Tag Archives: Hiking

A Heavenly Slice of Oregon’s Coast

YACHATS, OREGON

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(Photo Above) – Taking a break, while on the meandering beach trail to Devil’s Churn, the sea pines nicely frame the view, with the dark brown and black lava rock in the distance at the foot of the densely forest-covered cliffs and mountains. 

Clean and crisp air, lush emerald green trees, the freshest produce, seafoods and meats, delicate yet rich pinot noirs and unique craft beers—these are just some of the many reasons that always seem to draw us back to the Pacific Northwest.

We chose the tiny town of Yachats for our little getaway (pronounced Yah-Hats) since it was located reasonably close to Portland, and offered easy access to some of the best coastal hiking spots along this beautiful, rugged and dramatic coast. I will definitely need to return to further explore the beaches, specifically the ones with large creature-like boulders spread out, looking like large slumbering animals, as I’ve seen in photos.

Heading southwest from Portland, Yachats is approximately a 3 hour leisurely drive. Mainly the duration is due to the traffic lights since the roads are small and one to two-laned, but it is filled with lovely views of spanning golden fields, passing through wine country including the cute little town of Dundee and Newburg and organized rows of grape vines covering the rounded hillsides, to dense forests.

We drove south west on the 5, then the 99W, all the while keenly taking in the stores, shops, the cars, the people as we typically do whenever visiting a new place. I think you can tell a lot about a region by the lay out–the shop types etc, just by observing. This is what we enjoy doing when we travel–taking in nuggets of information, observation to build a knowledge a theory, an overall deeper understanding of a place, a people, a culture. Infinite dimensions to explore in this world.

We saw many cute little drive-through coffee huts–vibrantly signed or cleverly named. I assume these establishments are so popular because the majority of the year is rainy or stormy weather, and so people are less likely to want to park, then run in the rain to wait in line for a cup of good coffee (and good coffee in cold weather regions, northwest seems to be a staple). Definitely a small town vibe.

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(Above) – One of the beautiful views on our drive west to the Oregon Coast from Portland.

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(Above) – One of several bridges on our drive south along the Pacific Coast Highway, this one goes right by the town of Newport.

STAY – Overleaf Lodge and Spa

We arrived at the Overleaf Lodge and Spa, which I selected for its can’t-beat-it location, perched right above a beautiful beach, just steps from our hotel room. Most of the rooms in this hotel have uninterrupted views of the moody ocean below, plus the room price also comes with a delicious daily breakfast buffet (and I mean more than just store-bought pastries) with homemade blueberry scones, fluffy and buttery, and rich satisfying mushroom and Gruyere quiche and good strong coffee.

Every morning after the delicious breakfast, we would step out and stroll along the coastal trail, enjoying the refreshingly-brisk sea air on our faces and watch the waves crash on the craggy rocks, worn smooth and rounded by years of pounding surf.

That is something definitely different from our San Diego beaches–the beaches in the Oregon coast (and what we observed even in northern California) are so dramatic–loud pounding powerful waves, hitting the rocks so hard that they splash high into the air. Even the color this time of year was dramatic- a moody greenish brown- indicative of the swirling turmoil of the currents – so unlike the more peaceful-looking blue waters down south.  Watching the ocean here, I understand what they mean when they  say “raw nature.” I love this difference though, these contrasts you notice when traveling as compared to your home–it makes each environment that much more vivid.

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(Above) –  Mirror-surfaced tide pools in rounded lava rock formations with sculptural pieces of driftwood looking like the sun-bleached bones of a dinosaur artfully dispersed throughout the beach–just steps from our hotel room. The lava rock reaches out to meet the pounding ocean waves, crevices worn into their reach, mesmerizing to watch as each wave rushed in, overflowing the edges and lapping onto the rocks themselves, before sucking back into the ocean and rushing back for another onslaught.

EAT – Ona Restaurant

We were eager to try the fresh local food and Ona was the perfect place for our first dinner. I would highly recommend to sit outside on their patio, which as you can see, has a perfect wide spanning view of the Yachats river meeting the ocean. No waves here, but the lazy lapping water drifting over sand bars as the tides rise and fall.

The hills beyond are filled with dense forest and the sky is filled with all sorts of birds. It is funny how when younger, I would think “man who goes bird watching?” It sounded so boring! But as we sat on the patio observing the different behaviors and cries of hawks or eagles (I am not going to even pretend I know what species of bird) and crows (my personal favorite ..I’m actually serious hehe), I realized how interesting it actually was to watch…well, birds!

