A Hunter-Gatherer Adventure to Whiskey Run

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.

Once again, not my shot, but a magnificent pic of old growth Douglas fir. Photo courtesy of timpanogos-wordpress.com

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.

The Forest Beckons Us ‘Enter’

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.

This is the only color I’ve ever seen in the wild rhododendron, a sort of pinkish purple – maybe I’ve seen some which were a bit whiter than these – whatever! They are beautiful.

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.

Many hate it, and do whatever it takes to get rid of it – bulldozers are the surefire cure.

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.

Our journey is about 3/4 of a mile over really hard packed sand – our tires hardly make an imprint in the sand. Even the dry sand at the top of the beach is drivable, but we’ll stay on the wet sand.

This is as far as we can go – what shall we do now? Only two choices: drive out into the surf, or drive over these rocks. Which?
(Continued in next post.)


About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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8 Responses to A Hunter-Gatherer Adventure to Whiskey Run

  1. Glenda says:

    What an adventure, Doc.
    Do you know that it is too hot to grow rhododendron in Perth? They are so beautiful, I love them. I have only ever seen them in Melbourne.

    • drfugawe says:

      Well, I sure didn’t know it before your last post about how you grew enough olives in your backyard to get a 3 year supply of olive oil – but I do now!

  2. Joanna says:

    Oh my! I wish I was there – love coastal forests and dunes and big beaches – maybe I will move to Oregon- in the meantime I will wait patiently for the next post – I did enjoy this one Doc 🙂

    • drfugawe says:

      You don’t have to move here, you can just visit – you and Brian are welcome anytime – and we give private tours. Some of the rocks offshore are so large that the wave action has cut holes through them, and one can walk through the holes at low tide – it really is quite amazing.

  3. Sandee Murren says:

    You took some amazing pictures, dear. Sorry I wasn’t with you on the adventure. Next time…

    • drfugawe says:

      Thank you, my dear one – but I believe your praise is misdirected; if there is anything amazing here, all responsibility is due to the beauty of the environment, and to the camera itself. And maybe just a little credit should go to the overcast day, which here has cast a spell of days gone by and lives forgotten.

      It was fun.

  4. MC says:

    You do live in a magnificent part of the world, Doc, even if it is sometimes a bit wet and cold. I love both the pictures and the suspense you built up. I was without access to the Internet for a few days, so I only discover this post tonight and you have already posted the next chapter! Lucky me!

    • drfugawe says:

      Being an old Psych major, I’ve always been a little bit suspicious of those who talked about ‘the beauty’ of uncomfortable environments – but whatever the reason, as time goes by, one adjusts and adapts. Took me 25 years to see the beauty of Florida in the summer, and I’m only now, after being here for 15 years, beginning to appreciate how Oregon winters slowly change one’s negative perspective – maybe one day I’ll even grow into a native!

      Thanks for stopping by, MC.

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