Oregon’s Harris Beach State Park… It’s a Wrap

The sun appears to drop into the Pacific Ocean at Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.

It seems appropriate to end my series on Harris Beach State Park with photos of the setting sun like the one above and those below. But first, I would like to cover a striking geological feature: Key Hole Rock.

Sea stacks often have caves or holes in them caused by the action of waves and weather. Key Hole Rock at Harris Beach is a prime example. The light and waves that make their way though the hole provide endless photo ops.
A massive sea stack hovers above the hole. At some time in the probably distant future the whole edifice will come crashing down.
Different angles provide different perspectives as do tide levels. The tide is out here.
Here, the tide is coming in…
Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast.
A photo from an earlier visit provides an interesting perspective of Key Hole Rock at high tide. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And now for the promised sunset photos:

I’ll conclude with this photo as we say goodbye to Harris Beach. I took it a few minutes after the first photo was taken. On next Friday’s travel blog, Peggy and I will be taking you south to Pt. Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco, Ca. I’ve already done a post on the elephant seals. This time we will be taking you on a cow walk.


Monday’s Blog-A-Book Post from It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me: On a lonely night walk home from visiting her boyfriend, my sister Nancy encounters a ghost from the Graveyard that floats down in front of her. She screams, and screams, and screams…

The “not so usual” Rocks and Driftwood of Harris Beach SP, Oregon

The bright green moss and reflected sunlight are what caught my attention with this rock at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon.

The pounding surf and towering sea stacks at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, Oregon tend to pull your view up and outward. It’s easy to skip looking down. So far in this series, I’ve introduced tide pools and sea stacks. Today I am going to feature the beauty and personality of smaller rocks and driftwood.

I was amused that the bike tracks here look like they may have been left by this rock as it wandered across the beach and made a right turn.
The tide flowing in and out would soon disturb these calm waters among the rocks. I liked the contrast between the sunlight on the rock and the darker water.
A low tide shot with water flowing out toward the ocean.
The tide was flowing in here.
This rock had an obvious personality, but I’m not sure what it was.
Layers of sedimentary rock deposited over eons and then bent by the earth’s moving mantle.
This basalt rock had quartz veins running through it.
Chunks of the rock had broken off and been rounded by the pounding surf. Peggy gathered a number of them and put them in my pack. (One of my jobs is to carry rocks that Peggy gathers. ) She brought the rocks home and added them to her ever-growing rock garden.
Imagine how high the sea must have been to place this giant, storm-tossed log this far above the beach.
I find driftwood endlessly fascinating because of the way it displays patterns in the wood. Color was an added factor here.
I’ll conclude with my favorite. On next Friday’s travel blog I’ll feature a dramatic hole in one of the sea stacks and finish the series with sunset on the beach shots.


Monday’s Blog-a-Book… from “It’s 4 AM and a Bear is Standing on Top of Me” : You’ve met Demon the Black Cat, now it’s time to meet MC the White Cat who lived in the Graveyard except for dinner. There was a reason…

The Magnificent Sea Stacks of Harrison Beach… Marvels of Erosion

Once, these two magnificent sea stacks would have been part of the coast. Erosion made them part of the ocean. The evening sun was bathing them in a gentle glow.

I am continuing the exploration of the Oregon Coast on my Friday travel blog. This is part of the Harris Beach series. So far, Peggy and I have given you a tour of the tide pools teeming with interesting sea life. Today I will focus on the sea stacks that adorn the coast. Harris Beach State Park is located next to the town of Brookings, which is just north of the California border. The following photos are taken by both Peggy and me.

Goat (or Bird Island) at Harris Beach SP near Brookings is the largest Island on the Oregon Coast. According to the Audubon Society it is an IBA, an Important Bird Area. And it is. Over 100,000 birds nest there annually, including tufted puffins, a bird I more closely associate with my years of living in Alaska. The island is off-limits to people.
This massive sea stack appeared to have a face looking out toward sea. The rock base made me think of a many legged creature.
A closer view.
The reflection caught our attention here.
Peggy and I wandered among these rocks checking out tide pools.
Later in the day, the tide started coming in. It was time to stop playing in tide pools and start thinking about the sunset.
More color here.
I’ll conclude with this sea stack which was smaller but also colorful. My travel blog next Friday will include human-size rocks, an impressive hole in one of the sea stacks, and drift wood.


Monday’s Blog-a-Book Post… From “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me” : The shameless shenanigans of Pat the Greyhound and Demon the Black Cat get them fired from ghost guard duty.

Hitchhiking Barnacles and Other Tide Pool Wonders at Harris Beach, Oregon

It’s more tide pool fun at Oregon’s Harris Beach State Park in my travel blog today. Both Peggy and I took the photos.

