Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bandon by the Sea

The fog lifts off of Bandon Dunes, exposing Oregon's rugged Pacific coastline. Gray gives way to shades of green, glistening with dew.

Sandstone hillocks emerge from the fog, covered with thorny gorse and punctuated by fine, silky sand eruptions sporting grassy cowlicks. Native Salal groundcover and a variety of evergreen shrubs frame the dunes.
Coastal river deltas, estuaries and marshes - with well defined trails and facilities - make the Oregon coast an ecologically diverse, user-friendly destination. I come back several times a year, for the mushrooms; the flowers; the fresh, sea air; and, for Bandon. Over the years, we've been almost 50 times.

Founded by Irish Americans and named after a village in the old country, Bandon once was considered southern Oregon's most beautiful town, until a massive fire wiped it out in the 1930's.  Construction on the new town began in 1938. Bandon-by-the-Sea, the new village, is edgy - defined by a weathered wood sheik; cabins sporting seagull wind vanes; and the occasional whiff of patchouli oil.         Bandon is not a multi-colored, European fishing village, it has a special presence and charm of its own.

The marina is a small but fully-functional commercial fishing center, which also caters to sports fishing off the coast and in the nearby Coquille River. Fresh seafood, especially salmon and shellfish, is available at marina fish markets and in local restaurants.

Bandon's old-town section has the requisite seacoast souvenir and fudge shops, punctuated by new-age emporiums run by aging hippies; and, the finest art gallery within several hundred miles: The Second Street Gallery. The village also has its own glass-blowing factory, producing some fine Pacific Northwest art glass.

An African Art shop and an artisan cheese factory on the Coast Highway also attract a lot of visitor interest. The proprietor of the African Art shop visits the biennial African Art Auction in Burkino Faso, so he's got some great pieces including large, ceremonial dance masks and batiks.

The Bandon area also boasts a world-class, rainforest garden - next to rocky coves populated by seals, sea lions, and the occasional pair of playful sea otters. This unique and beautiful setting, on a winding, cliff side scenic highway in rainforest, is reason enough to visit.

Shore Park Acres, a premier coastal garden just a short drive away, is getting close to 100 years old. Specimen Rhododendrons are over ten feet high, and equally wide. The Camellias and Azaleas are just as impressive.

Wandering through the mature garden with its specimen trees towering over formal boxwood-bordered flower beds is inspirational. At the end of the formal space, there is a Japanese-inspired garden surrounding a perfect, serene pond. Walking even further into the state park, one encounters the All American Rose Selection Display and herb garden.

Everybody that visits loves Shore Park Acres. As the web site boasts: Something is blooming almost every day of the year. Garden lovers rank this site along with West Coast favorites like the Rose Garden and downtown Chinese garden in Portland, The Huntington Gardens in San Marino and the gardens at Golden Gate Park.

But there's more to the park than the gardens, the surrounding sandstone cliffs descend suddenly into tiny, protected coves with small white-sand beaches; trails dot the hillsides; and the drive itself, featuring multiple vista points, fern grottos, and old-growth canopies is magical.

The Oregon coast is a national treasure. So it has a lot of mountain and seaside state and national parks, most with restroom facilities, many with extensive campgrounds, and some with Yurts that can be rented for overnight camping.

Yurts are peculiarly suited to southern Oregon's ethereal coastal grottos. They provide time-tested shelter in a small footprint with low-impact on the land. And they're, well, so charming.

Yurts, cabins and campsites are available at several Oregon coastal State Parks, including: Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, between Bandon and Coos Bay; Cape Blanco, south of Bandon; and, Loeb State Park, further south in Brookings.

Dotted with pastures, cranberry bogs, lily farms, primeval and second-growth forests, Bandon and the surrounding southern Oregon Coast resemble in many ways old English and Scottish seaside landscapes. That may be why Bandon's newest golf destination resort, Bandon Dunes, is already being compared to St. Andrews and Turnberry.

True to the tradition of real "links golf," the three, distinct new Bandon courses span rolling grassy dunes, forest, lake - and ocean-front vistas - in the most beautiful setting on the coast.

There are, according to golfing experts, no weak holes at the new courses. There are also no carts, and will never be "homes on the course." This is golf the way it was meant to be played; the courses shaped by the seasons and the weather; every round, every hole different and challenging. Three, acclaimed, world-class links courses - all in one place.

A journey to the Oregon Coast is a challenging trip. That, however, is part of the mystery. A major reason for the unspoiled spaces and attainable solitude. Golfers are certainly finding ways to make the pilgrimage. And that is validating the decisions of policymakers in Bandon to emphasize the environment and recreation, while moving away from logging and resource extraction.

The Tribes of the Lower Umpqua believe that spirit powers in nature can take pity on a person, give that person songs and dreams, and guide and protect the individual through his or her lifetime. From my perspective, it is easy to understand the roots of such a philosophy. After all, the Umpqua lived along the river by the Oregon Coast.

1 comment:

Sunny said...

Bandon is beautiful, and for the golf enthusiasts, Bandon Dunes is not rated as one of the top courses in the world by Conde Nast.