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(Above) – The patio where we ate at the restaurant Ona, with a beautiful view of the Yachats River meeting the sea and the foresty hills beyond. 

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(Above) – Gorgeous vivid and bright wild flowers were plentiful at all the restaurants in Yachats–Some of my favorite colors!

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(Above) – Creamy garlicky crab chowder–velvety rich and satisfying

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(Above) – One of our favorite Pinot Noirs that we tried on the trip–very rich in the “heavily extracted” style of Pinot.

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(Above) – Chunky crab cakes (or cake heh), moist and unlike many crab cakes, filled with large fresh pieces of sweet crab meat pairing perfectly with their tartar sauce, lemon and picked red onion. 

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(Above) – Oyster shooters–Initially I was hesitant about ordering these because I’ve had oyster shooters and in my mind they were shots of hard alcohol perhaps covering the flavor of not so fresh oysters and doused in cocktail sauce–Not so here! The oysters were amazingly creamy, perfect light briney/seafood flavor with the perfect amount of house-made cocktail sauce and horse radish.

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(Above) – Fresh greens–everything up here, produce included just tastes so fresh! Sweet seasonal tomatoes, cracker-crisp cucumbers and mixed greens.

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(Above) – You want Fish N’ Chips? GET THEM HERE! Made from fresh halibut (plentiful up here), these were huge juicy flaky chunks of fish with a light perfectly crisp batter and paired wonderfully with non-traditional dipping sauces: A smokey aioli one and a fresh herby ranch style. This was paired with “Asian Slaw” which added a refreshing flavor dimension to the overall dish.

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(Above) – Ah the piece de resistance..or something to that effect 🙂 I ordered the Chinook Salmon (“King Salmon”) – wild and locally caught–a vivid orange, tender buttery meat, with chanterelle mushrooms picked from the nearby forest floor, and satisfying hearty brown rice, and all together with a steamed artichoke (oh delicious and buttery!).

 

HIKE – PERPETUA

Located a quick 5 minute drive south from Yachats, we drove to the Perpetua Visitor Center, a beautiful facility with yet another gorgeous ocean view. There are numerous trails that branch out from this place, and so I’d recommend parking the car there ($5 bucks–and supports the park) for a lovely full day of coastal / forest hiking.

We started off with the St. Perpetua Trail, a perfect one to start with, since it is a more vigorous one, climbing to one of the highest points along the coast in a series of switchbacks in a forest of spruce trees, blackberry bushes and these blueberry-tasting bushes (thanks to the info at the visitor center, I then allowed my husband to eat the blue berries we saw growing along the trail. They were delicious, and a perfect little boost, since we neglected to bring any snack bars).

Then we headed down to explore the coastal trails that allowed us to explore, climbing over the rocks, Cook’s Chasm, Thor’s Well and numerous other fascinating landmarks. My favorite was Thor’s Well because it took years and years of waves pounding, eating away the rock below until there was a jutting piece above, and years of the waves splashing upwards into the jutting piece or rock, to eventually form a hole, which from above looks like a well that swells full and splashes up with each crashing wave.

Being in nature, as cliche as it may sound, really is soothing to the soul. You’re disconnected from the typical everyday, and you’re forced to rely on your senses, senses that have been lulled asleep by your predictable everyday routine and environment.

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(Above) – The beginning of the St. Perpetua Trail–lush green forest. The switch backs reminded us of hiking up Mount Srd in Croatia, however we enjoyed this trail’s cool shaded greenness vs. the stark rockiness of the other one.

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(Above) – Remnants of a fort built in WWII era, located at the top of the St. Perpetua Trail. 

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(Above) – Stepping out from the trail, a breathtaking view of the seemingly endless forests stretching as far as you can see.

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(Above) – The gorgeous Pacific below–you can see the dark lava rock –round finger-like extensions into the surf.

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(Above) – One of the trails, named fittingly the Spruce Trail, ends at a stately 500 year old Spruce tree. It is such a crazy feeling staring up the tree’s massive trunk and realizing that it was around long before the United States was formed, back in 1500s!

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(Above) – Thor’s Well, filling up with white water–and it swells quickly shooting spray in the air.

