Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another Beach Trip, Roadwork and Breaching Whales

We made another trip to the coast this past weekend and even though it was a quick one-night visit, we had some truly memorable experiences.

The day we drove out to the coast it was sunny and beautiful all the way. Right about the time we parked the car and unloaded the dogs for a romp on the beach, the fog rolled in. At first I was bummed at the thought of losing our clear and lovely view of the ocean, but this was a pretty spectacular fog. It came in around us, but still allowed visibility out as far as the surf. Unlike our last trip to the beach, there was almost no wind. The sun was still shining brightly enough to cast shadows and the mist that swirled about us created a sort of ethereal space where it seemed at once open and private. The sand, the sea and the air seemed to merge in varying shades of tan. It was absolutely beautiful.

Of course the dogs didn't mind the fog at all and immediately took off running down the beach. My husband took some fantastic pictures and short videos, which I'll share in the days to come.

We had another great night's stay at the La Quinta in Newport, Oregon (which, like every other La Quinta we've stayed in, was comfy, clean and pet-friendly). This one even had a last-minute $49 weekend getaway rate, which made the deal that much sweeter.

The next morning was a bit brighter and we headed back out to the beach. The dogs had another nice romp. But the truly spectacular aspect of that day occurred because of a traffic stop for road construction work. As we sat, waiting for the flagger to tell us it was our turn to pass through, our gazes turned out to sea. I remembered reading that it was approaching whale migration time, so we scanned the horizon for spouts. Almost immediately I spotted one, and during the short time we sat there on the road, perhaps a minute or two, we saw at least 10 whale spouts, all in the same area not far from a fishing boat barely visible on the horizon.

We passed through the construction and stopped at the next turnout. The fishing boat was still barely visible, so we pulled out the binoculars and focused-in on the area we had been watching a mile or so back. As I scanned the horizon I saw a spout, then another, then I saw one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen: a gray whale breaching the surface. I saw its giant body come out of the water, it looked like at least 2/3 of it was visible. I saw the nose, then the body, and as it turned I saw a giant flipper before it came crashing back down into the sea making an enormous splash. I was speechless. Once I regained my composure I handed the binoculars to my husband, who watched the same spot. It couldn't have been more than a minute later and he saw a whale breach too. Same reaction.

I couldn't help feeling that we had both just been given a tremendous gift from nature. We've seen whales spouting before, and we've even gone on a whale-watching trip where we saw the backs of migrating gray whales rise and spout not far from the boat. We even saw a mother whale and her baby rise and spout together, side by side. But never had either of us seen a whale breach. It was so fortunate that we each had a turn at the binoculars when the two breaches happened. To the naked eye it was still pretty cool seeing a large, dark mass rise out of the water and come crashing down, but the binoculars made the sight all the more spectacular.

So I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the whales who, breaching for whatever reason, managed to do so at exactly the right moment for us, twice. And I never thought I'd write this, but I guess I should thank the road department, not only for keeping the lovely Highway 101 in shape, but for stopping us long enough that day to notice the whale spouts out our window.

Next time I won't need the road work. You can bet that every second I'm not behind the wheel, I'll be scanning the horizon for that giant splash.

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