Last week, my family and I stayed at Otter Rock on the Oregon coast, located between Depoe Bay and Newport. I love the basalt and sedimentary rock formations along the Oregon Coast, so much more interesting than a plain sandy beach.
At the end of the headland on which we were staying is a formation known as the Devil's Punchbowl. The punchbowl was likely formed when the ceiling of two sea caves collapsed and was further shaped by the waves.
The punch bowl is accessible at low tide. Though I didn't make the decent down the cliff to find the entrance, someone did. Here you can see him standing in the punch bowl for size comparison.
The sandstone is full of beautiful colors and texture.
On the south side of Otter Rock are Beverly Beach and Moolack Beach, curving from Otter Rock to Yaquina Head.
A view of Otter Rock from Beverly Beach.
We came across an unexpected surprise on several beaches in the area. Fossils! While this picture shows only the imprint of shells, we found lots of white fossil shells of various clams and snails. The fossils were deposited in everything from soft mudstone to much harder sandstone. We managed to find a few fossils in the harder stones that we could take home. For those interested in acquiring their own fossils, it is illegal to dig fossils from the cliffs, but fine to take a few loose ones that have fallen out of the cliffs.
The wind-pruned trees alone beaches and coastlines always fascinate me. I love the way they've been swept and carved into one solid canopy.
The bands of different sediment layers wind sinuously beneath the wind-sculpted trees.
For once I actually wasn't entirely focused on the plants, but a few did draw my eye, like this native aster. It probably isn't in the genus Aster anymore, if it ever was, but who can keep track of all those daisy-type flowers?
I'm not sure if it was the tide or winds that shaped this fin of sand capped by a stone on the beach, but it fascinated me in the same way as the little sand pillars that form under pebbles after a rain shower.
Besides Moolack and Beverly beaches, we also drove out to a few other locations, including South Beach State Park.
Lonicera involucrata, or twinberry, grew in abundance everywhere we went. The mild marine air and frequent fogs allow this plant to grow in full sun here, whereas further inland it usually prefers more shade unless it grows in very damp soil.
Look at all those berries! Growing in full sun means the twinberries bloom and fruit heavily, making a beautiful display.
Another favorite feature of coastal trees is the twisted trunks.
Bluish spruces, red-tipped evergreen huckleberries, and mounds of bright green-tipped Pacific wax-myrtle made a beautiful combination. The huckleberries were also full of ripe fruit ready for picking, and we helped ourselves to handfuls of the sweet berries as we walked.
Further out the trees and shrubs opened up and beach grasses started becoming dominant.
These beach strawberries grew amazingly thick on this log. It must have more moisture inside than the outside suggests.
Created by a shelf of partially submerged basalt formations, creating tide pools and interesting places to scramble around.
The gaps between the rocks create rounded inlets of ocean pools.
One of the larger rocks has a sandstone slope running like a road almost to the summit. However, this and pretty much all such shoreline rocks have been designated as protected nesting areas for seabirds, so we couldn't go up it.
The basalt creates a mini mountain range off the beach, running like a row of giant, jagged teeth.
The teeth are made of columnar basalt and show different colors from the various forces that act on them.
A look back shows the sandstone road running up to the basalt rock.
In places, the basalt has been eroded into ridges perpendicular to the beach, instead of parallel like the teeth just offshore.
Limpets huddle in cracks in the rock, safe from the drying sun that the low tide exposes them to.
As we delved further into the rocks, I started noticing little spots of green growing from cracks in the bare basalt.
Closer still...It seems to be some kind of plantain. I just can't believe how tough this plant is! There were others growing out of stone that looked even more solid, without even sand appearing to give the illusion of soil.
It was fun to watch the waves crash over the rocks. I waited in several places to get pictures. The waves seemed to perversely hit hard to attract my attention and then mellow out after I lifted my camera to take a picture. Still, patience won out and I got some pretty good shots.
Watching for crashing waves, I also spotted these two shorebirds on a rock and was lucky enough to catch them with some spray in the background. I think these are whimbrels a type of curlew.
We also spotted this pelican, caught here in a yawn.
Here you can see how the basalt slab that forms all these marvelous outcrops tilted down, exposing the underlying sandstone. Because the sandstone is much softer than the basalt, it's being eroded more quickly. In other areas, the basalt is actually remnants of volcanoes, piercing several layers of rock including sedimentary rocks and newer basalt.
A close-up showing the seam between the basalt and sandstone.
The violent past of the Oregon coast gives it a beautiful present.
Tide pools can be hard to photograph on a sunny day, but the two different algae in this one were interesting enough that I wanted to try. They look like bubbly slime (In a good way, you know what I mean?) and antlers or feathers.
The waves have carved a system of pools and channels through the rock, drawing the curious to explore.
I thought this formation was interesting. The broken shell-like rings make this spot look like an epicenter for lava when molten rock was still being pushed up.
The basalt continues to increase towards the south end of the beach, until it dominates in a starkly beautiful landscape.
This was the first time I'e ever noticed Armeria maritima, or sea thrift, growing in the wild. Another amazingly tough plant growing out of cracks in the basalt. The flowers were long past, but the inflorescences remained as attractive, silvery-beige puffs.
There was a spectrum of different sizes, with the smallest having leaves barely half an inch long with diminutive flower heads. I don't know if this was actually a genetically dwarf form or if the smaller plants had simply sprouted in the harshest cracks and were reacting by growing smaller.
Here you can see a more typical flower head set on one of the dwarf plants for size comparison.
In places, springs from the hills carved through narrow cracks in the basalt. Here, one such spring keeps a patch of acid green algae moistened to provide a sharp contrast to the dark rock.
Last week I mentioned my latest impending move, but I meant to make an "official" announcement. I'm moving to Wisconsin for an exciting job opportunity as an inventory manager for Rose Innovations, the company that developed the Knock-Out rose, along with many other less well-known plants. Although it means leaving my beloved Pacific Northwest yet again, it's a great opportunity. I get to work with my best friend and work for/learn from a brilliant ornamental plant breeder. There are also several other breeders in the area, including a hobbyist magnolia breeder, whom I'll be eager to learn from. This beach trip was a great send-off, but it's not a farewell. More of an "until next time."
I'll be moving in one week to Milwaukee, WI. While I won't have my parents' garden to play in anymore, I will still be blogging. I'll have to shift focus back to my indoor plants, but I should also have a small outdoor space to garden in and I plan to do more posts about gardens and nurseries in the area. While I'm losing many of the plants I love most, such as the vast majority of rhododendrons (which I'm using to justify expanding my vireya collection), I'm viewing this drastic change of climate as yet another opportunity to learn about a different plant pallet. There are a surprising number of beautiful and fascinating plants hardy in zone 5b, if you know where to look. Since I'll have a small outdoor gardening area, I'll hopefully have a chance to explore the small rock garden and alpine gems that have always fascinated me but would be lost in my parents' large, fairly undefined yard.
I've made some wonderful new friends in the blogging community, and I'm sorry I wasn't able to meet more of you in the PNW while I was here. I'll be eagerly following everyone, especially those in the Pacific Northwest to get a taste of home. And I don't want to be too far behind the times when I return someday.