In California it is the California Laurel, but in Oregon it is the myrtle tree. This large and complex tree has a broad trunk from which new shoots emerge to become part of the tree's system. Its broad canopy can reach 80 feet in diameter and forms a significant part of many of the rainforests along the southern Oregon coast. Myrtlewood is used for carvings, bowls and other decorative objects because it can take a high polish.
Even though Gold Beach is best known for being at the mouth of the Rogue River, with abundant opportunities for salmon and steelhead trout fishing, beachcombing and ocean watching, it is also at the entrance to the Siskiyou National Forest with its campgrounds and hiking trails. We took a short hike this afternoon to see one of the largest myrtle trees. Its 220-foot trunk flares out like a huge inverted cone, 80 feet in circumference at the base. Our walk to the myrtle tree took us up several switchbacks, through ferns and rhododendrons and past other large trees covered in a thick layer of mosses and fungi, with even some shoots of ferns growing through the moss. This is rainforest: there were little pools of water on leaves and the squishy hillside path wound past rocky creeks. Gold Beach
After the Myrtle Tree Trail we took a longer walk along the Frances Shrader Memorial Trail which winds through an old growth forest of Douglas firs, Port Orford cedars, and tanoak, with several wooden bridges crossing beautiful hillside streams filled with little cascades of crystal clear water. The damp forest floor was carpeted with glossy green ferns. On a Sunday afternoon of a long weekend our motel was full, but we were alone in the forest. The forest was silent except for the bubbling brooks and the noise of Bob reading aloud the Forest Service's timeless prose. Even the birds we glimpsed occasionally did not chirp.
On the way back to town we noticed several fishermen along the river; yesterday we saw others casting into the surf. We ate dinner at a seafood restaurant overlooking a small marina. There was one lonely cabin cruiser and about a dozen assorted working fishing boats from 10 to 50 feet; seals and sea otters swam in the harbor, their heads breaking the smooth surface, with an occasional splash when they found some interesting morsel.
Incidentally, we learned that there are no pay-at-the-pumps in Oregon. The peculiar maverick Luddites in the state legislature are evidently protecting gas pump jockey jobs for their citizenry. A bill to bring Oregon into line with the rest of the states has been on the docket for years.
Gold Beach proves that the ocean shore can still be accessible, inexpensive, friendly, and beautiful. Warmed by the Humboldt current, and washed with frequent rains, the winter climate is mild and wet, with some snow at the higher elevations.