Written by Vanilla Sugar on 03 Nov, 2008
Florence is a beautiful little city on the central coast of Oregon. It’s #1 over Beaux Bridge, Louisiana and even outranks the Gaspé Peninsula.Florence has a population of just under 9,000 people. Of the people we have met, there’s one word that describes…Read More
Florence is a beautiful little city on the central coast of Oregon. It’s #1 over Beaux Bridge, Louisiana and even outranks the Gaspé Peninsula.Florence has a population of just under 9,000 people. Of the people we have met, there’s one word that describes them all – Friendly. Clerks greet you with a smile at the Safeway supermarket. Merchants at the Sportsman’s store will gab about fishing, clamming and the tides. And, the folks at BJ’s Ice Cream are patient as you sample the homemade flavors on tiny spoons before making a decision from the case full of ice cream choices. People don’t seem stressed out here. Maybe it’s the subliminal rhythm of the surf that keeps them happy, friendly, and nice to be around. I doubt they have soother noise machines in their homes playing ocean waves. It’s an inner soothing projected here, relaxed, and simply nice."I’ve always heard the Oregon Coast is one of the nicest places in the US," I had a well-traveled friend say when I called her on a Saturday afternoon. All I said was, "It’s true."Not everyone will have the opportunity to visit Florence, Oregon for as many days as Ed and me. So, I’d like to suggest to you several things that you can do in a five day visit. You just might fall in love with Florence too.Day 1: Explore the Oregon CoastExplore the Oregon Coast by traveling north on Highway 101. See the expanse of beaches and the rocky coast. You will be amazed. Scenery will take your breath away. No matter how many other beaches you’ve seen, no matter how many other beautiful sceneries have graced your eyes, you will, in fact, find the Oregon Coast to be magnificent. There are plenty of pull-offs for scenic overlooks. Make sure you buy an Oregon Pacific Coast Passport, because that will give you access to every little nook and cranny, every little park and I don’t think you should miss one. This is a multi-agency day-use pass that covers entry, vehicle parking, and day-use fees at all State and Federal sites along the Oregon Coast. Here are my picks to fill your first day:Cape Perpetua Scenic Area: (mile marker 166.9 on Hwy. 101, Yachats, OR) This is part of the Siuslaw National Forest, a 2,700 acre wonderland of old growth forest and trails with ocean views. The Visitors Center Theater is where you can learn about the gray whale population of the Pacific Ocean and other stories about nature through a series of films running throughout the day. Heceta Head Lighthouse: (mile marker 178.3 on Hwy. 101, 13 miles north of Florence) At Heceta Head Lighthouse, you’ll learn a little history, come to appreciate the life of a lighthouse keeper and all the different things that use to go on to keep boats and harbors safe. Volunteers conduct tours of this coastal lighthouse and the keeper’s house from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The beach here offers views of the rugged rocky coast line. Picnic tables invite you to sit awhile for a bring-your-own-lunch. At mile marker 179.0, you can capture your digital shot of the Heceta Head Lighthouse, noted as one of the most photographed lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. Day 2: Take a Boat Ride & Shop in Old TownFish Tales II: (Fish Tales Guide & Charter Service, LLC - Greg Helmer, Captain. Call 541-741-2136) Once you have seen the ocean vistas, you might want to get out on the water. Let Captain Helmer take you along the Siuslaw River, past sand dunes, coastal mansions, and across the sand bar to earn your rite of passage on the Pacific Ocean. You can do this and still be back on shore in time to visit Old Town Florence.Mo’s Restaurant: (1436 Bay St., Florence) Warm up with a bowl of Mo’s nationally famous clam chowder. It will fuel you for another favorite vacation activity – shopping. www.moschowder.comHistoric Old Town Florence: Art galleries, antiques, clothing and shoe shops, and specialty stores line both sides of Bay Street in Florence. So if you need a new pair of hiking boots like I did, head for On Your Feet to get a new pair of Merrell boots. Or, if you need a bedtime story, Books ‘N’ Bears has new and discounted used books to suit you. Go to BJ’s Ice Cream for some homemade ice cream and taffy. Then, stroll along the harbor. You might get lucky and see a tuna boat come in. Some folks buy whole tunas direct from the fishermen. But if you just want a taste of the best canned tuna, there’s a garage like shop on the dock that sells each can for $5. Take some home; you will be glad you did.Day 3: History & AttractionsSiuslaw Pioneer Museum: (273 Maple Street, Florence 541-997-7884) This museum features pictures and artifacts that tell the story of Florence and the Lower Siuslaw Region. Even if you are not a history buff, the Museum is worth a visit. Sea Lions Cave: (mile marker 179.3 on Hwy. 101) An elevator