Go West, Young Man: Follow the tides

Sunset from Tunnel Beach, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

This article is a continuation of a series Now Hab’s Tyler Penland is writing about his recent travels to and through the great American West. He recently visited Oregon, where he reveled in the beauty of the Redwood forest and found some amazing hiking trails along the Pacific coast. 

My journey north along the Oregon coast picked up on a very damp Sunday morning.

Overnight, I learned that I had set my tent up in the only spot in the campsite that had standing water. After packing up in the pouring rain, I trudged north in my rental truck, searching for clearer skies. I finally ran into some about an hour or so north, where Oregon Highway 101 runs through one of the most beautiful stretches of road I have ever driven. An overlook looks up the coast towards the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Much to my surprise and delight, the lighthouse was operational this morning. I had to photograph it from a distance through heavy mist and strong winds, but I still managed to get a passable shot after some editing. You can visit this lighthouse up close, but I did not have time to do that on this trip.

Heceta Head Lighthouse- Hwy 101, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

Many overlooks along this section provide absolutely incredible views, unlike anything you can find on the East Coast. Brilliant green cliffs end abruptly in an angry ocean, creating a beautiful juxtaposition of calm and violence.

The Pacific Ocean crashing into beautifully green cliffs (Photo by Tyler Penland)

It is along this section that I had my best run-ins with the local wildlife. Sea birds here were very used to humans and, in fact, likely relied on the tourists for some food. This guy was particularly friendly and even posed for a quick photograph along the stone wall surrounding this overlook.

“Mine?”- a wild sea bird perched on an overlook on Highway 101.

A bit farther north, I finally managed to find some of the thousands of sea lions that live along the Oregon coast. They tend to congregate in specific areas during stormy weather and this day was no exception.

A local tourist spot called Sea Lion Caves is by far and away the best place to see these adorable animals but I was on a time crunch. Luckily for me at an overlook just a few hundred yards past the attraction I was lucky enough to see around 50 or 60 of them sleeping on the rocks below. A few even hopped off in the rough water to go for a quick, cold swim.

Sea lions! (Photo by Tyler Penland)

One of the locations I was most excited to visit is known as “Thor’s Well.” I had tried to time my visit to coincide with the low tide, but the strong onshore winds kept the water too high for me to get close enough for a photo. I would encourage a quick Google search if you want to see a good photo. Despite not being able to get close enough for a photo I was able to see the water spilling into the hole in the rock, and the entire area around it is absolutely fascinating! I spent a solid half hour just watching the water roll into numerous narrow cracks in the rock, exploding upon reaching the end.

Photos really cannot do this area justice. It was, for certain, the most terrifying, amazing stop I made on my entire visit.

A wave crashing against rocks near Thor’s Well, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

Probably, the favorite photo I took during the trip came just a bit later on that day at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. I wound up there somewhat by accident, but I am certainly glad I did. After paying the $7 entrance fee to the historic area, I made my way to a spot known as “agate beach.” Here, the “beach” is made up of tens of thousands of perfectly polished, round black rocks. The sound they make as the waves roll them in and out is indescribable.

Overlooking the small bay stands the iconic Yaquina Lighthouse. The light was built in Paris, shipped to Oregon in 1868, and first lit in 1873. The light is still active to this day and is protected on the National Register of Historic Places. I got a bit wet in the cold Pacific getting this shot of it on its outcrop. The moody skies were a sign that I was about to get rained on for the umpteenth time that day, but it was absolutely worth it.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

After leaving the lighthouse, I had only one more thing on my bucket list. After being skunked by sunset the night before I was crossing my fingers I would be successful this time. I wound up near Oceanside, Oregon, at a spot called Tunnel Beach. You walk through a narrow, manmade tunnel constructed in 1926 to access a small stretch of beach otherwise inaccessible and blocked by 100+ foot cliffs. I was far from alone this evening, and to my delight, the sky decided to cooperate.

There is something surreal about seeing the sun set over the ocean. I was still contending with some clouds, but the view couldn’t have been more beautiful.

Sunset from Tunnel Beach, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

I had finally checked off a big item from the bucket list, but I still had one more morning before I had to be back at work.


To enjoy more of Tyler’s outdoor adventures and images, click here or visit Roads Less Traveled in the Feature section of NowHabersham.com.


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