Sea Lions, Elk, and Killer Hiking

Oregon’s Central Coast

Today was an interesting mix of large wild animals. We started at the  Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area where we saw at least 45 elk–mostly males–enjoying breakfast in a meadow. At this time of year, the males and females are usually separated, probably because the females will give birth in June.  We only saw a couple females, and those were at quite a distance from the males.

Overall, the elk were spectacular and it only go better when a bus load of about 60 third-graders arrived. They were so excited, it was contagious.

From there, we headed to the Umpaqua Lighthouse State Park, which was kind of a bust. It has a whale watching station, but at this time of year, only about two are spotted every hour. Not much to see.

Our next stop was the Oregon Dunes Overlook. The sand dunes are enormous, sometimes drifting to 600 feet. They are the result of the erosion of the Cascade Mountains.  The cover miles of coastline in this area of Oregon.

We found a mile-long trail that led from the forest, over the sand dunes, and through the shoreline forest, ending on the beach. It was a killer. The sand was so soft and each step was work! Add in the elevation change and the ever-present mosquitoes, and you have two very tired hikers! The whole way to the beach I couldn’t get the song out of my head–“I keep on hopin’ there’ll be cake by the ocean. Aye yi yi yi yi yi!” There wasn’t, but the view made up for it. 🙂

We ended our day at the Sea Lion Cave. It’s the largest natural sea cave in the US and its the permanent home to hundreds of sea lions. They are enormous (females weigh 700 pounds, males can be a ton, and the babies are 50 pounds when they’re born!) and they are stinky!  We were several hundred yards away but he stench hung in the air.

They were also incredibly noisy. They sounded like the creatures in a Star Wars movie. Sort of a cross between a Wookie, a tauntaun . . . and extreme intestinal distress. I’ll add a video so you can hear for yourself! In the mean time, here are the pictures:

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These are Roosevelt Elk and they’re Oregon’s biggest land animal.

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We counted 45 in the meadow. The brochure indicated there are at least 140 in the heard. Since most of these were males, that’s probable true!

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I took this from the view platform above the Oregon Sand Dunes. We walked down the cliff side, across the dune you see here, through the forest in the distance, and finally found the beach. In this picture, you can see the waves breaking.

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I found this lonely foxglove along the way. It was the only one I saw all day.

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Here’s Bob heading down the side of the cliff. This is where we were just starting to find sand on the trail. Believe me, we found PLENTY!

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It’s deceptive how big the sandy section is. It’s at least 200 yards. The hardest part was going over the swells. Uphill was brutal.

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We finally made it to the beach! Almost no one else was there–big surprise, considering how hard it was to get there. It was beautiful, pristine, and incredibly noisy. The wind and waves were thunderous.

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Again, the picture us deceptive. This was a steep hill down to the beach. Going down was slippery, going up in that soft sand was a challenge.

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Lots of enormous drift wood on the beach.

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The viewing platform where we started is just to the left of the top of the sand. This was taken at the top of the sand hill that lead to the beach. It gives you an idea of how far we had to go back.

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Here are a couple shots to show the trail along the way. In places the sand was so soft it was like walking in snow.

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Sea Lions! Look closely, there are tons of them.

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See?

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The coast is also a rookery for many sea birds. Here are some black cormorants. (They’re the black dots on the white rocks.)

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We took an elevator down 20 floors, through solid rock, to the sea cave. This is one of the views out of that cave–Heceta Lighthouse is in the distance.

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Another view of the coastline.

 

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