Rain in the Pacific Northwest Brings Beauty

I appreciate what the rain brings

Rain in the Pacific Northwest Brings Beauty

It rains in the Pacific Northwest, a lot. I have always relished the rain. Well, maybe a 60 day rainy-day stint might be a test, but for the most part, I love the rain. Most importantly, I appreciate that rain in the Pacific Northwest brings beauty to our forests.

Lush green moss growing on the bark of trees is calming

Rain in the Pacific Northwest Brings Beauty

First, I love that rain-soaked green forests are abundant in this area. Driving along forest roads away from the rush of the freeways opens up a green world of beauty and grace. Lush green moss growing on the bark of trees is calming. Feathery ferns nourished in soft soil cover the earth in every direction. Additionally, fern spores lodge in tree branches high above the ground finding the necessary ingredients to sustain life. Consequently, mature fronds hang gently downward and sway in the breeze.

 Plants and birds and rocks and things

Rain in the Pacific Northwest Brings Beauty

Second, I love hiking within this natural wonderland of green that is the direct result of rain in the Pacific Northwest. Eons of fallen evergreen needles create a thick carpet that muffles the sound of my footsteps. Hiking boots strike the earth with a subdued thud as I walk. Giant trees cloaked in green moss stand stately and silent as I pass. Centuries of wisdom in old growth trees when you find them. Occasionally, a gnarled snag presents evidence of what once was. While blackened bark reveals the ancient cause of demise. Jagged boulders hang from ancient basalt cliffs while stubborn brush and ferns rise from cracks in the rocks. Sometimes, water falls in small serene drips as moisture seeps through black soil and drips from fissures in rocks, baby waterfalls.

Rain in the Pacific Northwest brings beauty

Rain in the Pacific Northwest Brings Beauty

Rain in the Pacific Northwest Brings Beauty

Water is usually abundant when hiking in the Pacific Northwest. Especially in spring as snow melt drains from upper tributaries. Centuries of wind, water and ice has cut deep draws between ridges where clean clear steams transparently reveal nature’s striking works of art. Giant boulders and varieties of rocks and pebbles lay colorfully in stream bottoms where they landed from eruptions or torrents or landslides from a violent past. White water runs the gamut over rocky cliffs and squeezed through narrow enclaves. Interplay of light and minerals in the water form blue green pools beneath waterfalls and in eddies.

Rain in the Pacific Northwest Brings Beauty

I call it meditation

Rain in the Pacific Northwest Brings Beauty

I think, therefore, I am, always prepared for rain in the Pacific Northwest when I hike. Quiet moments are treasures as I hike, engulfed in the sights and sounds of nature, enriched by the gentle thudding of my footsteps, my breath in cadence with my stride. Scents of evergreens and deep rich soil, colors, shapes and flowers accompanied by the sound of rushing water and birds shouting warnings as I pass. Breathe in, breath out, thud, thud, thud. I am totally focused in the beauty that surrounds me. I give thanks for the rain.

Celebrate Earth Day

On this 47th celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 2017, I acknowledge and express gratefulness for nature’s beautiful Pacific Northwest wonderland. Especially relevant, as individuals it is our responsibility to do our part to ensure that our lovely and wounded planet is able to sustain the life of our forests. Without our forests there is no us to appreciate them.


Have you hiked in a Pacific Northwest forest? What have you done to ensure that our planet’s forests are sustained?


Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Whale watching from a Zodiac boat

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon is a big deal. Seeing a whale in its wild environment is a real thrill. Even more thrilling is seeing a whale in its wild environment from an open Zodiac boat, up close and personal at eye level.

Whale’s Tail of Depoe Bay whale watching tour

I recently enjoyed a whale watching excursion with the Whale’s Tail out of Depoe Bay that brought pure joy to my heart. First of all, I don’t swim well enough to save my life so I was pushing the envelope a bit for me to start. Second, I had never been out on the ocean. Not really. Since, I don’t count ferry trips to Vancouver Island or fishing in the bay as ocean excursions. Lastly, I chose to book a whale tour with a company that operates a Zodiac boat. I wanted to see a whale up CLOSE and I wanted to be able to put my hand in the water. I wanted to feel what it is like to ride ocean swells.

