Being between sailboats means that there hasn’t been a lot of beach time or sightings of sea critters lately. Fortunately, while I was out at the Oregon Coast with my sister and her twin 12-year old girls, we had the chance to play on the beach, explore the tide pools and visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We even saw some lighthouses and checked out the boats in Newport. It wasn’t just cheesy tourist attractions and greasy food on this trip.
My sister rented a cute little house in Seal Rock (between Newport and Waldport) which had the beach right on our doorstep. It is kind of an old fashioned operation. The owner is in his 90s and only takes checks. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a check, let alone written one out. It was a great little place set in the midst of a lot of pretty flowers and pine trees.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of the big attractions in the Newport area. It is chock full of ocean critters – otters, seals, sea lions (or “seals with ears”), an octopus, jellyfish and, of course, lots and lots of fish. For some reason, there is also a turkey vulture exhibit. No idea why. Maybe I should have read the sign. It might have explained things. And there is a gift shop. My nieces LOVE spending time in gift shops. They got grandma some socks with cute little puffins all over them. Because who doesn’t need puffin socks?
My pictures didn’t really turn out that well, except for these jellyfish. However, one of my nieces made a video of our visit which you can check out on our YouTube channel here. She put it together on her iPod in the car in about 35 minutes. Hanging around 12-year olds sure does make you feel technologically incompetent.
We checked out two lighthouses in the area – one at Yaquina Head and one at Yaquina Bay. I found the one at Yaquina Bay to be more interesting as you can explore the light keeper's house, but the one at Yaquina Head is part of an “outstanding natural area” managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In addition to seeing the lighthouse, you can explore the tide pools, go for some short walks and look for seals and “seals with ears”. If you’re out there at the right time of the year, you’ll even see gray whales. We didn’t. You have to pay $7 per car to use the area, but the pass is good for three days which is handy. We hadn’t checked out the tide tables the first day were were there so the tide pools were kind of a bust, but we came back the next day at the right time.
We are probably some of the last people to see the purple ochre sea stars. They’re dying due to a wasting disease and are expected to be extinct in just a matter of time. Unfortunately, they’re a keystone species which means the rest of the ecosystem is going to hell. It was all kind of depressing, so we went to the gift shop at the interpretive center to cheer up. I can’t remember what the girls bought there, but I’m sure it was something adorable that they can’t possibly live without.
Scott and I are trying to get the girls to become interested in sailing. We figured that we can take them out on our boat and put them to work. They’re very clever and creative. I’m sure they can figure out how to fix marine toilets and repair sails much better than we can. Plus it would give their parents a break if we borrowed them from time to time. As part of our brainwashing campaign, I suggested that we stop in Newport to look at the boats. At first, they thought this was the most boring thing in the world. Why look at boats when there are a million gift shops to explore. But then they saw little jellyfish in the water and sea lions swimming around, so it wasn’t all bad.
And I’ll leave you with a few more beach shots – some from near Seal Rock and some up in Pacific City.