Paradise Found: Cave, Waterfalls & Black Beach plus Whales & Seals

Coast Watches: Twelve Meditations

Prior: Whales!

January 8

Noon. More whales! Spouts further out, 1/2″ from the horizon. Closer in, two white whaleboats cluster around the rocky point below, tracking one whale out there. This time, only one spouter. I’m spoiled by those I saw yesterday, coming so close to say hello.

Today at low tide, 3:15 pm, I went for a walk down the path by the gravel pit quarry, where the Otter Crest Loop Road is blocked off.

The path led down onto grassy meadows overlooking the black pegmatite basalt cliffs down to the ocean. The rocks here are formed into long pentagonal shafts, ribbed stalks like Devil’s Tower, only jet black.

I walked down and around out to a grassy point where the cliffs dropped off steeply on all sides. At the edge of the grass I found a ring of firestones filled with ashes, evidence of many small bonfires at this spot. In the center someone had laid a bouquet of wildflowers on top of the ashes, as if this were a place not only for bonfires but also memorials for those lost at sea.

No wonder — it’s a a perfectly isolated spot over the sea. I climbed down over splintered pentagonal dikes, here pushed almost upright, to find a seat on the cliffs looking almost straight down at the clear green water.

One hundred feet below me the waves crashed into Miroco’s own Devil’s Churn, a narrow gash in the cliffs which the waves have pounded out into a sea-level submerged cave.

From the sounds of it, the cave goes quite far back in–under the cliff path I took to get to my seat–and quite large, from the reverberating roars and thonks, and the return surges of wave and spray.

Spectacular sounds, even at low tide, when the water is low enough for the waves to surge in under the top of the cave’s mouth.

Finally I found the cave I’d heard about. I didn’t realize until I got wet that I’d also found the spouting horn. Not only do the waves surge into the cave, they also surge back out, and when they hit an incoming wave– crash–boom–bash! A spouting horn!

Actually, I think it’s water trapped inside the cave that eventually spouts out and up — up — up like a geyser into the sky. Thick white-droplet spray shoots out and up and then thin misty spray rises and curls and drifts off. Up 50′, up 100′, up 150′ , maybe even 200′, high against the sky.

Low tide is so colorful, exposing a strip of magenta lichen, pink to dark wine as the bottom layer, then a brown layer, then tan at the top. Definitely a maroon tidepool level, with bright apple-green urchins studding the rocks.

Across from me, on the other side of the v-shaped chasm, on the cliffs sits a man in a red down vest and yellow cap. At first I thought he was meditating, he sat so still, but then he flipped a pole and line into the sea far below, 100’ below, and I realized he must be fishing.

But how could he have enough line, and wouldn’t it get tangled on the rocks below? And weren’t the waves too churny, too rough for fish? I dunno. I left before seeing him catch anything.

After watching awhile, I saw a seal swim by, heading north, close to the cliffs amidst all that turbulence — probably he was fishing, too. Then after following a whale spout out 1″ below the horizon for awhile, I left to explore further.

I followed a path south through the salal thickets and around the pines, through 8’ high cane breaks to — a waterfall!

It dropped spectacularly down over 200’ into the ocean surging blue-green on maroon-lichened rocks below. Two more fishermen had staked out points on the high cliffs.

I followed the trail past 3 huge monolithic rocks set in a circle in the meadow together — I christened them The Three Sisters — toward the waterfall.

I took the trail back into the forest, hugged a huge many-limbed pine and crossed the small stream on logs (upstream from the falls).

This coastal trail kept going on between trees hanging onto the steep slopes into the sea. Close to the drop-off was sort of scary, so sharp a drop I could hear but not see the waves crashing below. I took care not to be tripped up by those nasty low blackberry runners overgrowing the trail.

Finally the trail led out to a point sheltered by a large tree. The perfect spot for a lunch and nap, gazing southward out at Otter Rock out in the ocean, at Otter Crest and Devil’s Punchbowl promontory beyond, and grainy in the distance, Yaquina Head and its lighthouse.

Closer at hand, high on the cliffs across the cove perched the white tourist shop at Cape Foulweather.

Down below in the cove was a large triangular rock like those at Bandon, pointed upwards towards the sea like a sentinel, the waves breaking past it, rushing in to a black pebble beach, inaccessible because of the high black cliffs, and dropping over them onto the beach below, another waterfall! What a picnic panorama!

As I sat looking at the green green sea, the white breakers, the maroon tidal rocks and the black pebble beach–all such strong insistent colors– I recognized the colors I’d chosen, unawares, for my house.

Black refrigerator, dishwasher, sink and stove demand black dishes & black file cabinets. Dark teal green counters demand dark teal dishes and phone and sheets. Wine-dark pillows and sheets and blankets. White walls and fixtures. As if somehow I’d known, felt the colors of the landscape before fully seeing them. Probably because I’d been so busy noticing the cedar and pine deck and ceilings.

As I rested I noticed, high above in the waterfall’s gully, an upside-down uprooted oak tree, branches below in the chasm, roots above as if grasping for air. Looking very puny in this landscape.

I realized this was the same oak tree I’d seen from above, walking to the end of the Road That Fell Into the Ocean. It was huge, just hadn’t been huge enough to hold back the deluge, hold back the flooded road, two winters ago when all–all, including the upside-down car–all but this tree washed into the ocean. I noticed the sienna-brown slopes sheered off in the chasm, still relatively raw and unvegetated.

At low tide there’s quite a stretch of black beach –waves relatively calm today so I could hear the ebb and suck of the pebbles, that rattling sound the sea makes when it rolls rocks up and pulls pebbles back.

I can find no trail down, no crevice, no notches–just a straight drop at least 100’ down, no place to hook on a rope ladder. And the waterfall’s notch is no help, no gully there. I don’t think this beach is accessible even by boat–sea too rough for a kayak, reef too rocky for a motor. Lots of uneven rocks, eddies and currents.

Such longing — for an untouched beach, so near yet so far below and out of reach. Oh, well, so this is the nearest beach. Now I must find the nearest accessible beach.

On the way back, I saw a white bird, not a seagull, not a pelican. What else could it be but a seagull? A crane? An egret? I wish I knew more about birds. It sat royally, right on the shelf-seat of the red-vested fisherman. Next time, I’m sure he’ll find bird dung on his favorite spot.

I found my way back on the rocky cliffs, found the trail into the Ross Ave. housing loop. Back home to a golden sunset, muted by solid clouds on the horizon.

What a day: whales, seal, cave, spouting horn, two waterfalls, and a black beach — all within ten minutes, on a marvelous trail through secluded hillsides below Highway 101 and Old Highway 101, Otter Crest Look, now closed off into a sanctuary. What more could I want?

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