Great Spots to Watch Oregon’s Winter Storms

Great Spots to Watch Oregon's Winter Storms @WellTraveledFamily.net

Having lived in the Redding for the past four years (in the midst of a severe drought), we are delighted to be back on the Oregon coast. We’re smack dab in the middle of peak storm season and it is fun to catch the fury of the Pacific as the waves and wind crash into the shoreline.

On the Oregon Coast south of Depoe Bay, there is a rocky outcropping called Cape Foulweather. It was named by Captain James Cook as he searched for a passage to the Atlantic Ocean. Though his quest was not successful, winter storms on the Oregon Coast can be most certainly be foul. It is a perfect place to watch Oregon’s Winter Storms.

A little storm science

Peak winter storm season typically runs from November through March. While it doesn’t tend to get cold enough to snow here thanks to the warming influence of the Pacific, our mild winter weather is punctuated by spectacular storms featuring high winds and heavy rain that roll in from the ocean.

With the free printables and activities from MaryAnne, you can engage your children in a Weather Around the World unit study. 

In the winter, the eastward-flowing atmospheric river of air known as the jet stream intensifies and moves south, pushing rain-bearing weather systems along with it. These storms form over the ocean, typically where warm and cold air masses collide.

Beginning this week, meteorologists have predicted a train of winter storms approaching our coastline. Varying in intensity and location, the storms will hit every one to three days with waves of drenching rain, heavy mountain snow and gusty winds.

Where to watch

Perfect high spots from which to view spectacular surf include Rocky Creek Scenic Viewpoint near Depoe Bay, the viewpoint at the lighthouse at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, multiple spots at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area south of Yachats, and Shore Acres State Park near Charleston.

  1. Seaside
  2. Ocean Front Cabins near Tillamook Bay (503) 842-6081
  3. Tyee Lodge in Newport (541) 265-8953
  4. Coos Bay
  5. Sunset Oceanfront Lodge in Bandon (541) 347-2453

If you choose to experience the full wrath of a winter storm, safety should be your first concern. Some storms are simply too dangerous for beach walks, so be sure to heed all safety warnings issued by the authorities. If you do venture out, stay up high out of the reach of sneaky storm waves. They can always reach further up the beach than you think and sneaker waves can be deadly.

If you prefer to watch frothy waves and horizontal rain as you sip hot chocolate by a wood fire, then snuggle up comfortably – here are our top picks for places to watch these storms in Oregon.

After the storm

One of the great bonuses of coastal storms is the exceptional beachcombing that can often be done after the storm has subsided. All kinds of fascinating debris is more likely to be found after a storm, including glass Japanese fishing floats, tsunami debris left over from the 2011 tsunami, and interesting biological specimens wrenched from the depths of the ocean.

I once found cigar-shaped egg cases on the beach near Depoe Bay. I brought them to the lab at Oregon Institute of Marine Biology and was able to watch the embryos of Pacific Squid develop.

Storm-watching season has just begun. Make your reservations now to catch an Oregon Coast storm from a cozy cabin or waterfront lodge.

Don’t forget your rain gear! ?

Delicious Santa Maria-style Barbecue

As we were planning our road trip on California’s famed coastal highway, a friend recommended we try Santa Maria Barbecue.  As I outlined our trip on a map, I tried googling it with the belief that this was the name of an establishment. I soon gave up my preliminary search when I came up empty handed.

Santa Maria-style Barbecue @WellTraveledFamily.netI didn’t give it any further thought until we were just a few miles south of Santa Maria. I had begun to seek out options for dinner.  When Patrick stated he wanted barbecue for dinner, I was reminded of my earlier failed quest.

I again struggled to find the restaurant, so I called our hotel to inquire. Only then did I realize my error – it was a style of barbecue.

Santa Maria-style barbecue is a regional culinary tradition rooted in and around the city of Santa Maria—which sprawls across the ranchlands and vineyards between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara—for 150 years. This traditional style barbecue menu was copyrighted by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce in 1978.

Santa Maria-style Barbecue @WellTraveledFamily.netRecords from the days of the ranchos, the giant cattle ranches that covered this territory when it was Mexico, describe almost bacchanalian scenes of whole bulls’ heads and other beef cuts roasted in pits dug in the ground. Tortillas, salsa, and beans were served along with a slew of other sides. These were all-day celebrations—for vaqueros relaxing at the end of a cattle roundup, or guests from the city invited for a ranch adventure.

By the early 1900s, a less daunting cooking style emerged—asado, which involved skewering hunks of beef on green willow rods and setting them across a pit of burning red oak. The Santa Maria Valley is often rather windy, so the style of cooking is over an oxidative fire as opposed to a reductive fire that many covered BBQs use.

