountains and returned to our campground.
And who could travel the length of the Redwood Highway without stopping at a tourist trap? Ours was right across the highway from our campground. The One Log House was carved out of a single redwood log to create a room 7 feet high and 32 feet long in 1946. For the first few years it traveled the US on its own wheels (how’s that for a travel trailer?) before it finally settled down in redwood country. It is fully furnished with kitchen, living/dining, and bedroom areas.