Four volcano-like barnacles plus mussels at Harris Beach State Park.

Barnacles are a bane to sailors, limpets and anyone else they can hitch a ride with. Latching onto hulls, they seriously interfere with a boat’s efficiency at moving through water and have to be scraped off. Limpets just have to live with their passengers.

Limpets move so slowly that their progress is not impacted by barnacles, but still, I can’t imagine that they are happy to have hitchhikers.
The limpet was one of several that Peggy and I found on a rock. Hermit crabs and other denizens of tide pools love to eat limpets but getting them off rocks can be a considerable challenge. They shoot out the water from under their shells and create a tight, almost unbreakable vacuum. I know. I’ve tried.
Lots of barnacles here. Now, imagine them on the bottom of a boat. There used to be a rather nasty punishment ship captains would use on miscreant sailors called keel-hauling. A rope would be attached to the sailor and he would be dragged under the boat. If barnacles were present, I doubt that much skin would be left. I think I would prefer walking the plank.
Barnacles are joined by mussels and goose neck barnacles in this photo. Goose neck barnacles, the guys with the fingernail looking shells, are considered a delicacy in Portugal and Spain. They were also eaten by the indigenous peoples of California and probably Oregon. Also, note the barnacles attached to the mussel shells.
Turban snails are common along the Pacific Coast. Their empty shells are a favorite home of hermit crabs, which are what you see here, hiking along on their crab legs. As a kid, I used to pry an occasional limpet off of a rock and toss it into a tide pool. The limpets had little appreciation for my boy-enhanced curiosity, but the hermit crabs would come rushing in from far and near for the feast.
Peggy loves a batch of mussels cooked up in salt and garlic water. My dad did as well. He used to gather them fresh off the rocks near where he lived on the Oregon Coast and cook them. He tried to feed them to me. No thanks. I am not a fan of most shellfish. I think the snail seen here shares my wife’s and his taste. It has a specially adapted organ that can drill through the snail’s shell for a tasty meal. Buzz, buzz, slurp, slurp.
Just for fun, who do you think made these tracks across the sand? I’m going for crabs with their small claw feet.
I’ll close today with the sea grass that Peggy and I found growing in abundance between the tide pools. We had expected to find seaweed, not grass. This grass has returned to the ocean from land and adapted to living in saltwater. We found it quite attractive.
Another example. Next Friday I will return to Harris Beach and feature it’s dramatic sea stacks.


Blog a Book Monday… “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me” : In my last post from the book, I wrote about how I had moved outside in the summer to experience nature up close and personal, a successful venture that was tainted somewhat by the ghosts that lived in the graveyard next door. I ended up hiring the family pets for protection. On Monday I will introduce my top protectors, Pat the Stray Greyhound and Demon the Black Cat.

Sea Anemones Go to War… Harris Beach State Park

It’s the first day of spring here in the Applegate River Valley, and behaving like it. I watched two male flickers (woodpeckers) strutting their stuff this morning for a female while she studiously ignored them by pecking at the ground. One very pregnant doe was busy chasing off her twins from last year. She’ll soon have a new fawn— or fawns— to take care of. And, the swallows have arrived back in our neighborhood. Their aerial performances are truly amazing. Before long, they will start checking out our oak trees and bird houses for possible nesting sites. 

The first of our daffodils have burst into bright yellow blooms, shooting stars are covering the hillsides, and irises are popping up everywhere. Peggy and her sister Jane dug up our iris bed last year to separate the bulbs that were crowding each other out. Peggy discovered that there were more than she could possibly plant, so she started stuffing the extras into gopher holes and covering them— like you might sweep dirt under a rug. Well, that’s what I thought. The gophers will have a feast. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each hole is now proudly sporting its own iris and Peggy is giving me an “I told you so” look.

And what else happened this morning? There was snow, rain and sunshine. Sometimes simultaneously. Spring has arrived for sure.

Meanwhile, I have a nasty cold. “We don’t likes it,” as Gollum of Hobbit fame would say. I have a box of Kleenex on one side and a paper bag on the other. I feel like I am an essential part of an assembly line for creating dirty tissues. Pull a Kleenex out of the box, sneeze into it, and stuff it in the bag. Repeat. I filled two bags yesterday. I’d be worried in this age of Covid, but my sniffer is working fine, I don’t have a fever, and Peggy and I had our second dose of Moderna in February. 

