Tuesday, 20 September 2011

oregon coast and beyond

So on to the next phase of our trip: all the way down the coast of Washington, Oregon and California to San Francisco. After a couple of hours on a wet and busy freeway, we hit Route 101, and the sort of quiet, forest route we are looking forward to. Some highlights as we go:
• Seaside. Our first experience of the foggy Oregon coast. After a drizzly trip down, the rain stopped as we arrived, but the fog rolled in, giving a patina of mystery to this little resort. It’s a pleasant enough place, with a deep sandy beach, lined with grey shingle cottages. Americans do seaside very well, with tasteful buildings, artfully arranged ‘natural’ gardens – and of course they have the advantage of the wonderful geography. Seaside, as its name suggests, provides a weekend retreat for Portland, and has some remnants of a deco past.
• Yachats. Another 200 miles and we are well into Oregon. Yachats is a little village between a wide, misty ocean beach and Cape Perpetua, where the mountains come down to the sea, a sheer drop of almost 800 feet. We walked for hours both days we were here on the almost deserted foreshore – first grey and misty and atmospheric, later sunny and warm. Ian had booked a motel right on the beach – simple but comfortable – and we also found a nice little Italian restaurant, run by Heidi and Bill like it was their own front room: it was clear that they cared about food. Most places here are safe and predictable, without any passion.
• Crescent City. Not the most interesting of places to stay but it has a cute lighthouse on a little island; and if you go out to the headland beyond the town, there is a great view of the whole sweep of the coast – perhaps 20 or 30 miles in each direction, with a wall of mountains behind. However, what made this stop special was the motel where we stayed – more later.
All in all a very varied drive, always interesting, and a generally quiet road featuring spectacular engineering, winding up vertiginous capes and with elegant early 20th century bridges spanning the estuaries, striking out through dunes and marshes and lagoons; and linking the few well spaced towns, some poor and neglected, in post industrial decline, others smart and well scrubbed. The road winds back and forth to the coast, but easy on the eye all the way.
Other interesting places we saw included:
• Astoria: On the Washington/Oregon border, the town is dominated by an enormous bridge spanning the river.
• Bandon: another great beach with many stacks and small offshore islands – the town also looks quite upmarket but we didn’t stay.
• Port Orford: which has a great elevated ‘drive-in-view’ of the coast further south.

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