The time is right for a Hunter/Gatherer adventure – and although I’m not one of the serious ilk, I do live in an area where many take advantage of the riches available for the taking in our woods, streams, and sea. When I indulge, it’s not because I need food, but for the adventure – and at my age, I can use all the adventure (the moderate kind) I can scratch up.
I’ve had it in my head for some time now to get down to a place on the beach called, Whiskey Run (where a small ‘whiskey’ colored stream ‘runs’ out on the beach and disappears into the surf), and pick some mussels off the rocks which only appear at low tides there. Such activity can only take place before the weather warms, bringing on the algae blooms, which in turn make the mussels toxic – and dangerously so. This fact brings some degree of discomfort to the more timid adventurer, such as myself, who may not wish to venture forth on a cold, windy day of the Oregon winter – but it’s not as simple as just waiting until a nice day appears, because there’s the tide to consider too – if it’s not nice and low, one needn’t bother.
So, knowing we were in for a week of super-low tides during mid-mornings, I rose yesterday morning and rushed to check the forecast on weather.com, one of our more reliable sources of such things. Humm…. a 30% chance of precipitation (not too bad for us), winds @ 10-12 mph (again, not horrible), and overcast skies (fine!) – all considered, not a bad day at all. I decided to give it a shot.
My adventure today will take me through the Coos Forest, a county owned lumber producing forest, that is in fact, the single largest revenue producing source for the county. The forest is predominantly composed of only one tree, the Douglas fir, named for the British explorer and botanist, David
Douglas, was the first to discover this native tree growing wild in the Pacific Northwest, and introduced it into cultivation in England in 1827.
The Douglas fir is a magnificent tree; only the Coastal Redwood in northern California grows larger. If one lives in a wood home in the US, there’s a good chance it was constructed of Douglas fir – with its rapid growth, and strong, straight trunk, the Douglas fir is the tree of choice of lumber companies throughout the Pacific Northwest. It can grow to over 300 feet tall, although most today only reach about 200 feet before being cut – and the Douglas fir is able to live as long as 1000 years, but few remaining trees of that age exist today, even in the existing old growth stands.
A drive through the forest is always invigorating to the soul, rain or shine.
Towards the end of my drive, the scenery makes a decided change – as the forest begins to open, the added sunlight allows the wild rhododendron to show itself, and at this time of year, it takes full advantage to do just that.
Actually, the woods here are full of rhododendron, but they only bloom where they can get some sun, such as the edges of the forest bordering roads.
As I near the coast, the scene changes once more, and the rhodies give way to a forest of Scotch broom. Hereabouts, Scotch broom, or gorse, as it is more commonly known, is an invasive shrub – and when given its favorite environment, such as the coastal sand dunes, it dominates all other growth until it is the only plant still growing.
However, others come to love it – it has two endearing characteristics which I find interesting: it creates an absolutely impenetrable barrier to any potential intruders – many of the land owners here consider that with a good gate and a large dog, they may well never see another living soul ever on their property!
The other endearing characteristic of gorse is that when it blooms in its dominating coverage, it creates a sea of brilliant yellow that can be breathtaking. I love driving down this road at the height of the gorse bloom, and being literally blinded by the magnificence of the bloom. We’re a bit late today, but the beauty still lives.
We’ve arrived – and the fog shrouded beach beckons us – our chosen beach has a handy access point (there are NO private beaches in Oregon), and wherever it is not simply dangerous, it is legal to drive on Oregon’s beaches – and we shall do so today.
This beach is named, Whiskey Run, because of this stream entering the beach right here – I suspect it is called ‘run’ because of the way it spills out across the beach as it escapes into the surf. It is good that we can drive over this run today, since I am only wearing my old sneaks, and there is nowhere in my crossing where I could avoid going ankle deep in the water – not today, thank you – we’ll drive. Besides, our chosen rocks are the better part of a mile up the beach!
In the distance are the rocks which are our goal – mussels only congregate on rocks, or some man-made structure – and these rocks are especially good. Lucky for us, mussels don’t mind spending part of their day out of water, which makes it easy to harvest them.