Cape Blanco to the Sisters Rocks, July 22nd 2008.

From our camping beach we could see a group of large rocks offshore. These were called the Orford Reef, part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. But Brian Schulz decided to name them ďThe Land of MysteryĒ. At first he was not interested in going three miles ďout of our wayĒ to visit these, but after a while he warmed up to the idea. Several of the rocks had prosaic names like Large Brown Rock, Long Brown Rock and Best Rock. There was the obligatory Seal Rock and Arch Rock. We headed out into The Land of Mystery (a much better name).

The water three miles out from shore was clear and a beautiful dusky blue color between clumps of bull kelp. Arch Rock was a bit scary, with water sloshing around a bend and up one side. Iím saved from having to try it by a large colony of Steller sea lions hauled out all over the rock. Iím not scared; Iím just sensitive about scaring the seals. Thatís the ticket. As we watched a male California sea lion climbed up onto the rock and chased three female Steller sea lions off. Then he noticed us and jumped off himself.

We turned and crossed over towards the first rocks of Port Orford Heads, bypassing a long nasty dumping sandy beach. As we approached the first offshore rock a Coast Guard Zodiac came by and glanced at us from a distance. They went between the rocks and seemed to be on training maneuvers, not interested in us. Port Orford Heads turned out to be a beautiful place to go rock gardening. The rocks and islands on the outside had rough water behind them that was fun to go through. One deep channel behind an island was calm with flowers growing on top of a spire of rock. My camera never managed to catch a good picture of this. Once we passed through the narrow gap called Hells Gate the water in the port was calm for exploring and stopping for lunch. In Nellies Cove there are three tall thin rocks (Needles? Nellies?) and two of them are connected by a massive wall of concrete. It is an impressive structure but it doesnít go anywhere or do anything. If it in enclosed a body of water I might have hypothesized a tide powered mill or something. Brian decided that it was built by two warring tribes that could not share one small beach.

The rest of the Port Orford coastline looked interesting but developed, so we turned south after lunch. Soon we came out of the wind shadow from the point and flew south with the wind and waves pushing us. Brian launched his tractor kite again. We stopped for a break at one point and rafted up. The small kite pulled boat kayaks at 4.5 miles an hour according to my GPS! Water rushed backwards between the boats like a white water river! Moving at this clip we soon made it to our destination for the evening, the Sisters Rocks.

We ducked behind the Sisters and looked for a place to camp. The first beach was all large broken rocks. We landed on the next gravel and sand beach. Behind a small ridge I found a small area that was almost out of the wind and started setting up my camp. Brian decided to take us on a Hike of Death south down the beach. He was convinced if we went around one more point we would find the perfect camping beach. When several points resulted in disappointment he decided to climb up a nasty scree slope covered with poison oak. It turns out he doesnít have poison oak in northern Oregon and didnít recognize it. I gave him soap to wash his hands off later and he avoided getting a rash. I followed him up the scree, hoping there was an easier hike down the back side (which there was). Even from the top we could not see the perfect camping beach. In fact we could see that a little farther south there were houses above the beaches.

So Brian then decided to walk his gear back north closer to the Sisters to a flat trashy area where beachgoers had left fire rings. I joined him cooking my dinner there and while we were enjoying the fire someone came down to visit us. This turned out to be Bruce, the classical violinist from the Texas Symphony on vacation after doing a gig in San Francisco. When the wind died down and Bruce left, Brian moved his sleeping bag next to the fire ring and stayed there for the night. I returned to my tent to sleep.

All text and images Copyright © 2008 by Mike Higgins / contact