One more fantastic trip to Pacific City and the 2009 Birding and Blues festival. Pacific City is on the Pacific at Cape Kiwanda which is postcard noteworthy for its massive hay stack which sits about 1/2 mile off shore (my guess on the distance). The haystack is the hard rock headland remanant of a much more majestic cape most of which remains is a much softer (sandstone) geology that has been worn away by the pounding ocean, winter rains and the winds. The weekend was highlighted by bird and whale (the Gray Whales heading north) watching during the day Saturday followed in the evening with this years rollicking concert of Lloyd Jones blues sounds .... very nice all the way around.
We drove over to the Coast on Friday morning with a first stop at Apollini Vineyards in Hillsboro, to pick up our wine club selection. Conveniently we met Russ and Carol there, tasted their day's offerings and eventually walked out with a mixed case of Apollini wines. From there we followed Russ and Carol to Pacific City, about 75 miles away.
Arriving in Pacific City we went to the Senior Center (the B&B festival world headquarters) and registered for the weekend activities. Russ was to signed up to lead 2 whale watching trips (a hike up Cape Kiwanda to the observation post) and he had arranged for me to go along on those 2 trips and lead the birding portion of the trip. This was the first year for the whale watching as a scheduled B&B event and the air was tense with anticipation ... just how many people would show up. It is probably worth noting here that this years festival took place April 3-5; in past years it has always been the last weekend in February, but for some reason still unkown to me the event was changed to April this year. It may have been the crappy winter weather this year, where snow and ice storms frequently shutdown traffic in various and random locations throughout the Northwest. The Oregon Coast was particularly hard hit, but this is just speculation.
Registered for the weekend events, we headed back to the hacienda where we unpacked the cars, settled a little bit and then prepared for our first beach walk of the weekend. Settling in after the walk, Carol began dinner prep while Russ opened a bottle of wine started pouring. First up was a fabulous Syrah from a Sonoma winery that is still unknown to me. I was just enjoying the wine. The bottle was a bit cold so after a small glass each we opened a Bourdeax blend, another California offering. As we sipped Carol assembled and baked 2 serving trays of crab enchiladas (way more than enough for all of us) that were simply awesome, along with trimmings of coleslaw and a fried corn. A pleasant Rose from our stop at Apollini was a good compliment and rounded out the feast. By the time we finished dinner we were pretty well done in and sat and watched a little TV before bed.
Saturday morning events kicked off at 8:00 and Russ and I were supposed to be at the event center by 7:30. We had a group of about 12 people and we all piled into our various vehicles and drove the mile to the base of the cape, which is the end of the Pacific City beach. The beach starts about 3 miles south at the mouth of the Little Nestucca river. It is a substantial beach with a high dune running nearly its entire length until right at the Cape. Here, at the base of the Cape is the Pelican Brewery/Pub, some seaside condominiums built into the side of the cape and across the street the Cape Kiwanda Inn along with a few other shops. Surfers have found PC and the ocean is seldom without a small group of surfers looking to catch a wave. Let it be known the water is darn cold and wet suits are standard surfing garb.
Arriving at the base of the Cape we regathered the group and then set out for the Cape hike. For this event the hike is down the boat/car ramp that provides beach access for vehicles and then a 200 yard+ hike north on the beach before coming to the climb, a steep sand(dune) hillrising about 25-30 feet in its lowest part. This is truly 2 steps forward and 1 back climbing. Getting to the top of the climb a much more gradual slope on generally firmer ground took us out to the viewing station. We set up camp, identified about 6-7 different (species of) birds and saw a little Gray Whale activity. The gray whales migrate from the Bering Sea to the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) each year where they have their calves before returning to the Bering Sea. In April the whale migration is heading north to their Bering Sea feeding grounds. The Gray Whale migration is the longest migration route of all mammals. While we were on the hill Mary and Carol made our day and joined us.
The session was supposed to last from 8:00 to 10:40, but by 9:45 it was only the 4 of us so we headed back to the house. Mary and Carol took off for one of the class room sessions and Russ and I hung out at the house, which was my time to do my back exercises for the day. The climb up the dune was a bit strenuous though no apparent negative effect on my back. About 11:30 Russ got out the Land Cruiser and we drove up to pick up some beer for lunch and then went and picked up the ladies from their class on Crows. We headed home and had sandwiches and beer sitting on the patio in the sun ... splendid.
The afternoon session started about 1:30 and was pretty much a repeat of the morning. There were no new birds to see, but the group was different and helped reinforce some of the morning spotttings. And the whale activity was similar ... 1 or 2 confirmed spottings. Again the crowd thinned out early and we all headed home where Russ opened up a "Pra", a white wine from northeast Italy and we sat on the porch again, and enjoyed the late afternoon sun. Mary was on tap for dinner and had pre-prepared a Zitti which we planned to pair with 2 Barberas from Walla Walla. The Zitti along with a salad and bread was fabulous and a good portion came home with us. The wines were a different matter, one of the Barberas had a strong "barnyard" nose and taste ... not something we were ready for, though Russ was confident that some time in the decanter would help ... it did improve some, but even the next day it was still a rugged one to sip on. Thankfully we had a second Barbera, this one from Woodward Canyon, and it complemented Mary's Zitti very well.
That evening we walked, hopped fences and dodged dog pooh to get to the community center for the Lloyd Jones dance/concert. Lloyd and his band have been a regular as long as I have been going to the Birding and Blues ... if you didn't figure it out Lloyd and his band are the Blues portion of the weekend. The music was loud and the crowd was ready to dance and dance we did. The crowd was really eclectic with young kids (7/8 range) on up and included program participants, presenters, guides and more. This is one chance I have "each year" to dance and without Lloyd Jones my dance opportunities would be reduced by approximately 50%. We stayed for a set and a half, as long as our ears could stand it and then walk back to the hacienda.
The return trip in the dark was interesting, but we all got home with clean shoes. Sunday morning was quiet we took one last beach walk and spied a few more whales between the beach and the Pacific City haystack ... that's pretty close. After another lunch on the patio with a growler of Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale, Mary and I packed the car and headed home.
Once again we had a great time in Pacific City and at the Birding and Blues (and Gray Whales) festival. It is so nice to spend these times with good friends.
Here are some pictures from the Birding and Blues weekend.