I was totally out of it yesterday and the day before. Instead of writing, I read a 400-page fantasy novel about a reluctant hero, a kick-ass princess, a unicorn without a horn, and a dragon that collected butterflies instead of virgins and gold. It was just what the doctor ordered. I’m almost human today, which is why I am back to blogging. Today I am returning to the tide pools of Harris Beach for a look at sea anemones.

The sea anemones at Harris Beach come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This was one of the larger ones we found, a giant, green sea anemone or Anthopleura xanthogrammica, if you want to be scientifically correct.
A more typical view. The tentacles are covered in stinging cells that the anemone throws into small prey like a harpoon. Once the poison has done its job, the anemone then uses its tentacles to work its prey into the gaping mouth seen in the center. When the feast is over it jets the leftovers out its mouth that has conveniently become an anus. I wonder if the anemone then gargles with sea water. The anemones stinging cells are more or less harmless to humans. How do I know this? I petted a few in my youth. The anemones don’t seem to like it; they immediately close up shop, like the anemones below.
A few of the big guys hanging out together at low tide. Anemones close up when exposed to air as a way to protect their tentacles. A small, dark fish is lurking in the remaining water. Some small fish seem to have a symbiotic relationship with anemones and swim among the tentacles, free of worry. Predators beware.
I found this interesting. A number to the anemones were covered in brightly colored pieces of rocks and shells. Scientists speculate that this serves as a natural sunblock when the anemone is exposed to air at low tide. I was curious about how they go about gathering and affixing their collection but couldn’t find anything about it.
Some smaller sea anemones live in colonies as seen here. These are clones of each other except they differentiate into scouts, warriors and moms. When two colonies meet, they go to war. It’s the scouts job to find new territory for the colony as it expands. When they come on another colony, the warriors take over by whaling away at each other with their tentacles. The ‘moms’ stay in the middle out of harm’s way. Next Friday, I’ll cover the other sealife we found in the tide pools.


Monday’s Blog-a-Book Post… “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me”: I move outside to commune with nature in the summer but the ghosts continue to haunt our backyard. I hire the family pets for protection. They charge a high fee.

The Starfish of Harris Beach State Park, Oregon

We saw this colorful starfish from a distance and came over for a closer look. It’s scientific name is Henricia leviuscula. It common name is Pacific blood star.
I decided a slight shift in perspective would create a twirling ballet dancer! Or is it a whirling dervish?

We were lucky to find any starfish at all. The population up and down the Pacific coast came close to being wiped out in 2013. A rather nasty virus that melted these attractive creatures from the inside killed millions. Legs would fall off and go crawling away. It sounded like the plot to a Grade B horror flick. Fortunately, evolution came to the rescue. A small portion of the population seemed immune to the virus. Maybe some of the legs got lucky. They came back with a vengeance. We did find a few that were obviously dead. I touched one. It was mushy. Melting.

Everywhere we looked we saw starfish. Sometime in bunches. These purple and orange star fish belong to the same family, Pisaster ochraceus. Scientists don’t know why they come in two colors.

Here are some fun facts:

  • These rather amazing five-legged creatures have seawater for blood. It serves the same purpose, delivering nutrients to cells. 
  • Starfish can regenerate an arm lost to a predator. But what if the arm loses its starfish? It can regenerate a new starfish, an exact replica. Pretty cool, huh.
  • They have very small mouths but like large, tasty morsels, like mussels. Not a problem. They have big stomachs. They send them out through their mouths and wrap them around what they want to eat. They digest their dinner and then suck the nutrients back into their mouths, along with the wandering stomachs. 
  • They move around on tiny little feet that are found on their arms. They fill these little feet with water and mimic walking. They travel slowly, at least I have never seen one move quickly. 
  • The feet also serve another purpose; they work as suction cups. The starfish will wrap itself around a closed mussel, attach their little feet, and pull the shells apart. Not an easy task.
  • One more thing about their arms, each one comes with eyes. Not eyes like you and I have but photo receptors that allow them to distinguish between light and dark and move around in search of food, or to avoid becoming food. 

Following are more of our photos:

At first, I thought that the ugly guy above the starfish was seaweed. But looking at it more closely, I decided that it wasn’t something I wanted to meet up with on a dark night.
I’ll conclude with this edgy fellow.


As you read this post, Peggy and I are on our way to Pt. Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco. When she asked what I wanted to do for my birthday week, it popped up. The National Sea Shore is one of my all-time favorite places and I have been escaping there for 50 years. So, beyond responding to comments, I will be taking a break from blogging and reading blogs this coming week. Translate: Vacation! I’ll be back to work on March 8. See you then. –Curt

Harris Beach State Park… Another Gem on the Oregon Coast: Part 1

Harris Beach State Park is located just north of Brookings, Oregon, which, in turn, is located north of the California border. It is one of a number of beautiful state parks located along the coast.