drops you to a short trail leading to the world’s largest sea cave and its resident inhabitants. Enjoy watching the sea lions frolic in the water, catch some little critters, nibble, play and flop around on each other. www.sealionscave.comDay 4: Ride the Dunes & Play the SlotsThe Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area extends from Florence to Coos Bay with many access points off Highway 101. You can watch others’ thrilling rides on the dunes or join the fun.Sand Dunes Frontier: (83960 Hwy.101 four miles south of Florence) Rent a Polaris Quad, Honda Odyssey, or Mini Rail for a scenic ride on the Oregon Dunes. You can climb the dunes that measure up to 500 feet in height. Then, you can follow the sand roads to the beach where an area more than two-miles long is designated for off-road vehicles. Three Rivers Casino & Hotel: (off Highway 126 east of Florence, 541-997-7529) Your adrenaline will already be pumping after running on the dunes, so keep the spirit going with a visit to the casino. Choose from 650 slots, black jack, roulette, craps, poker and keno all there for your amusement. Bingo games run on weekends. There’s a chance you could win a Dodge Viper by playing some of the select 2¢ slots. If gambling is not your thing, just grab a bit to eat at the steakhouse, deli, buffet, café, or sports bar & lounge.Day 5: Visit a Local Craftsman & Float on the Lazy Siltcoos River or Stretch your Legs Lakeshore Myrtlewood: (83530 Hwy. 101 south of Florence) Here is where you will find a large selection of Oregon Coast Myrtlewood products – bowls, cutting boards, ornaments, carvings – for your own home or gift giving. The lighted lighthouses are an exclusive item made in the adjoining woodworking shop. You can even ask for a tour of the shop to watch a skilled craftsman. www.lakeshoremyrtlewood.comSiltcoos Recreation Area: You have several options to explore the Siltcoos River, a lazy river – Class I paddle - that flows into the Pacific Ocean. If you prefer a water route, rent a kayak or canoe from the Siltcoos Lake Resort (541-997-3741) in Westlake. Then, paddle from Siltcoos Lake some 3 – 4 miles along the gentle river through forest, dunes, and salt marsh to the estuary and the Pacific Ocean. If you prefer a land route along the river, enter the Siltcoos Recreation Area via the Siltcoos Beach Road (mile marker 198.0 on Hwy. 101 south of Florence) and hike the Waxmyrtle Trail. It’s a 2.5 mile, moderately difficult trail. The trail takes you along the river’s edge then through some forest hills and finally to the mouth of the river where it spills to the Pacific Ocean. And a final option, if you just want to drive, is to follow the Siltcoos Beach Road east to the beach parking lot. There are several scenic views of the river along the way but the most spectacular view awaits you. Park your car at the Siltcoos Beach lot and climb the dune. You will be rewarded by a panoramic view – Pacific Ocean, Oregon Dunes, and lush green forests. Once you begin to savor the experiences in and around Florence, Oregon, there’s a chance five days won’t be enough for you either. You just might find that Florence stole your heart too! Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 24 Oct, 2008
Whoops? What’s a Whoops Trail?"It’s a go!" Ed called to me through the RV’s bedroom pocket door. "We need to be there by 11 AM."I’d been waiting for this day, watching the weather, and managing my calendar so when all the conditions aligned,…Read More
Whoops? What’s a Whoops Trail?"It’s a go!" Ed called to me through the RV’s bedroom pocket door. "We need to be there by 11 AM."I’d been waiting for this day, watching the weather, and managing my calendar so when all the conditions aligned, I’d be ready for this adventure. Today, we had a clear blue sky, no wind, no forecast for rain – perfect conditions for a scenic ride on the Oregon Dunes.Avery Duman, President of Torex ATV Rentals, reserved a red Yamaha Rhino for Ed and me. We tucked extra jackets and a day pack full of water and snacks in the back of the 4-seater then gave Avery our full attention. He thoroughly explained the mechanics of the ATV - high gear, low gear, gas pedal and the ever-so-important brakes. Ed was eager to take the wheel; but first, there was a waiver to sign in event we got hurt. Yes, we will promise to wear seatbelts. At the time that I nodded my head to this safety instruction, I had no idea my promise was so important.Next, Avery showed us a placemat sized laminated photo of the dunes. "I allow my ATV to run this area of the dunes." He pointed to two separate clusters of green trees which looked out of place among the landscape of the dunes. He called them North and South Islands. "Back here is the Forest Service sound buffer and private land. Do not venture there. I will lead you to the dunes and we will review this again out there." He traced a road on the map. "This is Chapman’s Sand Road. It goes to the ocean. It’s a whoops trail.""A whoops trail?" I puzzled trying to figure out what Avery meant. "It’s kind of bumpy," said Avery. "You’ll see."Later, I