Saturday, July 9, 2011

From Coast Range to Cascades-Part 1

Since my last post, I have graduated from UC Davis and started a job on the Oregon Coast as a federal geologist. With the arrival of summer here on the coast, I will have many opportunities to explore the people, places and geology of this superb state.

Sand and Driftwood just north of Floras Lake State Park. Taken April, 2011

In an effort to explore the state of Oregon, I will be spending plenty of time this summer playing in the Coast Range and Cascades. My first escapade of the full transect was this last Memorial Day 2011, a wonderful 3 day weekend I spent with my mother. Our trip was planned where we'd meet in Eugene then drive over to Bend for the weekend. What ended up happening is I met my mom in Bend after she had some difficulties with her airline in Salt Lake City (don't fly Delta).

Looking South from 101

I enjoy driving in the car on my own, especially in Oregon. The scenery engulfs the roads, as if you're not supposed to be there. As if you are intruding on someone. Driving up 101N, the highway is flanked by tall Douglas fir trees, which grow up to 3ft a year here. Along my drive are several state parks, Forest Service parks and community parks. There's basically some sort of park about every 10 miles. This is in part due to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area, a 60 mile stretch of exquisite sand dunes that people like to break their faces on with OHV's.

Sand is a dominant feature on the Oregon Coastline. Of the 310 miles of coast, about 140 of them are sand dunes or sand beaches. The sand dominance on the coast is probably due to erosion in the pre-Cascades and post-Cascade landscapes to the east. Point is, there is A LOT of sand on the Oregon Coast and it makes for a very interesting and dynamic natural system.

Paddling some sick gnar gnar Class -2 rapids* through the Dunes. Siltcoos River.

On the Coast, you can tell what season it is not by the weather, but by the prevailing wind direction. When I first moved here, I remember being struck as I walked out of the office on a rainy, cold day to a warm southern wind. It was quite pleasant. It seems like the rain isn’t the big weather draw-back to the coast, it’s the summer wind. A strong northern wind blows and it is chilling. Quick sidenote: The predominant travel direction for bike-tourists along the 101 is north to south because of that wind. If it’s blowing 10-15mph, you want that at your back! So, for our lovely dune fields, grains of sand follow these wind patterns and shift seasonally. Another key seasonal variation are the stormy moths of November through April (more like May this year). Winter storms pound away at the beaches and dunes, taking thousands of cubic meters of sand out to sea. In the summer months, much of this sand is re-deposited onto the beaches. A truly chaotic and dynamic system, even without mentioning the invasive grasses, recreational activities and wetlands that also occur at dunes!

Looking up the Floras Drainage. May, 2011.

I haven’t taken much time to explore the beaches/dunes on the Coast, but in writing this entry, I think I will have to make a trip soon…Next time, the Coast Range!

Thanks for reading!

-EE


*That is a joke...