Peggy and I just returned from visiting another of the scenic state parks along the Oregon Coast. This time we followed the Redwood Highway from Grants Pass to Crescent City, which, in itself, is worth the trip. Highlights included following the plunging Smith River as it tumbles down to the Pacific Ocean and winding through the giant trees of Jedidiah Smith Redwood Park. (Smith, BTW, was an early mountain man, explorer, pioneer and author in the western US. His name is on lots of places. Had I been in his boots, those places would be named Mekemson. Grin.)

Harris Beach State Park is a short 26 miles from Crescent City following Highway 101. It’s about three hours from our home. We lucked out and got a campsite overlooking the Pacific that is normally booked months in advance. We don’t do months in advance.

The park is named for George Scott Harris, a native of Scotland. According to the Park website, he obtained the property in 1871 after a lifetime of wandering, which included serving in the British Army in India and spending time in Africa and New Zealand.  In 1860, he made it to San Francisco where he worked in railway construction and mining, finally migrating to what would become the park, settling down, and raising sheep and cattle.

We’ve visited the park before. This photo is from one of our trips. You can see why we would want to return.

While we are always fans of reflection shots, Peggy and I found something else to amuse ourselves with this time: Tide pools. Half of our beach time was spent ferreting out sea life. I plan to feature what we found in this five part series including starfish, anemones, hermit crabs, snails, limpets, chitons and seaweed. Oh my! Plus. Naturally, there will also be sea stacks, driftwood, unique rocks, and sunsets— the types of things one expects when visiting the Oregon coast. Today, I will post a few introductory photos to the park.

Looking down on the beach. We timed our visits for low tide so we could visit the tide pools. People walking on the beach provide perspective.
Looking out to sea.
It pays to look down, as well. Interesting patterns can be found in the sand. Temporary art, soon to be washed away. This reminded me of a ferocious ocean bird. Travel back from the long, pointed beak to the fierce eye.
Looking up provided a view of a dead tree, yellow flowers and rock. The yellow flowers are bourse, another visitor from Scotland that came to Oregon and decided to stay.
A whole different world exists on top of the rocks. Seabirds find the seat stacks at Harris Beach an ideal place for raising families.
Speaking of nesting, the largest island on the Oregon Coast is just off of Harris Beach. Known as Goat Island, it is also known as Bird Island since over 100,000 birds nest here in spring, including tufted puffins.
The rocks also have unique stories to tell.
While I like drift wood because of the character it develops bouncing around in the ocean, many people find other uses for it. One person’s photo op is another person’s fort! Or possibly, a beach campfire.
If you need a change of scenery, look back toward shore. My focus here was on the shallow stream spreading out over the sand.
Here, I liked the distinctive layers starting with the sand and working upward. Note the size of the driftwood logs.
A closer perspective.
I’ll conclude todays’ post with a sunset. Next Friday I am going to focus in on star fish, also known as sea stars. They were almost wiped out in the past few years by a virus but have made a miraculous recovery.


Monday’s Blog-A-Book…It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me: I discover that the overgrown, jungle-like graveyard next to our house is a great place to play during the day but becomes very scary at night when the ghosts come out.

Tuesday’s Blog-A-Book… “The Bush Devil Ate Sam”: While driving a laundry truck to earn money for college, I meet a young Liza Minnelli in her babydoll pajamas at casino magnate Bill Harrah’s home, and am held at gun point during a laundry takeover at Lake Tahoe. Later on, I was amused by the thought that it was good training for me as a student at Berkeley and as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

A Tall Trees Tale: Shake Down Cruise to the Redwoods… North to Alaska

Moss covered tree in Redwoods National Park.

When we think of the Redwoods, it is usually about the giant Redwoods. But the Redwoods also have an incredible greenness that is long remembered.

A long trip, especially a long trip where services are few and far between, means you prefer not to have breakdowns along the way. I dutifully took Quivera in to the Ford Dealer and spent the usual obscene amount of money to increase my chances she would behave herself on the way to Alaska. The drive to Alaska isn’t as challenging as it once was (I made my first trip in 1986 over frozen dirt), but it is still challenging.

To further increase our chances of a worry-free trip, Peggy and I– along with our daughter and two grandkids, took Quivera on a shake down cruise to the Redwoods National Park in Northern California, about three hours away. We had introduced our son Tony’s kids to the Big Trees last summer and were eager to have Tasha’s children share the experience.

