July 24, 2007

Winchester Bay

On Tuesday, we thoroughly enjoyed our drive on a country road as it followed the Umpqua River west to the sea. No steep climbs or descents, only a handful of menacing logging trucks and tight curves...but mostly just pure, scenic beauty. Here in the Lower Umpqua Region, on its last rush to the sea, the river widens and moves lazily, slipping quietly by densely forested hillsides, rich bottomlands, through tide flats, salt marshes and vast sand dunes...then into the Pacific at Winchester Bay.

This spectacular bay, surrounded by pine forests, welcomed us with clear skies and beautiful sunshine. Temperatures here were almost 20 degrees cooler than Canyonville...aided by the strong sea winds. The Winchester Bay RV Resort is located on the upper end of the harbor in the photo below.
Known as the "crab capital" of Oregon, Winchester Bay provides prime breeding waters for delicious Dungeness crab, which can be caught right off the rocks. After parking Hannah, we rode our bikes to Salmon Harbor to purchase a 2lb fresh crab for our evening dinner (its sweet meat was delicious). The harbor, which is adjacent to our resort, is also one of the largest recreational facilities on the Oregon Coast, offering fishing trips, water tours and mooring slips.

Our surroundings are beautiful!! The photo above is taken right in front of our coach... a glimpse of Salmon Harbor, while behind us the Pacific greets the Umpqua river. In the hills above the bay sits the Umpqua lighthouse and just a short distance, north or south, are dunes, lakes, trails and ....

The Dean Creek Elk Viewing area is the year round residence for a herd of about 100 majestic Roosevelt Elk...Oregon's largest land animal. Believing that all living things had a spirit, the Indians of the coast range had a great respect for the elk. This bond between elk and humans has existed for thousands of years. This mosaic of mountains, meadows, marshes and creeks is also the home to Black Tail deer, beaver and Canadian geese.

The Umpqua Discovery Center is a unique interpretive center that offers it's visitors an opportunity to "Hike the Pathways to Discovery"...an indoor trail that features beautiful hand painted murals illustrating the different habitats, animals and plants of the Lower Umpqua Region. Next, you can visit "Tidewater Country" and glimpse how the Native Americans and early settlers impacted the cultural history and shaped this area.

The largest expanse of pure sand in North America extends over 40 miles of shoreline in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. A four mile hike on the John Dellenback Trail, led us to these wonderful rolling hills of sand.

The grains of sand in the Oregon Dunes have traveled 55 million years to get here, starting with the building of the Coast and Cascade Mountain Ranges. Following the mountain's formation - glaciers, rivers, wind and rainfall began to grind these peaks down to tiny grains of rock and carry them to the ocean. There currents push the sands back onshore, where the wind sculpts them into dunes.
As we walked up and down 147' high dunes, we looked back at our isolated tracks...in minutes...blowing sand fills footprints, in hours...flat afternoon sand gives way to intricate evening patterns, in days...huge dunes move many feet in one storm and in months...summer soft, rolling dunes become winter's hard angular scuptures.

Perched on a scenic bluff high above the Pacific Ocean is Shore Acres State Park. It all began as a luxurious private estate for pioneer lumberman & shipbuilder Louis J. Simpson. His summer home featured a three-story mansion and five acres of formal gardens. Fire destroyed the mansion and the depression caused the grounds to fall into disrepair. Purchased by the state of Oregon in 1942, the formal gardens were beautifully restored and now features year round displays of floral and scenic beauty.

Mail Delivery!! When you are on the road fulltime you need to have your mail forwarded to you via General Delivery to the local US Post Office. In Winchester Bay, the post office is located in the General Store and our mail arrived just as arranged.
After picking up the mail we went to visit the Umpqua Lighthouse, one of nine historic lighthouses that light the way down the Oregon Coast. Perched on a hillside high above the mouth of the river in Winchester Bay, the Umpqua River Lighthouse signals it's location to mariners as far as 21 miles out to sea.

The rhythm of a harbor...the sounds lull you into a quietness…a fog horn in the distance, sound of outboard motors, as fishing boats make their daily pilgrimage to and from the ocean, the splash of a crab pot landing in the water, clanging of ship's line against the mast, gulls squaking, ospreys calling.

This "neighborhood" is quite unique for it's soothing personality overcomes you. No matter where people come from , what they do for a living or what they thought they would do when they got here...the coastal life tranquilizes one into timeless pace. Our days and nights just melt into each other, with no defined boundaries other than a sunrise or a sunset...

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