Remarkably, that’s still pretty much how people here do it: over a fire of California coastal red oak and on a grill that raises and lowers the meat to the flame. The meat has no sauce, just a dry rub of salt, pepper, and garlic salt. The traditional accompaniments are pinquito beans, fresh salsa, tossed green salad, and grilled French bread dipped in sweet melted butter.

Santa Maria-style Barbecue @WellTraveledFamily.netWe settled upon Shaw’s Restaurant and were not disappointed. Upon entering, we were immediately drawn to the Asado-style bbq pit that was slowly roasting the meats. We also observed that the dining room was full of customers.

We ordered the trip tip and it was by far THE best tri tip we have had. The food portions are generous; the kids shared a rib eye steak and we had leftovers for lunch the next day.

We all loved the taste of the red oak smoke given to the meats while cooked on a wonderful open pit wood grill. Next time we’re in Santa Maria we will be coming back to Shaw’s for Santa Maria-style barbecue.

Tip :: If you are looking for a deal, lunch is cheaper than dinner and they also have early bird dinner specials on the menu from 4-6:30pm.

 

California’s Central Coast: Ventura Beach

The past couple of years, we have enjoyed a week long holiday road trip in the spring. This year, we chose California’s Central Coast via Highway 1.

We departed Anaheim mid-day on Wednesday and headed to Ventura where we began our road trip northward along California Hwy 1. Upon checking into our hotel, the Ventura Beach Marriott, we ventured out to explore the area.

image of young boy playing in the sand on Ventura Beach, CA California State Beaches

Ventura is home to beautiful beaches, a vibrant downtown, and a fun-filled harbor. Here, Island Packers’ crews transport guests via boat to the extraordinary Channel Islands National Park – one of three key destinations on our trip.

Our first stop was San Buenaventura State Beach which consists of a 1,700 feet pier featuring a snack bar, restaurant, and bait shop. People often come to this beach to surf, swim, and picnic. Biking is also done here and there are bike trails that lead to other nearby beaches.

While there, we observed a group of young people playing volleyball, another passing the time idly, as well as several runners and walkers. We eagerly began to explore the beach according to our interests – Patrick sat along the pier and watched for whales, Jeffrey rolled in the sand building an imaginary airstrip, while Geneva and I looked for small invertebrates.

image of two marine invertebrates: By the Wind Sailor (jellyfish) and Pacific Mole Crab Animal Adaptations on the Sandy Shore

We were were rewarded handsomely finding hundreds of Pacific Mole Crabs (Emerita analoga). Belonging to the superfamily, Hippoidea, these decapod crustaceans are adapted to burrowing into sandy beaches. These delightful little sand crabs cannot walk; instead, they use their legs to dig into the sand and beat their uropods to swim.

Geneva and I spent time watching them surf the waves and burrow down into the sand for protection. I shared stories of the investigation I undertook in graduate school one summer looking at whether particle size influenced what beach the larvae settled upon.

We also observed many By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella).  Velella is a cosmopolitan genus of free-floating hydrozoans (very small, predatory animals) that live on the surface of the open ocean. There is only one known species. The deep blue, by-the-wind sailors that are recognized by many beach-goers are the polyp phase of the life cycle. Each “individual” with its sail is really a hydroid colony, with many polyps that feed on ocean plankton.

Snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) nesting sites are monitored here and temporary informational/warning signs and fences (or ropes) are erected near nest sites during the breeding season. To help in the recovery of the bird, non-native vegetation that threatens the beach habitat has been removed and beach goers are educated to the sensitive nature of the area.

images of restaurant menu and two menu itemsLocal Dining

After a couple hours on the beach, we began to get hungry.  Craving fish & chips, we sought out a local eatery and chose Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company. Their signature item is most definitely the Giant Fish Taco and it was delicious! Geneva ordered the Ceviche – also very good but heavy on the vegetables.  The boys each chose traditional fish & chips which were average.

They have communal benches along one side of the building outside as well as shady tables out front. We chose to dine inside, however, and came to regret that decision as the sun was beginning to set and there were no shades or blinds on the window.

Have you been to Ventura Beach? What activities do you enjoy here? Do you have a favorite restaurant?

A Day in the Islands: Channel Islands National Park

Located offshore, these five islands, known as the American Galapagos, inspire with wildlife viewing, hiking, sea cave kayaking, and world-class diving. Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants, and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth and helped preserve a place where visitors can experience coastal southern California as it once was.

Channel Islands National Park

These islands, on the edge of the North American continent, were never connected to the mainland. During the last Ice Age, when sea levels were lower, the four northern islands were joined as a single island known to geologists as Santarosae. When the sea rose again it created the four northern islands we see today.