We dutifully took the kids to see the Big Tree. It is 304 feet tall (92.6 mtrs), 21.6 feet in diameter (6.6 mtrs) and 68 feet (20.7 mtrs) in circumference. The estimated age of the tree is 1500 years. Afterwards, Ethan and Cody along with our next-door neighbor’s son, William, went charging off to look for Ewoks and banana slugs. Star Wars was filmed nearby.

Big Tree in Redwoods National Park.

The eight year old Ethan on the left, our nine-year old next door neighbor William, and the five-year old Cody pose in front of the Big Tree in Redwoods National Park.

Big Tree at Redwoods National Park.

Looking up at the Big Tree. It is impossible not to feel awe.

A pair of giant trees in Redwoods National Park.

Of course Big Tree is just one out of hundreds of the giants found in Redwoods National Park.

Firn with rain drops in Redwoods National Park.

It had rained just before we started our visit and this fern was still holding rain drops.

Banana Slug at Redwoods National Park.

A bright yellow Banana Slug makes its way along the forest floor. The Banana Slug, BTW, is the school mascot for the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Redwoods National Park

Another view of how green it is at Redwoods National Park. I told the boys to look out for Ewoks. The boys are avid Star Wars fans. “You know Ewoks are make believe,” the five-year old Cody primly informed me. Darn. I thought they were real.

Redwoods National Park

The light grey clouds against the dark tees provided an interesting view looking up.

Leaves at Redwoods National Park.

I also liked this shot looking up at leaves.

Pacific Ocean

We also camped out on the Pacific Ocean. This is our daughter Natasha. The tracks you see were made by the boys, running back and forth between the ocean and their driftwood forts.

Harris State Beach Park

We spent our last night at Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, Oregon

Fog rolls in at Harris State Beach  near Brookings, Oregon.

The fog was rolling in when we packed up to leave. Quivera was ready to head north to Alaska.

NEXT BLOG: You’ll meet our traveling companions, Bob and Linda Bray. Bob and I have been hanging out together and causing mischief since the First Grade… a long time ago on a far and distant planet.

The Beautiful and Rugged Northwest Coast… Brookings, Oregon

Beautiful weather and early morning sunlight combined for this reflection photo of a rock jutting out toward the Pacific Ocean at Harris Beach State Park just north of Brookings, Oregon where I was camping this week.

Nobuo Fujita had a job to do: bomb the United States. It was September 9, 1942 and his plane was loaded with incendiary bombs. He launched his floatplane from the Japanese submarine that had delivered him to the coastal waters off Southern Oregon, climbed over the ocean, and flew toward the mountains behind Brookings. His bombs were supposed to ignite a massive forest fire.

The forest didn’t cooperate but Fujita returned to Brookings in 1962 and presented the city with a 400-year-old Samurai sword that belonged to his family. In 1967 Brookings made him an honorary citizen.

On March 11, 2011 another intruder from the East came roaring into Brookings. This time it was the remnants of the devastating tsunami that had struck Japan and caused such horrendous loss of life and property. Brookings got off easy but considerable damage was done to the town’s harbor. It was a solemn reminder of what might happen when the next big earthquake hits the West Coast.

It’s hard to imagine this peaceful harbor scene at Brookings, Oregon being disrupted by the remains of the tsunami that struck Japan a year and a half ago.

I was in Brookings this week to camp out at Harris Beach State Park and enjoy the beautiful and rugged coastline. I divided my days between working on a book about my African Peace Corps experience and hiking on the beach. The weather was close to perfect. Naturally, I had a camera along.

The view from Harris Beach State Park looking south toward Brookings, which was about a mile away.

A sandbar created a small lagoon that was excellent for capturing reflections. Note the seagull on the right.

OK, I admit I can’t resist reflections. This shot at Harris Beach State Park, Oregon was taken late afternoon.

This view, similar to the photo at the beginning, was taken early morning.

Another early morning photo at Harris Beach State Park. This one is looking south. The sun has gently touched the rock on the right while those on the left remain in shadows.

The sandbar that separated the lagoon from the ocean.

I liked the combination of dark rock, sandy beach, sky and water.

Looking north up the Pacific Coast from Harris State Beach.

Low tide uncovers an abundance of sea life. When my dad lived on the Oregon Coast, he would gather the mussels for cooking.

And what’s an ocean without a seagull… This guy was hoping I would break out lunch.

The restless ocean and its waves were calm for my visit to Brookings, Oregon.

This large log, bleached white by the sun and sea, is a reminder of stormy oceans. In fact watching storms hit the coast has become a major spectator sport during the winter on the Oregon coast.

I’ll finish off my post on Harris Beach State Park and Brookings, Oregon with a final reflection picture. Next up: A visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Park in Southern Arizona.