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Posts Tagged ‘Port Orford Heads State Park’

This has been a long few weeks of recovery from hip replacement surgery and cabin fever is setting in. So a few days ago we threw caution to the wind and took a picnic to the Coast Guard Station atop Coast Guard Hill.

Crews Quarters © AME

Normally we head directly out to the headlands trails for the views south to Humbug Mountain and Cape Sebastian and north across Agate Beach and Garrison Lake, past Paradise Point and around the south side of Cape Blanco to the lighthouse about eight miles due north.

Crew Steps © SR Euston

Port Orford Bow © SR Euston

These are the original trails the Coast Guard surfmen used to reach their observation watch tower as well as their boats, stationed 280 feet below in Nellie’s Cove. The trails remain well maintained, in some places paved, in others bark dusted. But today is not a day for trails; they are still a little iffy for crutches.

The Port Orford © SR Euston

So we picnic on the old parade ground and explore what’s left of the Station: the remaining crews quarters (now the museum building); the “Port Orford” (one of the original rescue boats); the bell tower; and the paved path which used to lead down 280+ stairs to the Cove below and now leads only into a giant Port Orford cedar. The buildings are over 75 years old, beautiful with classic Craftsman lines and simple proportions, and (to us transplants) a definite New England look. There are others of identical design on the East Coast and Great Lakes but in viewing their photos it’s obvious that Port Orford’s choice to go with Pacific Northwest unpainted cedar shakes over the more traditional white clapboard was a wise one. Our station has weathered, it seems, much more gracefully and well.

Practice Righting the Boat @ 1940s: Photo Courtesy of Cape Blanco Heritage Society

Who can imagine being brave enough to race down those rickety stairs in a soaking gale and be flung out into the sea in what seems a way too tiny boat to rescue foundering mariners offshore? Still, from 1934 until the Coast Guard Station was decommissioned in 1970, that’s exactly what countless surfmen did. Their motto: “You have to go out, but you do not have to come back!”

For more information see: www.portorfordlifeboatstation.org/

Flags © AME

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May has been a banner month here in Port Orford.

First: The weather (A constant topic of conversation.) The rain seems to be diminishing. That’s not to say it’s not still pouring 1/2 inch or so fairly regularly. But it’s generally been at night or has come in a huge splashy shower followed by watery blue sky and sun. Nor has it warmed up much, although a sunny 60° has come to feel positively toasty.

Second: We’ve gotten more dining opportunities!

Siren’s Cove Coffee and Chocolates and Sandwiches (and Ice Cream Too) is now offering pizza: everything from the Marghuarita (lots of basil), to Pizza the Greek, to some delightful concoction with Alfredo Sauce and chicken. And Cakes! There’s a new chocolate sensation that is 10” tall. (Think about it. That’s taller than Fred Astaire’s top hat.)

El Puerto Mexican just opened and it’s delicious too. Overstuffed burritos and doubled soft tacos (the favored way in New Mexico). Even Jararito Mango Soda. And good hot red sauce. Or tomatillo-based green—flavorful but not diablo. Dessert? Homemade, unbelievably rich coconut flan.

Rumors are flying we may get another new eatery in the next month or so.

Third: Our very own Jeff H. finished in the top 15% of runners (all 42,000 of them!) in San Francisco’s 100th Bay to Breakers Marathon. It was his first marathon ever. Bravo!

Fourth: We had a tsunami drill last week that began at 10:00 am with police sirens (our tsunami siren died in the real one in March), followed by a voice coming from the sky—actually a small plane flying very low with a loud speaker announcing, “This is a tsunami drill. Move to high ground.” (Yes here in Port Orford, we take our fun where we can get it.)

And finally, the wildflowers are at their peak. Our front yard is filled with iris; wild onion with white bell flowers line the roadsides. At Port Orford Heads there is a flowery profusion along the trail. Wild iris and larkspurs and buttercups and lupine and paintbrush, wind blown but surviving. And the wild rhododendron, from deep red to pink to white splashes, have appeared in among the firs and gardens. Take a look:

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Skunk Cabbage Bog, Cape Blanco SP

The citizens of Port Orford have been getting a little, well, crabby of late. Understandably it seems. March rain records are in and they show that every single day save one in March we had measurable rain.

Thankfully, in the last week we’ve had some sunshine, granted watery at times, but there were  shadows; at times even sunglasses were in order. It’s amazing how much warmer 54° is in sun than in wind and rain.

Mint Sp., Agate Beach

And all that rain has brought the woods alive with birdsongs and spring flowers. Granted we’ve been seeing the little yellow Dark Woods violet (Viola orbiculata) since late February. But about two weeks ago (just about the time the robins started singing), the wetlands filled with giant leafed Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), its yellow cupped flower filling the air with its signature aroma.

Now the Blue Flags(Iris tenax) are out on the steep south slopes of Nellie’s Cove trail at Port Orford Heads State Park.

Trillum, Port Orford Heads SP

And about a week ago, perhaps the most exciting of all, the Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) appeared on the same trail, in the dark deep Doug fir duff. Also called the Trinity flower, trillium is a three-petaled flower with three leaves. Mostly they are white, turning pink to rose as they age. We were lucky enough to see an unusual almost mauve young flower. Though not terribly rare, because of their life cycle trillium have a rough time of it.  Trilliums reemerge each year from the same underground rhizomes. If the flowers and leaves are damaged (especially repeatedly, say by being stomped on by big dogs or picked by people who don’t know better) the rhizomes are unable to store enough nutrients to flower in following years. It seems there are not so many trillium this year as some. Too much rain? Too much picking? Who knows.

Dark Woods Violet

Maybe it’s time for a sign to let people know what treasures the Port Orford Heads forest is sharing. And to leave them there for others to marvel at.

Want to know more about Oregon wildflowers? Check out this great website: http://www.paulnoll.com/Oregon/Wildflower/index.html

Early Spring

After the Rain

Blue Flag

Huckleberry, Cape Blanco

All Photos  © SR Euston

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