Channel Islands National ParkWe had a chance to visit these islands and I delight in sharing the highlights of our trip with you.  We booked a tour with Island Packers, who visits all five of the islands that make up the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary. Our tour included whale watching and allowed a full day of exploration on Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Island

At over 96 square miles in size and the largest island in California, Santa Cruz contains three mountain ranges; the highest peak on the island (rising above 2000 feet); a large central valley/fault system; deep canyons with year round springs and streams; and 77 miles of craggy coastline cliffs, giant sea caves, pristine tide pools and expansive beaches.

Scorpion Ranch HarborAround Scorpion Ranch area, where we moored, volcanic rock mixes with siliceous shale made of mud and tiny sea plants and animals that lived when the island was part of the seabed. It was fascinating to walk along the shoreline and look for fossils. My daughter even braved the chilly waters for a short swim.

This area was once a lively ranch complex. French and Italian artisans, farmers, and workers collaborated here to raise sheep, roosters, and other farm animals. Residents had to adapt to the limited resources and barren landscape.

Remnants of the ranching era can be seen throughout the landscape.  Adobe ranch houses, barns, blacksmith and saddle shops, wineries and a chapel all attest to the many uses of Santa Cruz in the 1800 and 1900s.

We visited in May and thus the water was too cold yet to swim so we spent the day hiking along the many trails and roads that traverse the islands. We began on Cavern Paint Loop and connected to the North Bluff Trail out to Potato Harbor.

Santa Cruz Island FoxAnimals & Plants

Owing to millions of years of isolation many distinctive plants and animal species have adapted to the island’s unique environment. The Channel Islands are home to nearly 150 endemic plants and animals – species that are found here and nowhere else.

Dozens of species are endemic to the archipelago in general, for example: Island Western Fence Lizard, Island Gopher Snake, and Island Deer Mouse. The Santa Cruz Island Fox, Silver Lotus, and the Island Jay are found only on Santa Cruz Island. Plants include Santa Cruz Island Manzanita, Whitehair Manzanita, and the Santa Cruz Island Lacepod and Gooseberry, amongst others.

Channel Islands SucculentChumash People

The islands were first colonized by the Chumash and Tongva Native Americans 13,000 years ago. The Chumash made ingenious use of all the island’s resources. They depended heavily on the ocean – fishing, gathering shellfish, and hunting sea lions, seals, birds, and other animals.

They also harvested plants for food, medicine, bedding, building materials, and to make beautiful baskets. Rock collected on the island was used to craft tools for harvesting and preparing food, building plank canoes or tools, and making beads.

Saxipak’a ~ Once upon a time.

The Chumash also traded with communities on the mainland and other islands for things that were limited or unavailable on Santa Cruz. Shell beads, fishhooks, otter pelts, fish and shellfish were traded for products like acorns, bow and arrows, seeds, plants, and deer bone.

The native peoples were then displaced by European settlers who used the islands for fishing and agriculture. The U.S. military now uses the islands as training grounds, weapons test sites, and as a strategic defensive location. The National Park Service (NPS) lead the conservation efforts to maintain the islands’ endemic species as well as provide education for future generations.

Cavern Paint Loop TrailIntegrated Learning Experiences

The award-winning book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, was inspired by the true story of an American Indian woman left alone on one of the Channel Islands for 18 years in the 1800s. She’s come to be known as the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island and is thought to have been of Gabrielino-Tongva descent.

Though San Nicolas Island is closed to the public, you can experience island isolation and the natural resources described in the book by visiting the islands. The National Park Service and other partners have developed resources to guide those interested in learning more.

Students and teachers can explore the unique ecology and geology of the Channel Islands, learn about the marine and island ecosystems, their human history, and the challenges of managing and protecting these areas via the curriculum materials available from the NPS as well.

Santa Cruz Potato HarborWe would have loved to see more of the island but this was a day trip – we’ll be back! After a day of hiking and exploring (I believe we hiked about 5 miles), we returned to the mainland in the evening and enjoyed a Santa Maria style barbecue at Shaw’s Restaurant. It was the perfect way to conclude our day in the islands.

 

On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility of our schedule. When Patrick has business meetings out of town, we are often able to accompany him. This works not only to his benefit – he has company on the long drive, we often share in the task of driving so the other can catch up on work, and he can take advantage of the carpool lane – but to ours.

While he is engaged at his conference, we hit the road to explore the city or surrounding area. This is just what brought us to San Francisco earlier this week.

We assumed that we would be staying in downtown or the financial district as we had in the past. Come to discover, this conference took place near the airport in Millbrae. Not exactly convenient for walking. Though the proximity to the BART would have been ideal – our plans for the day provided only a small window of time and we wanted to squeeze in as much as possible.

