Monday, August 27, 2007

Harris Beach State Park

After a pleasant trip over the coastal range, we picked up highway 101 and headed south along the rugged Oregon coast to Brookings, Oregon and Harris Beach State Park. What a welcome change - after months of 90+ temperatures, the high here has been 75, and most days have been in the high 60s with nights in the 50s. The park, located right on a beautiful stretch of coastline, is one mile north of Brookings, a town of 6000 with a large harbor, good restaurants, and plenty of shopping opportunities (but NO Wal-Mart!). We've enjoyed visiting the Farmer's Market on Saturday; the produce has been outstanding, and we've enjoyed fresh-picked blackberries (they're everywhere!). Although we haven't been yet, we understand that fresh fish can be bought off of the boats each day; tuna and salmon are being caught offshore along with a variety of rockfish and snapper. Surprisingly, it's rained only one day since we've been here and no rain is in the forecast for the next 10 days. Our only complaint is that without warning, sea fog rolls in and sometimes makes for a dreary day, although it can be beautiful in the morning as the sun's rays shine through.
Five days a week, we conduct the "Junior Ranger" program, a one-hour program for children 6-12. The subjects are part of a state park curriculum; some of the classes are "Seals and Sea Lions", "Whales", "Oceans", and "Wildlife". The children are given an activity book which requires them to complete tasks during the day - they have to recycle, help clean their campsite, identify some plants, and follow the clues to discover a park "secret". At 5:30, we reopen the Junior Ranger yurt, review and stamp as complete their "passport", issue them the coveted "Junior Ranger" badge, and teach them the "secret sign". After three courses, they are awarded a certificate (suitable for framing), and a very nice embroidered patch. It's a really neat program for the kids and we've really enjoyed it. As you can imagine, Brenda is terrific at this. I sort of act as her semi-trained assistant and lug around the heavy props (ever tried to pick up a Gray Whale vertebrae?). We've already had some memorable moments, like the kid, who after being taught the "secret sign" and being sworn to secrecy, ran out the door to his grandfather and offered to sell it to him for ten bucks. Two nights a week I conduct an evening program, usually a one-hour walk through the woods and along the bluff overlooking the water. I had to cram to become familiar with the subjects; so far I've led walks to show people wildflowers, birds, and edible plants. Do you have any idea how much stuff grows in this climate? Fortunately, with my snazzy vest and hat, I become an immediate expert and no one seems the wiser that I'm making up facts as I go along.....well, maybe sometimes.
One of our favorite local plant is the Wild Fuchsia, which grows in large bushes and is usually the home for a group of Anna's hummingbirds, which stay here all year. I show people how you can pull apart the blossom and taste the sweet nectar; with all the hummingbirds in the park, we hardly see any at our feeder because of these beautiful flowers. The park is filled with flowers and trees, campsites are large and separated from each other by hedges and brush, and sites have electric, water, and cable TV - and WiFi. We're in a secluded area near the park headquarters and are enjoying being able to open the windows and turn off the air conditioning.
This is a great area for whale, seal, and sea lion watching. We've yet to spot a whale, but haven't had the time to sit and spend time watching. There are brown pelicans, cormorants, and gulls everywhere, and we watched these sea lions in a local harbor. We're working a little harder than we'd like as we struggle to learn the local wildlife and plants, but we're expecting things to slow down after labor day and then we'll be out exploring. Until then, we're enjoying the mild weather and beautiful views of the water. Come back and visit!

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