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

We arrived early at the harbor of Depoe Bay. If you have never been down on the back side of the Depoe Bay Bridge you are missing something. While it is hailed as the world’s smallest navigable harbor, it is a lovely area tucked away beside another of the historical bridges that graces Highway 101. Designed by Conde McCullough and built in 1927, the arched concrete bridge was expanded in 1940. Furthermore, McCullough designed many of the beautiful bridges along Highway 101 in this same Art Moderne style of the day. The Depoe Bay Bridge creates a picture perfect gateway to this small harbor, but, you have to be in a Zodiac boat to fully appreciate it.

Safety first with a life jacket

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Since parking was convenient, we easily found our way to Dock 2 where our boat was docked. After donning my rain gear, hat and gloves, I was ready come rain or shine. Consequently, it appeared to be possibly a rain day. Safety first, as I maneuvered into a trusty life jacket and tucked myself away in a seat behind Captain Gary’s chair.

Don’t forget your sunglasses

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

With great excitement we set out for our 1 ½ hour tour. My husband kept humming the theme song to Gilligan’s Island. I didn’t expect we would find ourselves stranded on any deserted tropical island that day. Most of all, I just wanted to see a whale!

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Meanwhile, motoring away from the bay toward the west gave the opportunity for me to look back at the quaint buildings that make up the main drag of Depoe Bay. An unexpected surprise was watching the surf hit against the rocks. Such beauty to see from the other side!

Whale watching is fun

Soon, we neared other boats in the area, and as Captain Gary slowed the engines to near idle, we sat. It was very interesting to be floating on a relatively calm ocean. It was quiet. I realized, “Oh, we are just waiting for a whale to make itself known”.  Consequently, the radio crackled with a cryptic message and we were soon off boating in another direction. It wasn’t long before we saw a spout, and then another. Two whales side by side. And, then, I saw the body of a whale as it rolled across the water and disappeared below. I tell you, my heart nearly stopped. It wasn’t a close up or even a major sighting, but it touched my heart. Finally, to be so near to a multi-ton creature in the wild in a little boat was truly an amazing feeling.

Whales breathe at the surface

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

 

Getting ready for a deep dive

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

I learned a lot of things about whales that day as we zigged and zagged as the whales directed us. First, because Captain Gary is an experienced seaman. Second, because he has a heck of a lot of knowledge about whales. What I learned firsthand is that whales usually spend about 30 minutes below the surface eating after they breathe. Consequently, that meant there were periods of waiting with no sightings as we searched for whales.

There are lots of other things to watch in between whale sightings

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Oceanography 101

Watching waves crash against rocks as I walk the 804 Trail  near our  house in Yachats is one of my favorite coast past times. Watching waves from a Zodiac boat is spellbinding because you are really close. Especially relevant, towards the end of our tour the wind came up and the swells were larger. We were about a mile and a half out from shore in water about 90 feet deep. I noticed the surface of the water within a swell is textured with a multitude of small ripples. I am not an oceanographer, but the why question came to mind. Was it from the wind? Or, is that the nature of swells to be made up of a complex network of small ripples that build into a wave? Hmmmm.

Bird watching

Birds bobbed in the water, sometimes with their black necks and heads the only visible body part as they rode the swells. Like little stove pipes sticking out of the waves. Just hanging out over a mile from shore riding the waves. “Hey, Bob! How’s it going?”. “Oh, great. Just bobbin’.”

Migrating gray whales on the Oregon Coast

Most importantly, we were watching for migrating gray whales coming out of the Baja as they pass the Oregon Coast on their way north to the feeding grounds up north. Adult whales with their calves in tow. Furthermore, Captain Gary informed me there are a number of resident whales that choose to summer between Lincoln City and Newport. These resident whales have names and are regularly sighted in the Depoe Bay area all summer. Therefore, I am scheduling my summer calendar to fit in another tour in June. Most notably, I want to make the acquaintance of Scarback and her pals.

Mother Nature was good to us

Finally, our tour came to an end and we returned to the harbor, entering through the arch of that beautiful bridge. Lucky for us, raindrops began falling only during the last few minutes of our tour. Mother Nature was good to us.