A las, I made the decision to drive back into SF proper myself and take our chances with parking. Our first destination was Golden Gate Park. In all our previous visits to the city, we had not previously explored this gem. My goal was to locate the Roald Amundsen or Gjoa Monument as well as two historic windmills.

On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco @WellTraveledFamily.netIn October 1906, Roald Amundsen and his crew arrived in San Francisco aboard the 69-foot Gjoa. Previously a herring boat from Tronso, Norway, she had been retrofitted for Amundsen’s quest to discover the famed Northwest Passage. The Gjoa took the small crew up and over Canada, east to west, finally arriving near Herschel Island, in arctic Canada.

To get word back to the outside world of his success, Amundsen left his men behind in the icebound ship and skied some 500 miles into Eagle, Alaska, where he telegraphed the good news home. As he and his crew arrived in San Francisco a few months later, they were hailed as heroes.

This epic quest was not Amundsen’s only feat, however. He led the Antarctic expedition (1910–12) to become the first to reach the South Pole in December 1911, an epic race against Robert Falcon Scott. In 1926, he was the first expedition leader to be recognized without dispute as having reached the North Pole.

We had visited the Gjoa ship at the Maritime Museum in Oslo. It was exciting to experience this full circle. Not far from the Norwegian granite stele is located a short distance from two windmills.
On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco @WellTraveledFamily.netBuilt between 1902 and 1908, the two historic windmills that overlook Ocean Beach at the far west end of Golden Gate Park were originally designed to provide water for the fledgling park at the beginning of the last century.

Fresh water was essential to transform the sand dunes of the Sunset district into the green that it is today.  The ground water inland was insufficient, so the coastal winds were harnessed to pump deep water closer to the ocean shore.  The windmills were in use only until 1913, when they were replaced by more efficient electric pumps.

The North windmill, known as the Dutch Windmill, was the first, built in 1902 to fill the artificial ponds within the boundaries of Golden Gate Park. The South windmill, known as the Murphy Windmill, was the largest of its kind in the world, with gigantic 114 foot sails, each cut from a single log. These sails turned clockwise, unlike traditional Dutch windmills which turn counter-clockwise.

While in Golden Gate Park, we also enjoyed one of our most favorite pastimes, Letterboxing – the ultimate scavenger hunt. Hunting letterboxes in San Francisco is always enjoyable – the boxes tend to be well maintained and the stamps are amazing! Often, intricately carved or multiple stamps that “stack” within one another.

We hunted three boxes (Aphrodite, Artemis, and Breathe) and were delighted to find all three with ease. My girl has become quite adept at locating the boxes – often without the complete set of clues .. a real sleuth.

We also picked up a hitch-hiking stamp and hope to be planting it in Ashland next week. 🙂

To learn more about letterboxing, visit AtlasQuest.

 

Creating a Labyrinth on the Beach with Artist, Denny Dyke

We get home to Oregon regularly and though I grew up in Bandon, hidden gems and little adventures continue to take me by surprise. This is exactly what happened on New Years Day this year when we happened upon Denny Dyke creating a holiday labyrinth.

Image of people walking a hand-drawn labyrinth on a sandy beach taken from above

We first met my dad at the house and visited for a short time. He shared with us his latest projects and we then proceeded to downtown for our usual Fish & Chips at the Bandon Fish Market. {When it is in season, Salmon Fish & Chips is the best!}

Labyrinth Art

Earlier that morning, I had fortunately caught an advertisement of a labyrinth event shared on Facebook and I was looking forward to seeing the Circles in the Sand near Face Rock Beach.

We were delighted to arrive early and thereby have the chance to take part in the creation of the labyrinth. It’s amazing how simple it is once Denny describes his vision to you. He lends you a few tools and off we go filling in the design.

image of mother and daughter creating a labyrinth on the beach

When the design was finished, we were able to set down the tools and be amongst the first to walk the creative maze. As we walked, we could contemplate the coming year and give thought to the year that past.

In Greek mythology, the original Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Its function was to hold the Minotaur (half bull, half man) eventually killed by the hero Theseus (son of Aegeaus, King of Athens). According to the mythology, Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that he could barely escape it after he built it.

Serendipitously, I was inspired to write this post as the kids and I just read of King Minos, the Minotaur, and Theseus earlier this morning and we recalled fondly our own labyrinth experiences.

image of two children jumping in front of the famous Face Rock in Bandon, OregonThere has been a resurgence of interest in the symbolism of labyrinths which has inspired a revival in labyrinth building in recent years. On low tides, labyrinth artist Denny Dyke regularly creates classical cretans, baltic wheels, and double spirals in the sand. He also draws large versions of the Chartres and Santa Rosa.

May 2nd is World Labyrinth Day. Join Denny at Coquille Point (aka Elephant Rock) to join in the fun in creating a labyrinth with a sandy path.