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(Above) – Cook’s Chasm–a narrow and very long crevice, perfectly shaped to build the momentum and force of each incoming wave until it explodes up.

 

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Celebratory-Explorer Bears!

With anniversaries and birthdays, I think, what better way to celebrate than with doing/trying/eating/drinking something new? Recently, having just delved deeper into my third decade of life, I have decided that an important consideration when planning a celebration is to ensure that the celebration include trying something new–a new experience–Whether that be food, drink or activity or all three!  (my husband’s birthday is a week before mine, and our wedding anniversary is a week after my birthday–hence this topic of anniversaries and birthdays 🙂

I am all about celebrating the ole fashioned way of going out dancing/drinking but the frequency of such activities has become quite curbed due to my advancing age 😉

Kayaking 

So recently to celebrate our birthdays/ 2nd year wedding anniversary (these events kind of blend together) and we went kayaking for the first time, and in a location that is right near our home (Carlsbad lagoon), and hah which I pass by every time I drive north on the 5.

(Warning heh I’m going to get all TripAdvisory on you) but this lagoon is a fantastic place to get started for water sports. There are jet skiing activities, paddle boarding (where you stand on your surfboard and use that core to paddle yourself without tipping over) and then there is good ole kayaking. Fwet, trying to be ambitious, also brought his fishing gear (no catches that day) but it was a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by water, and random jumping mullet fish (they really do randomly jump every like 30 seconds somewhere near you). If you paddle east enough, you get to a nice little reserve-like area amongst the tall grasses you can paddle your way through meandering paths–and see lovely local birdies (cranes?) So I highly recommend this activity to anyone visiting in town–as this brings you out of your comfort zone and it is such a refreshing feeling to bob up and down on the waves.

On a side note, kayaking is a great work out…and also made me realize how uneven my muscles are (the next few days my right shoulders/back were not sore at all whereas my left side was quite sore…makes me wonder if I’ve been walking around like quasi-moto).

Cute white crane looking birdies hanging out on a mini beach area
Fwet straight ahead
Secret lagoon path

Hiking Point Loma Tide Pools

Another lovely outdoor activity we decided to do (in celebration of our birthdays and anniversary) was to hike at the tide pools in Pt. Loma. Now for those unfamiliar with San Diego’s Pt. Loma, this chunk of land jutting out with the Pacific ocean on one side and the lovely San Diego bay/harbor on the other side, makes you realize man, the Navy has the best real estate!! Gorgeous views of the city skyline on one side, and the immense vast ocean on the other.

There is a little hiking path that goes along the Pacific ocean side, where there are some really unique rock formations, carved form years of ocean waves. The rock has a reddish orange tinge, which if you hallucinate a bit, looks a bit like another planet.

Pamplemousse Grill, Del Mar

A lovely splurge dinner– we met up with the Aylan and the Mimers for a wonderful 4 and half hour dinner (yes we were the absolute last ones in the restaurant when they were closing)…and ahem 3 bottles of wine later (Aylan kindly brought our favorite Caymus and then a bottle of Conundrum to start and pair well with the appetizers of course!–and Fwet and I brought our wine club vino, a robust Syrah by Rolando Herrara (maker of our first palate opening vino, Mi Sueno Il Llano). Although this restaurant was not new for me, it was for Fwet–and what follows is a lovely eye candy of foodie photos 🙂 Enjoy!

Agh I cannot remember what this was but it was a deliciously fresh sashimi lollipop-like appetizer

Moo…bless that dear cow
Scallops — sweet, silky on the inside, perfectly seared on the outside
CharGrilled Seafood stack

New Ristorante: Herringbone, La Jolla 

So to celebrate via our tummies for our anniversary we went to the new restaurant, Herringbone in La Jolla. (Our “adventure-way” to celebrate our wedding anniversary was our first ever road trip to Paso Robles and Monterey, which I shall share in another post 🙂

Herringbone is another of Brian Malarkey’s restaurants (he has many in San Diego including Burlap in Del Mar which I mentioned in an earlier post) and the head chef is Amanda Baumgarten from Top Chef’s season 7 (I actually do not keep up with the show and was not familiar with Chef Amanda’s style etc. But per the website, the restaurant seems to specialize on seafood fare)

I did have some reservations that the restaurant was associated with a “celebrity chef” because sometimes it becomes all hype …er as per old school rice rocket days, “all show and no go” 😉  Also, the Yelp reviews were only 3.5 stars…(and yes, I know Yelp reviews cannot always be counted upon since truly the review rating is only as good as the reviewers–and since reviewers do not have to pass a survey/test to submit their opinion, the stars can go both ways we have found–and in this case, it was a pleasant surprise!)

