Finally, everything aligned, and it was time to get out to the Oregon coast. I packed every bit of warm clothing, binoculars and bird books, notebooks and fiction, and we set out to the south in a drizzle. The sky was a tumult of grays and whites, and we drove over rivers, between pastures, past wetlands and bogs, following along the coast range on our right.
First stop, Finley National Wildlife Refuge, outside of Corvallis. Finley is one of many preserves created in Oregon to replace shrinking habitat with safe havens for wintering migratory birds; in this case, Dusky Canada Geese. Of course other birds gather as well. Hiking through oak savannas, woodlands, and Doug fir forests, it was a mass of moss, lichen, ferns and blackberries. The birds were fairly quiet and played hide and seek with us. Mostly it was so quiet I thought something was wrong with my ears. That’s the kind of place I like though, just breath between heartbeats.
Just before we made it out to the open marshlands, we heard an enormous cacophony that could only be huge numbers of geese. Off in the distance we could see the sky blackened with birds, perhaps in the thousands. How I wished I’d been closer for that, but the sound was a thrill.
By the time we came to the marsh, the few remaining ducks and swans and geese were all in the distance, and again I was in thrall to the patterns in the sky, the breeze, and felt the promise of the ocean calling us to go on.
We followed Highway 34 and the Alsea River through the Siuslaw Forest, a fun name to let trip over your tongue as you drive along. The forest was misty, dense, and dark under winter skies; definitely a witchy forest, and not a fairy forest, according to my grandkids’ lexicon. Finally, finally, we reached Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean, which had been patiently waiting for us all along. I’ve been to a variety of beaches around the world, and there’s nothing like the wild and rugged Oregon coast.
The Pacific Northwest continues to reveal itself to me. It hasn’t worked out to be out exploring much lately, but I feel a change coming, my hibernation is over, and I have a long list of places I need to get to.