The Edge of Oregon

One of the most incredible scenic drives in the United States is the sixty miles of U.S. 101 between Newport and Florence, Oregon. We've motored other parts of the Coast Highway (which spans from Washington State to the southern end of California), and while exceptional vistas and romantic beaches are abundant throughout, this portion has more beauty per square mile than just about anywhere in North America.

What makes this section of coastline so magnificant is the dramatic diversity of landscape: high terraces run for miles before tapering into broad sandy beaches. Coastal mountains (some of which eventually reach elevations of over 4,000 feet), start (or end?) as prominent rock croppings that extend into the sea. Mountain rivers carve deep gorges and meet the sea in wildlife-rich estuaries. The warm moist air of the Pacific brings ample rainfall (over 100 inches a year), producing thick forests of towering Western Hemlocks and Douglas Firs.

For centuries, the Siletz Indians inhabited the region, enjoying an abundant bounty of food that would have made inland tribes envious. The sea provided an endless source of salmon and shellfish, and the forest produced nuts, berries, and elk. Archeologists believe this is why the Siletz were one of the only sedantary hunter-gatherer societies that ever existed; other indigenous people were perpetually moving between summer and winter camps in search of sustainable food supplies. Archeologists also believe this treasure-trove of food allowed the Siletz to pursue more leisure interests than other tribes, as reflected in the craftsmanship of their intricately-carved totem poles.

At land's end, ancient rocks frosted with the poop of seabirds mark the gateway to an ocean universe. On a previous trip, we ventured out to sea on a charter boat to fish for sea bass and lin cod. Several miles away from shore, massive swells lifted the boat up, then dropped us down into a valley of water. Over and over again. Every third or fourth wave was a huge roller that spun the tiny gyroscope in our inner-ear like a paint mixer at the hardware store. Within minutes, we were feeling sick. Within an hour, we were looking at the bay leaves from the previous night's lasagna in our shoelaces. Two dramamines did little to remedy the situation- they were on the boat floor before the next wave hit. We love the ocean, the salty mist and sound of crashing waves, but can only enjoy it from the edge.

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of the mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.

-Saint Augustine

There's not much we can add after that profound little nugget, so we'll just let the ocean speak:

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