did but for now I just wanted to hit the dunes. Avery showed us how the little doors on the Rhino open and latch, then he added, "You can just hop over top of them. Most people do." I hopped over top and buckled my seatbelt. We were off following Avery down the paved driveway to the access road to the dunes. He zipped and we jerked along as Ed tried to find the right gear. I am glad I had that seatbelt. Avery stopped and waited for us to catch up to him. Along our route, he pointed to the string of low hanging plastic red, white and blue flags. "Turn there to return the ATV when you finish riding," he said above the sound of the engines. We nodded.Then, he took off riding his quad standing up, tipping it on a few curves onto two wheels. "Did you see that?" I punched Ed’s arm. I could tell by the gleeful look on Ed’s face that he’d try two-wheeling given the opportunity. He made the manly response, "I could take him." Avery led us along a sandy road through a shaded forest up a hill. The trees gave way to an open sky full of sunshine and expansive view of the dunes. This was a landscape like no other. We stopped for a long while high on a dune to take it all in – the mounds of sand, the big sky, the islands of trees, the view of the ocean. "Let’s head to the ocean," Ed suggested. Avery was fine with this but first he wanted to give us some landmarks. He showed us the real stuff, things we had already seen on his map of the dunes. "Do you see that windsock high in the pine trees?" he asked. "If you get disoriented, just look for it. The windsock hangs over the road back to the rental site."Avery said lots of people with rentals do get lost but we weren’t to worry. Just keep his cell phone number handy. He knew the dunes and had been riding them since he was a little kid. All he needed was a description of what we could see and he’d know how to find us or direct us back to his place. "Sometimes people really get off track and I get a call from the police telling me they have one of my rentals at the South Jetty, come get them," he added. Ed and I did not want to be one of those folks so I really paid attention to the scenery. Avery took off again in the lead, this time with more caution. We were riding on narrow crests of the dunes. One miscalculation or a slip of the tires could send the ATV sliding down a steep drop. Ed followed Avery’s tracks without mishap. As we neared the ocean, the dunes flattened and opened to a level plain of damp hardened sand crisscrossed with hundreds of quad, dirt bike and ATV tracks. "Here’s Chapman Road," Avery called and signaled for us to follow. We took the road slow with Avery close beside our ATV. He talked about the wildlife – deer, bears, coyotes, cougars, skunks, and possums. After passing an intersection for another sandy road – Hunter Sand Road, we picked-up the speed. The road ahead looked like a trail full of troughs. A better description might be speed bumps three times the size in a normal parking lot. Our ATV bounced as we went over the first few rollers. It bounced some more lifting me out of my seat again and again. My seat belt held me in the ATV but not in my seat. I was up high then down over and over. We rocked from side to side all the while bouncing some more. My head felt like an out of control bobble head wobbling. I wasn’t scared; this was fun! Laughing aloud fun! Ed just said one word, "Whoops!" Yep, we were on the Whoops Trail!Roller coaster aficionados will understand when I say this Whoops Trail felt like a ride on the Jack Rabbit at Pittsburgh’s Kennywood Park. You just feel like you will fly out of your seat, but you don’t because you are strapped in tight. What makes this Whoops ATV ride better is that it lasts longer and you can do it over and over again without standing in a long park line. Avery left us on our own when we reached the beach, checking again to be sure we had has phone number. We did. For hours, we cruised along the beach. When we had enough of the smooth, bump-free coast, we turned inland. We found some more Whoops Trails and rode them laughing aloud.The ATV was provided by Avery Duman, President of Torex, Inc. at Sand Dunes Frontier located at 83960 Highway 101 South, Florence, OR541-997-5363www.sanddunesfrontier.com Close
Written by btwood2 on 18 Sep, 2004
Summer 2002: our first summer of full-time living in our new motor home on the Oregon Coast! My husband Bob and I had been moving gradually up the coast in our slow, snail-like fashion, and were camped just south of Florence. We’d been…Read More
Summer 2002: our first summer of full-time living in our new motor home on the Oregon Coast! My husband Bob and I had been moving gradually up the coast in our slow, snail-like fashion, and were camped just south of Florence. We’d been experiencing either smoky or cloudy weather. Although clouds and mist are typical on the Oregon Coast, the smoke came from the lightning-caused Biscuit-Complex Fire that burned half a million acres that summer. We’d often see huge fire cumulus clouds in the east. Sometimes ashes would fall like rain throughout the day.
