This past Sunday we had one glorious day of sunshine and I was determined to make the most of it! So I decided to drive north up the coast to see the famous Sea Lion Caves near Florence. It is America’s largest sea cave and is about a 3-hour drive from Gold Beach (one way).
Bigfoot is a mythological creature of the Pacific Northwest, a hairy and ape-like “wild man” also known as Sasquatch, derived from a Native American word. He is a popular character of modern folklore and feels right at home next to the two-headed dragon and giant alien!
I loved this alien in combination with the RV and the little red sports car! I think I’m in an episode of The X-Files! E.T. had already permanently linked the forests of the Northwest with extraterrestrials, so if this sculpture would be anywhere, it would have to be here!
Unfortunately, I didn’t think to photograph the name of the establishment and made no mental note of it either. I figured I’d just look it up online later, but as it turned out I couldn’t find anything about it except for recognizing the property on the satellite image. Perhaps they’re “off the grid”?
The skill with the chainsaw is quite impressive. Personally, I liked this fantastical rocking chair! The nearby town of Reedsport actually hosts an Annual Chainsaw Sculpting Competition. I’m thinking about having a look at that this year.
Highway 101 takes you along the waterfront in the city of Coos Bay, where there are huge mountains of logs awaiting shipping and processing. Oregon is the largest producer of lumber in the U.S. Nearly half of Oregon is forestland. Clear-cutting is apparently still widely used as I often see the fresh fields of total destruction. It is all part of the painful theme of humans devouring the earth.
Down the walkway in the small tan-colored building is the elevator that takes you down into the sea cave ($14.00 fee). In the distance is the famous Heceta Head Lighthouse and in the upper right you can see the street signs along Highway 101.
After paying the $14.00, you get to this point where there is a better view of the lighthouse than from the viewpoints along Highway 101. It was named after Spanish explorer Bruno Heceta, who sailed along this coast in 1775.
Heceta Head Lighthouse makes the claim to be the most-photographed lighthouse in the world. Hard to say if it’s true, obviously – but one thing I can say: It’s the most photographed lighthouse by me! My third time.
So now let’s go down into the cave where the sea lions hang out! There are only two buttons in the elevator, up and down. You come out of the steel doors on the left and arrive to the surreal echoing sounds of a mixture of barking sea lions and crashing ocean waves. The rock surfaces look so fake, like something out of Star Trek, but this is real ancient rock, I assure you!
There must’ve been 100 or 150 animals resting in this tremendous, cathedral-like cavern. It was high tide at the time and periodically gigantic waves came thundering into the cave, splashing the sea lions and threatening to wash some off their rocks. But somehow they manage to stay put. According to the extensive information provided on site, these are mostly Steller sea lions and this is the only known mainland home where they permanently reside. The big bulls swim 4000 miles north to winter off the coast of Alaska and return in spring for breeding season right here. The smaller California sea lions, both male and female, winter in the cave and go down to California in the spring for breeding.
The cave also has an opening to the north which allows another excellent view of the famous lighthouse. It was built in 1894 and the one-million-candle beacon flashes every 10 seconds and can be seen as far as 21 miles out to sea.
My return trip was a race against the oncoming darkness, but I stopped to get this overview showing some fingers of Tahkenitch Lake, north of Reedsport. That is a railroad bridge but I believe this line is no longer in service.
Travel tip: There is absolutely no shade available anywhere when parking at Sea Lion Caves, an important consideration for dog owners. However, Blanca was very comfortable with a towel suspended from the sun visors for shade, some water and partially open windows.
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