So,  the thing that intrigued us to try the restaurant was the description of the decor–apparently it is in an old warehouse with 100 year old olive trees. So try it we did!

We were blown away! And again, I always am cognizant of gushing about a place, because everyone’s experience could be different–and hence I suppose that is why food reviewers make repeated visits at different times of day or days, before drawing up a comprehensive review of a restaurant–but Fwet and I were very impressed.

The ambiance is definitely unique–I would recommend a visit just for that alone (but the food is also delicious so that helps)–A blend of modern, urban, industrial, rustic–basically hah exactly what Fwet and I strive towards in our own design for our cubbiecave.  High airy ceilings–It used to be a big warehouse of sorts, with the corrugated steel ceiling/walls, brick, but with beautiful olive trees spaced throughout the space, adding rustic warmth. On the walls are large bold modern and inspiring/creative paintings. In the back is the kitchen with glass walls (heh so a semi-open kitchen). The front bar area looked like a cool place to grab a drink.

All right…so to the food! Instead of bread, they delivered these fresh ridiculously sweet heirloom tomatoes to munch on while we waited–and I admired their water glasses (I think they have them at Anthropologie hmm perhaps a future buy hehe)

We had a wonderful start, with a dozen oysters (half dozen of our go-to Kumamoto and a half dozen of Evening Cove) we have found that we prefer those oysters out of Canadia (eh) or anywhere super north from the icy cold waters—as this seems to yield the most perfect blend of sweet and briney and just a clean taste. We had this with a lovely chilled glass of prosecco– a bit on the dry side which paired wonderfully with the oysters. I wonder if one of the reasons why champagne or a sparkling wine goes so well with oysters is because of the textures–the cool, creamy slide of oysters is nicely balanced with the sharp pop of the fizz in the prosecco. That was a bit of random food analysis hehe

Then we shared the Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho (I loff tomatoes!! Perfectly refreshing soup with the spice of raw garlic) and from their “Crusts” section of the menu, the Pancetta, Egg, Lamb’s Quarters and Fontina (they had me at Egg…and this is runny yolk richness type of egg).

We also shared the Shrimp n’ Grits with Pancetta, Heirloom Tomato, White Corn & Humbolt Fog. The shrimp, and man ALL of their seafood was absolutely perfectly cooked. The shrimp meat just popped in your mouth (you know how its easy to over cook shrimp so that the texture when you bit into it, is basically the same firmness–but when its PERFECTLY cooked, the outer part of the meat is just a tad bit firmer than the interior resulting in the wonderful “pop” sensation and the meat is so light and makes you appreciate this little often taken for granted animal. I do not get to have grits very often but this makes me want more—just creamy comfort with bright sweet kernels of corn and then the pungent richness of the Humbolt Fog cheese…mmmmm.

Then came the piece de resistance! The Fish Stew. Now I think this was the dish that really just blew us away. Again, most Cioppinos, fish stews etc.–basically a blend of stew with mussels, clams, chunks of fish tend to be overcooked on the mussels or on one piece of the puzzle–and I appreciate why–all of these guys cook differently at different times—so the fact that EACH type of seafood in this stew was to a science, perfectly cooked, it communicated to me the almost reverent respect this chef must have towards seafood.

Also, the amazing flavors of this stew–with the aioli drizzled on top, the rich seafoody garlicky broth, with charred country bread—reminded us actually of the stew we had in Southern France. Yes, that is a huge statement to compare the two–but it really did!

And I must give Herringbone’s wait-staff and customer service super high marks, because  knowing it was our anniversary, he kindly waived the corkage fee (not a small price), gave us this delicious desert plate below, AND, custom-put together a cheese plate for us (it wasn’t on the menu and we mentioned we were craving some cheese to go with the last bit of our Rombauer Cabernet).

SO! Based on our dinner experience there, the ambiance, the service and of course the food, I’d give this 5 out of 5 fuzziepotatoes (I think I stopped rating but hah since I happen to remember now I’ll do it!)

To wrap up, cheers to another wonderful year to my soulmate fuzziebear whom I’ve shared 2 goofy, love and laughter filled years with as hubbie and wubbie!