While I don’t have a phobia about insects and in fact enjoy photographing them, I don’t like the feel of them walking on my skin. I’ve tried to work on it over the years, especially when it’s an insect that won’t harm me, such as this visit to the Oregon coast when flies swarmed around but didn’t bite. I felt for this harbor seal who was getting hounded much worse, they even walked across its eyeballs. It raised a flipper to shoo them off but they didn’t stay away long.
The past couple of years I’ve been watching some old movies I haven’t seen before, using Turner Classic Movies to catch up on some old gems. Last night I TiVo’ed Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”, which has been on my watch list for some time. I haven’t watched it yet and since I try to not find out anything about a movie before I watch it, even the basics of the plot, I don’t know if the movie is about harbor seals, elephant seals, or leopard seals. With seven seals, maybe all of them! Can’t wait to find out!
The rising tide brings waves that overwhelm the sleeping locations of the harbor seals, eventually sending them into the water. The bigger seals often held the ground that let them sleep the longest while the younger seals took the first brunt of the wave action. As each wave swept past, they’d raise their legs in unison, allowing the water to sweep over their bodies instead of knocking them into the sea, though in the end the water always wins.
I could spend hours watching the seals, relaxing on land or swimming in the sea, someday I’d love to spend more time in the area. A couple of years ago when it was time to choose between two job offers, the job in California would have put me relatively close to the coast with not just harbor seals but other mammals I haven’t seen before. If the cost of living had been swapped between the two locations perhaps we’d have gone on a different adventure, but thankfully the Sonoran Desert had its own wonders in store.
A male harlequin duck swims in the crashing surf at Yaquina Head on the Oregon coast, he was not caught unaware in this chaotic environment as this is where he likes to live. It was a delight to watch the ducks thrive in the surging seas alongside the harbor seals, two species so completely different and yet living side-by-side peacefully.
After May was cooler than usual, the heat has come on full in June so for the past couple of weeks I’ve gone swimming for the first time in the new house (I won’t count the time the pup fell in). The pool is a bit on the small side but I thought would be just long enough to get exercise and thankfully that has been the case. I’m a pale imitation of the true swimmers though like this harbor seal at Yaquina Head, ungainly on land but a marvel in the water, flaring its nostrils wide as it took a quick breath before heading back under the water.
Harbor seals eke out as much rest as they can amidst the crashing waves as the Pacific rises to embrace them. I too was awakened recently by gentle but relentless sounds, once by the sound of Boo trying to get out of the bedroom closet he got trapped in, once by the sound of him trying to get into a different closet. The Pacific is mighty and mysterious, but not so much as Boo.
I discovered right away during my interview trip 21 years ago that Oregon was where I belonged. One of the managers found out I liked to hike and took me hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, then the other students and I had the weekend to go out the coast and explore whatever we wanted.
That wonderful Gorge is a half hour drive to the east. My beloved Ridgefield National Wildlife is half an hour to the north (across the river in Washington). Snow-capped Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens are visible from Portland and an easy drive too. Well known for its waterfalls and wetlands and lush forests and rugged coast, all of which I dearly love, there are also high deserts and sand dunes and even redwoods all the way south.
Scenes like this, a curious harbor seal poking up out of the surf at Yaquina Head on a rainy day at the coast, gave me as much pause about moving to Arizona as the summer heat. Oregon has so much to offer, so much that delights me, so much I will miss. Goodbye, I love you.
There is so much I will miss about the Pacific coast, but there are three places I’ll miss most of all: Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park in Washington, Enderts Beach in Redwood National and State Parks in California, and Cobble Beach in Yaquina Beach Outstanding Natural Area in Oregon. All three are scenic and all three have good tide pools. But the reason I’ll miss Yaquina Head so much is not just that it also has a beautiful lighthouse, but it has harbor seals. Up close. I could watch them for hours, and I have.
It also has elephants, of a sort.
While watching the harbor seals swim near the southern end of Cobble Beach, I turned around and saw an elephant in the cliff wall right behind me, or at least an elephant’s skin. The rock formations of the vertical cliff face are fascinating, to the point that I stopped photographing the seals for a while and started photographing the rocks.