A trip to the Oregon coast

Warning: This is a long post with lots of pictures. You might want to clear your schedule and grab some popcorn or a drink.

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.

 Several streams cut through the beach from the hills above. I love the pattern of light and dark sand created by the water currents.

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.

 This odd rush grew around South Beach State Park at Yaquina Bay. It even went out into the beach grass area, and where the path turned to loose sand it made walking a little easier.

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.

 The walk out to South Beach was much more interesting than the beach itself, which was just a stretch of sand and a jetty. On the way back to the car, we ate a few more huckleberries. The next stop at Seal Rock, was much more interesting.

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.

 More wind-sculpted trees, even more extreme than the ones at Otter Rock.

The basalt creates a mini mountain range off the beach, running like a row of giant, jagged teeth.

 The soft sedimentary rock beneath the basalt is exposed in places and has been carved by wind (and people scratching initials, hearts, and other frivolities) into interesting shapes. I could do without the hearts and initials hastening the erosion of the sandstone right beneath the trail (which has at least partial collapses and I'm sure they've had to move the trail before due to larger collapses).

 Even with the protection of the teeth, the waves curve in behind to crash against the rocks at the edge of the beach.

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.

 This long crevice between two massive basalt outcrops ran all the way through. It even looked wide enough to crawl down into from the opposite end. Luckily I chose to check this end first, or else I could easily have gotten stuck and wet.

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.

 An impressively twisted stand of trees bid us farewell as we left Seal Rock.

The next day we returned home, leaving the pleasant 60's and 70's of the coast for the 80's inland. And then of course Mother Nature decided we'd had it too easy at the beach and decided to turn up the heat the last two days. I really could have done without triple digits this summer, but at least it looks like it was just one day. Looking forward to the cooler days predicted for the rest of the week.

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.


  1. Wait! I just discovered you and your blog and now you're moving from the PNW?? :( Well, I will still follow your blog. Best wishes to a fruitful career in Milwaukee! Tamara from Chickadee Gardens

    1. Sorry, Chickadee, 'tis true. It wasn't nearly a long enough stay back in the PNW, but I'll be back someday. Keep blogging about gardening in paradise so I can live vicariously through you!

  2. Thanks for the beach trip, I was there last summer for my parents 50th and saw some of these same things. It's a beautiful place in the world. Good luck with the trip, hope the drive goes well and happy new beginnings!

  3. Looks like you had a great trip to the coast! I've never been but finding fossils on he beach sounds really cool! I wish you well as you start this new chapter in your life, look forward to your posts from the Midwest, and await your return to the PNW! Happy Trails!

  4. Time well spent, wow! Wish we had the time to explore the Oregon Coast on our trip to Portland last month. Perhaps we can squeeze it in on our next visit there.

    1. Definitely worth making an effort to visit next time you're in the area!

  5. I'm pretty confident that the erstwhile aster is Symphyotrichum chilense, but there's a slim chance that it's S. subspicatum. And have fun amongst all the Midwestern plants I wish I could grow (like Nabalus crepidineus...).

  6. Spectacular scenery, Evan, and you took great pictures. I hope your move is trouble-free and that you have a great time with the new job - it sounds like a dream opportunity. I've never been to Wisconsin (even though my father was born there) but I'm sure you'll make the most of the gardening opportunities the state has to offer. I'll be watching for your blog posts. The best of luck!

    1. Now we can both read blog posts from the PNW with envy, Kris. Thanks for the well-wishes!

  7. When I hear Milwaukee, the only thing that comes to mind is "Lavern and Shirley"...
    Good luck at your new job and adventure. I hope to learn more about Wisconsin through your blog.

  8. Hehe, when I read your opening disclaimer, I paused to get myself a bowl of yogurt with berries and nuts to chow down on while I read and ogled your wonderful photos and text about the Oregon coast. I've been to some Washington beaches, but never Oregon. Maybe I can talk my husband into going some day, they look fascinating. Great shot of the guy down in the punch bowl.

    Good luck on your move and with your new job! I didn't realize that you were going to be working for the folks who created the Knockout series of roses.

    1. I love the Oregon Coast. It's definitely worth a trip!


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