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

 

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

I highly recommend a whale watching tour with Whale’s Tail at Depoe Bay while on your Oregon Coast vacation. Take your camera and binoculars. It is a great time for families, too. Gary and Kit at Whale’s Tail are great people to deal with and their customer service is superb. Furthermore, you can book online right from their website. The only thing I would have done differently is take a selfie with Captain Gary. Another reason to make that June booking!


Have you ever been on a whale watch tour? Have you ever ridden in a Zodiac boat on the ocean?


SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon

Time for Beach Spring Cleaning

SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon

 

Nearly 5000 SOLVE volunteers cleared more than 56,000 pounds of litter from beaches along the Oregon coast in the 34th annual SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup held April 1, 2017. SOLVE is a non-profit organization that works actively to keep Oregon clean. They organize over 1000 events each year for volunteers to help SOLVE achieve their mission of bringing Oregonians together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship.

SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon

SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon

David and I participated in the beach cleanup event in Yachats. It is a BYOB affair. Bring Your Own Bucket. We expected to be teamed with others and sent to a specific area. Upon checking in at the Yachats’s Chamber of Commerce office we learned we were on our own to just pick a location. I also selected a data sheet to document the trash I found. Tracking what type of trash helps SOLVE better understand what kinds of debris is found on our beaches and waterways.

Whoa, Cowboy. Check it out!

SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon

Following check in, we returned home and set out on the 804 Trail for the sandy beach near our house. As we walked past the rocky cove where I like to watch logs being tossed in the surf during high tide I spotted a bit of trash out on the lava bank. Since the tide was safely out I was able to clamber down the rocks to pick up the piece of plastic that I had originally spied. Well, then I spied several smaller pieces of plastic. Red, yellow, blue, white, green, black; pieces of color were strewn randomly about. Then, I found a little tide pool covered with small pieces of driftwood and, you guessed it, lots of small pieces of plastic. It became apparent that we had accidently selected our cleanup spot because in every direction we looked we found some form of debris.

We found several items that were individually listed on the data sheet. Frequently tossed items like bottle caps and plastic lids were in abundance. I found a plastic spoon and a drinking straw and a cigar tip, also on the list. My husband scored by finding a toothbrush (the final SOLVE count totaled 40 toothbrushes found that day). He also found a large plastic drain grate, the largest piece we listed on the data sheet.

SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon

What was most overwhelming were the numbers of small pieces of plastic we felt compelled to pick up. Pieces of plastic smaller than a quarter and many that were smaller than a dime. The small pieces are what birds eat as they mistakenly identify it as food.

You might get a work out

SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon

We were forced to use care as we walked because the rocks were wet and sometimes slippery. Constant bending, and in some cases, sitting in weird positions at tide pools with a strainer, took its toll on our bodies. We were feeling the pain of unused muscles and the occasional; “Ohhh!” could be heard across the lava bank from which we worked.

Sadly, we located an expired seal that the tide had washed in. A fresh victim of nature’s cycle so there was no smell of decay. One black crow sat patiently on the bank waiting for us to exit so he could enjoy a meal.

How much you say?

Three hours later we called an end to our excursion. We both had hundreds of pieces of plastic of varying sizes in our buckets. Our combined tally totaled nearly 800 pieces of plastic smaller than a quarter. It was disturbing to think that a few hours later, after the next high tide, the area would be once again strewn with items similar in size and number to what we had just retrieved.

I find myself looking at ocean waves differently after my experience that day. The beautiful waves that are mesmerizing and help bring calm to my soul also hold plastic and debris that are harming our sea life and environment. It is one thing to read about plastic in our ocean, but to immerse oneself in cleaning it up is a mind-bending experience.

“Every piece of trash….”

SOLVE Spring Beach Cleanup in Yachats, Oregon

Afterwards, I couldn’t help but feel that my little bit of effort didn’t make much of an impact. In reading an account of our collective accomplishment from the April 1 clean up, I came across a statement by Maureen Fisher, the CEO of SOLVE to KOIN6 TV station. “Every piece of trash picked up today has a tremendous impact on the health of Oregon’s wildlife and coastal communities.”

I can feel relieved that my effort is definitely worth it. I have resolved to take my trusty bucket and colander out to the lava cove on a regular basis. How much trash can one person pick up in one year?


Have you ever participated in a SOLVE event? Will you?