Friday, September 10, 2010

Port Orford

Port Orford Dock

We arrived at Port Orford by design but stayed at the Port Orford RV Village by good fortune. The first RV park we had tried to get into was full. They in turn had recommended the Port Orford RV Village. We had missed seeing this park during earlier drives through the town as it is located out of sight from Hwy 101 (better still). We had planned to stay only until our awning parts arrived at the dealer in North Bend. Three or four days at most we figured. We wound up staying two weeks. So what was the draw?

Gray Whale swimming/feeding near Port Orford dock

Our first impression was that while the park was small and somewhat dated, it was meticulously maintained by the owners, Tim and Cindy, who live on site. From the moment we pulled in they made sure we had the site we wanted from those available and personally saw to it that we were parked safely and comfortably. When Cindy learned we were birders she immediately set about providing us with local birding information she had on hand, then took the time to search out information on the internet (and printed it out!).
Socialization is everything in the world of RVing. If you don't like meeting people this is not the lifestyle for you. Tim and Cindy made sure everyone at the park had an opportunity to join in whatever activities took place. Every morning at 7:00 a.m. there was coffee and baked goods in the clubhouse (fresh baked by Cindy, her mother, or other guests). Blueberry muffins were particular crowd-pleasers. A daily Happy Hour, again at the clubhouse, began at 4:00. There was no rule that we had to attend either event but after a bit we didn't want to miss any. This was how we met others in the park, be they just passing through like us, seasonal regulars, or folks who lived full time in park models (very well maintained park models). From the git-go, everyone greeted us with a big smile and and genuine "Welcome!"
Tim and Cindy had planted several areas in the park with flowers and shrubs and had added bird feeders around many of these sites. Another clue we were going to like it there. When we found ourselves in the park we constantly ran into Tim or Cindy as they made the rounds to speak with guests.
Three families in the park were professional fishermen. Well, professional in that they were all retired and continued to fish to augment their income. We birders may have multiple sets of optics and bird books - these people had multiple boats and went out fishing whenever the sea was favorable.

Chris and Rowly and their A-Liner 

Lynn and Bill

Tim and Cindy

During our second day at the park a couple from southern California pulled in next to us in a small pop-up A-Liner. Like us they were "just passing through" but wound up staying just over a month. Rowly, a transplant from Great Britain had moved to the U.S. four years ago. Chris, originally raised in Australia, had moved to the U.S. years ago with her first husband. We shared many a good laugh, chatting over drinks, sharing meals and going on hikes.
Bill and Lynn were from Pahrump, Nevada. They've been seasonal residents of the park for over 20 years. Mark, a single fellow in a fifth wheel looked vaguely familiar. Turned out that we had run into him while we were all parked at Rusty's RV on the New Mexico/Arizona border last fall. On and on, the warm and friendly folks at Port Orford all had similar tales to tell and gladly shared their local knowledge of the area.

Port Orford lifts

hoisting the catch to the dock

rock fish - yum!

The Port of Port Orford isn't your traditional docking situation. There is nowhere to moor ships or boats in the water. Boats are instead stored on the massive cement dock on dollies when not in use. When in use boats are lifted down to the ocean via one of two massive cranes. There are only six such operating docks like this in the world. The dock was an excellent place to scope for birds and whales and to talk to the local fisherman about what they were catching and watch them process their catches. Most fish after being caught were stored in live wells aboard boats, transferred to live wells on the dock and sold live to fish mongers that arrived daily to buy fish. A much higher premium was paid for live fish rather than processed dead ones.

"Big Mama" peregrine release, Otter Point

Don exercising Milagra, an injured Red-shouldered Hawk
at FreeFlight

While scoping birds and whales on the dock (saw Gray Whales swimming close to the dock as well as a few breaching full out of the water) we chanced to meet a couple, Don and Leslie, who were releasing a rehabbed Common Loon into the bay. During our conversation we were invited to visit the rehab center in Bandon. We also made arrangements for a hike one morning at Blacklock Point, and, the day before we left Port Orford for California, they stopped by to invite us to take part in a release of another rehabbed bird - a female Peregrine Falcon which had been shot. How could we refuse that! ("Big Mama", after her release, made a successful re-entry into the natural world)

Harper (Peregrine) and Golia (No. Sawhet-Owl)
both are now education birds at Freeflight

Another connection to Don and Leslie. We had learned via the Wisconsin Birding Network that a fellow WI birder, Erik Brunhke, had been working for the summer in Oregon on an ornithological survey of bird nest cavities in burned or logged over areas. We arranged to meet Erik for some local birding. It turned out that it was Erik who had originally discovered the injured Common Loon and had dropped it off at the rehab center where Don and Leslie worked! Erik, and his friend Sarah who had just arrived via train to help Erik drive back to WI, joined us during our tour of the FreeFlight rehab center. Small world, indeed! Erik also pointed us to local birding areas he had been visiting.

Tom, Sarah and Erik along the coast

view from Coquille Point

When our awning parts arrived we made an appointment in North Bend, an hour drive up the coast. We hooked up, drove to North Bend and had the awning replaced (FINALLY fixed - yay!!!) and arrived back at Port Orford RV Village in time for Happy Hour (yay!!). Yes, we've since used the awning and are glad to have it back!

Wolf Eel (not a true eel) tasted like, well, chicken!

Other activities in the area included potlucks in the RV park (oh, the eel was delish), attending the Senior Center Sunday morning pancake breakfast (didn't have to be a senior to go), an outing to the local movie theater (reminiscence of a classic 50's theater) with other movie buffs in the RV park to see "Despicable Me" - $5 per person entry plus $3 for a tub of buttered popcorn and bottled water - wow such a deal!
What other places did we visit? Loads! A partial list includes: Battle Rock Beach, Floras Lake, the mouth of the Rogue River in Gold Beach for a scenic drive (or a jet boat up the river), the Coast Guard Museum, a drive along the scenic Elk River (the fish hatchery), dinner at Griff's on the Port Orford dock, lunch at the Rollin' In Dough Bakery and Bistro in Gold Beach, lunch at the Bandon Fish Market and Chips Chowder House in Bandon, breakfast at the Paradise Cafe, Port Orford, a moving "Blessing of the Fleet" ceremony held at the Fisherman's Memorial, and countless other birding spots up and down the coast. The Point B Studio and next door, the recently opened Redfish Restaurant (make sure your charge card is up to the task) both seemed like fish out of water in tiny Port Orford. The studio was fun but our attempt to eat at the restaurant was a no-go due to a supposedlybooked house (empty tables everywhere but they were booked? - we must have looked scary I guess).

just one of many views at Blacklock Point

we ate the eel but drew the line at slugs

Black Turnstone (upper) Wandering Tattler (lower)

Eventually, it was time to leave. The evening before we left, Rowly and Chris surprised us with a going away cake. Happy Hour was quickly turned into a going away party. Such were the good folks at the park. We've already decided to go back to Port Orford for a longer stay. If you're ever in the Port Orford area and are looking for a spot to park be sure to contact Tim or Cindy. Just don't be in our spot when we arrive!

one of our last days on the coast before heading inland

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