A perfect day: This Saturday dawned clear and sunny, with a few billowy natural cumulus clouds – a wonderful day to explore! So off we went in our tow car, a Hyundai Elantra, stopping here and there along the coast, taking short walks, and enjoying the scenery. I’d taken my leather backpack-purse, but didn’t really need it at the stops we were making. So I took out my camera and put the purse in the trunk, looking around to make sure no potential thieves were lurking. We walked to an ocean overlook, then back to the car and took off up the coast.
Our next stop was Heceta Beach, by Driftwood Shores Resort. On this beautiful sunny day, there were only a few parking spaces left on the state beach parking lot. We took one on the end of a row of cars, so there’d be less of a chance of someone banging their car door into our shiny gray new car. We walked down to the beach, where people were strolling and dogs were gamboling. It was midday and getting a bit hazy, with mist from the breakers moistening the air. Almost intoxicated by the warm sea breeze, we walked at leisure, approaching Heceta Lighthouse in the distance. An hour later, we turned to head back to the car.
A startling discovery: As Bob unlocked the front doors with the remote key, I stepped on shattered glass next to the passenger side, and couldn’t believe what I saw. The passenger window was gone, more glass tinkling down inside the door as I exclaimed and opened it. The glove box was hanging open. We quickly discovered that Bob’s camera, lying covered on the floor of the back seat, and our $2000 "brake buddy" in its plastic container on the back seat, were still there. As Bob popped the trunk and I looked inside, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach; my purse was gone.
Our immediate hope was that maybe the thieves had found the cash (about $25) and thrown the purse out nearby, with credit and debit cards, gift cards, checkbooks, driver’s license, RN license, ALL our camping membership ID cards, and address book still in it. Fat chance. We walked around looking under bushes and in trash containers, to no avail. As we drove back to Florence, I kept looking by the side of the road, vainly hoping to spot my purse, which had been a gift from my mother, my favorite and only purse. We followed the "Police" sign to a side street in Florence. The police station was locked and looked closed. It was before 5 pm, and we’d seen that the library down the street appeared to be open. The librarian, sympathetic to our tale of woe, made some phone calls. She found out that since our car had been broken into outside of city limits, we’d need to go see the state police, whose office was north of town, where we’d come from. She spoke to an officer there, who told her to have us come on over. As we drove up, he appeared just about to take off in his patrol car, but when we gesticulated wildly to him, he got out of his car and invited us in his office. He shared with us that "car clouts" are very common on the Oregon coast, and even more so with the slashed state budget, decimating the ranks of state patrol officers. Druggies looking for quick cash make a coastal run, breaking into one car per community and taking what they can get. Another car had been broken into earlier that afternoon beachside a little further north. He told us they move fast, trying to avoid confrontations. I filled out the police report, but he was skeptical. I gave him our cell phone number anyway just in case my purse would turn up.
The two tasks that remained to us which would take up the next three days were (#1) phoning all our cards, banks, etc. so that they could be stopped and accounts changed, and (#2) getting the car window fixed. No body shops on the coast; the nearest were in Eugene, so we drove there Monday, called around from the Visitor Center checking prices, and got our window replaced.
Lessons learned: We were lucky; it could have been so much worse. We stopped leaving valuable items in the back seats. I learned never to leave my purse in the trunk. I learned to slim down and take only essentials with me when touring in the car. Bob disabled the lever that pops the trunk open from beside the driver’s seat. That’s how they’d gotten in. Alarms didn’t ring because only the car doors were alarmed, not the windows, not the trunk. We also reconsidered parking at the end of rows of cars. Scratches and dents on the side of a car are not as bad as shattered windows and stolen valuables.
A happy post script to the story: One of the things that made me the saddest about the theft of my purse was the loss of over $100 left on a Copeland Sports gift card, a going-away gift from co-workers. I’d been told gift cards are like cash; when they’re lost they’re gone. At the Eugene Copeland’s a few weeks later, an exceptional employee went out of his way to see what he could do to re-issue the card. Apparently they’re tracked, and since I knew who and where the card was bought, he found the balance had NOT been cashed in, cancelled it, and promptly issued me a new one.
Early days: Before the Siuslaw Indians even had much contact with Europeans and Americans, diseases such as smallpox caught indirectly decimated some of their villages. When Hudson Bay traders looking for beaver arrived in the area in 1826, the Siuslaw lived along the…Read More
Early days: Before the Siuslaw Indians even had much contact with Europeans and Americans, diseases such as smallpox caught indirectly decimated some of their villages. When Hudson Bay traders looking for beaver arrived in the area in 1826, the Siuslaw lived along the coast in 30+ villages, in and around what is now Florence. They lived in permanent cedar plank houses, and hunted, gathered, and fished, moving to seasonal camps upriver to follow the salmon and lamprey eel. The staple edible root was camas lily, which was baked a full day. The many types of locally growing berries were eaten fresh or dried.
