Whale Watching in Depoe Bay

Last time we spoke (which I know was forever ago…. I’m sorry, I’m still getting used to this time management thing when it comes to grad school) I mentioned that our Spring Break this year wasn’t 100% complete horribleness.  We did take a camping trip out to the Oregon coast since Spring Break happened to correspond perfectly with the grey whale migration this year.  On their way from winter breeding waters in Hawaii, herds of grey whales swim past Oregon on their way to Alaska where they give birth and raise their young.  We chose a camping spot within easy driving distance of Depoe Bay, the “whale watching capital”, so we could spend a day looking for the spouts and tails out at sea.

Our gorgeous campsite

Our gorgeous campsite

The day we chose for our whale search was a bit grey, with a chance of storms and rough waters.  Luckily, there were still some whale watching boats willing to bob around on the waves with their tourist cargo.  After having a delicious seafood lunch at Gracie’s Sea Hag and taking some motion sickness meds, we got on a little ocean fishing boat with about a dozen other whale watchers to see what we could find.

Whale waves

Whale waves

The nice thing about going out with a boat company was that there were several other boats out at any time that could give tips to the rest of the boats so everyone could participate in the whale watching fun.  The captain of our boat got a tip right away that a pair of whales were nearby, so we headed to that spot to catch a glimpse of the majestic animals.  Luckily for us, we had the best pair of whales in the ocean!  They stayed near the surface for a long time, so long in fact, that our captain eventually just decided we should probably leave them to see if there were any others to spot.  We probably could have watched them all afternoon!

Our whale spotting was extra lucky for a couple of reasons.  Our pair of whales happened to be mating, which was why they were so close to the surface.  Our captain said this was rare, since grey whales tend to get it on in the warm romantic waters of Hawaii.  Second, the whales hung around for so long!  The captain said he had never seen whales that stuck near the surface for as long as ours did.  If people were lucky enough to stumble upon a mating pair, they usually only stayed in one spot for 5-10 minutes or so.  We were watching our whales for at least an hour!

(I just realized that sounds kind of kinky… I promise we couldn’t really see any, ahem, parts, just lots of noses and tails and breaching)

So, the weekend certainly had its positive moments, captured thanks to Scott’s ability to simultaneously hold the rail of the rocking boat while snapping some awesome pictures and videos.  I was very glad he took that challenge and let me just enjoy the ride :)

– Steph

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The Wreck of the Peter Iredale

I completed my first term of grad school in mid-December, and man, was that a relief.  It turned out to be a long and stressful term for the guys in my lab group as well, so we planned a camping trip to relax.  By “we planned” I really mean “they planned” and I just tagged along :P

Some of my awesome lab mates

Some of my awesome lab mates

We drove up to Fort Stevens State Park west of Portland and rented a pair of yurts which were both cheap and cozy. The weekend was spent fishing, hanging out around the campfire and playing board games.  We even got lucky with a sunny day (rare for Oregon winters) so we took a short walk out to the beach to see the Peter Iredale Shipwreck.

The Peter Iredale was a British ship travelling from Mexico to Portland when on October 25th, 1906 strong winds and currents ran it aground at Clatsop Beach.  Luckily, none of the crew was injured and everyone was able to reach the shore safely, including two stowaways!  Captain Lawrence was reported to toast the ship with a bottle of whiskey, because, you know, why not?  Since then the wreck has been a tourist attraction, and today the steel bones of the ship still rest in the sand.

In love with the color on these shells

In love with the color on these shells

I feel like shipwrecks aren’t often seen from dry land, so this was a pretty cool experience!  And if you’re curious, some more pictures of the ship and the wreck’s history can be found on Offbeat Oregon.

– Steph

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Oh hey, there.  I guess it’s been a while.  Let’s just say I severely underestimated the amount of time and energy my first term in grad school was going to require.  Between classes, teaching, and research I haven’t even had time to unpack everything from the move.  The room that’s meant to be the guest bedroom/my office is basically a jumbled dumping ground for all the random items we haven’t had time to organize yet.  It’s chaos, and I hate it, but I need like 5 more hours in the day…

But enough excuses, let’s go back in time to October when my parents came to visit and we took a little trip to the coast.  We visited the town of Florence where we walked around the little tourist shops, but the main event for the day was Heceta Head Lighthouse.  The view of a little white lighthouse out on the point just seemed to be the quintessential “Oregon Coast” image and it was really fun taking my family there.

Running along the beach

Running along the beach

Beautiful iridescent shell

Beautiful iridescent shell

Goof shot

Goof shot

My handsome photographer

My handsome photographer

shirt : delia's / jeans : gap / boots: rampage / scarf : francesca's / purse : fossil

shirt : delia’s / jeans : gap / vest : material girl / boots: rampage / scarf : francesca’s / purse : fossil

The weather couldn’t have been better and we all enjoyed walking around on the beach where we saw one lone seal surfing the waves.  We also walked the short hike up the hill to see the lighthouse and the view, along with one of the houses where the lighthouse keepers used to live.  It would have been a pretty crazy job living out there on the coast, growing food in the yard and waiting for a team of horses to bring any other supplies.

I spy, with my little eye...

I spy, with my little eye…

The lighthouse is part of a state park with several hiking trails.  I’d love to take a weekend and hike some of them! Preferably in late summer when it’s blackberry season.  Oregon is famous for wild blackberries and we were able to snag a couple late season berries from the bushes along the path.

Wish I had a book to read

Wish I had a book to read

Sticky blackberry fingers

Sticky blackberry fingers

Almost looks like a heart

Almost looks like a heart

While many lighthouses are no longer in use, the one on Heceta Head is still working despite being built in 1894!  I think lighthouses are incredibly charming.  Something about a single light shining out over a dark and stormy sea gives me a warm and cozy feeling.

– Steph