By 1836, the Siuslaw and other neighboring tribes began regularly trading hides for goods with Hudson Bay Company traders. The first settlers arrived in 1850. In 1855, the U.S. Government signed a treaty with all the coastal Indian tribes, removing them to the Siletz Reservation on the Central Oregon Coast. Since the Siuslaw River was then inside the reservation at the southern edge, many Siuslaw families attempted farming along the river. In 1875, a year before the first cannery began business in Florence, a U.S. congressional act removed large tracts of land from the Siletz, including the Alsea Subagency, to which some Siuslaw had moved earlier, and the land around the Siuslaw River, in violation of the 1855 Treaty. This illegal act forced many Siuslaw families out of their homes. Some moved onto the shrunken and increasingly crowded reservation, others attempted to go into hiding, and still others intermarried with white people.
From bad to worse: In 1916, the Siuslaw began working together with the Coos and Umpqua tribes, who had also been displaced illegally from their lands. After years of lobbying Congress, the tribes were given a hearing in 1931, and their land claims were rejected, because they didn’t use "outside experts" to validate their claim, and had historically been so peaceful, a lot of people didn’t even realize they were around. In 1941, a meeting hall was built on 6 acres of land near Empire, which had been donated to the Siuslaw. They didn’t give up, but in 1956, Eisenhower’s termination policy in effect stated all the tribes of western Oregon "no longer existed", which makes about as much sense as a little child closing its eyes and thinking the outside world has disappeared. After almost 3 decades of struggle, the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw tribes were restored to recognized status in 1984. These three confederated tribes are the only Oregon tribes that have not to this day been compensated in any way for the loss of their lands: 1.6 million acres from Yachats to Coquille.
The struggle continues: June 19, 2004 was a red letter day for the Siuslaw tribe. It marked the opening of Three Rivers Casino, the ninth Indian casino in Oregon. The confederated tribes had to BUY the 98 acres adjacent to Florence so that they could begin work on their planned casino. But one year later in 1999, the U.S. Department of the Interior ruled that it was not reservation land, so could therefore not be used for gambling. Following granted appeals and counter-appeals, the legal battle continues even as the hotly contested casino opened its doors. A local group opposed to the casino,
People Against a Casino Town filed a lawsuit against Oregon, its governor, and the confederated tribes, claiming that the casino is in violation of the state constitution.
Three Rivers Casino opened at the beginning of summer 2004 in a 16,000 square foot military type structure with high tech slots, height-adjustable black leather upholstered chairs, and complimentary Pepsi. The One-Eyed Jacks Lounge serves alcohol. Florence townfolk have mixed opinions about the casino. Although Three Rivers employs 200 people in this town of 7100, have built their own sewer and water systems (even though only a mile from downtown Florence, being outside of city limits), and provide their own police protection, many Florence residents seem not to want to learn from the largely beneficial impact on surrounding towns and communities that other Indian casinos have had. Not to mention that confederated tribes’ motives in establishing these casinos is not akin to the glitzy hedonistic Las Vegas gambling palaces, but merely to allow their people to regain some economic independence and self-respect.
Another uphill battle: It saddens me when indigenous peoples’ and environmentalists’ interests seem at odds. This is what is apparently going on right now (September 2004) between the confederated tribes and some local conservation groups. The current conflict involves a headland, Gregory Point, and nearby Chief’s Island (Lighthouse Island), which the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) are preparing to turn over to the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. These lands are among the ancestral homelands of the Coos Indians. There are a small cemetery and an abandoned Coast Guard housing facility on Gregory Point; the tribes want to use the buildings for tribal offices. Chief’s Island is the only one of the over 1800 islands off the Oregon coast that is not under the protection of the Oregon Islands Natural Wildlife Refuge, and conservation groups want to make it unanimous. I am not against preventing chopping up ecosystems, but give me a break! Most Indian tribes are NOT known for how little they respect the land and how all they want to do is make profits off it and open it to massive tourism. Hey, that’s US (of European ancestry) that’s done most of that all through our history, requiring agencies such as national refuges to protect the land.
We’re planning another jaunt up the Oregon Coast next summer 2005, and I’m looking forward to checking out Three Rivers Casino. With the tight security we’ve come to recognize as common on Indian casino parking lots in Oregon and other states, I doubt our car’s going to be clouted while we’re there!