science environment

Take A Virtual Road Trip Down The Pacific Northwest Coast

By Aaron Scott (OPB)
Portland, Ore. April 4, 2020 2:30 p.m.

The sun keeps poking out from behind the clouds, taunting us with all the places we’d rather be than stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. So the “Oregon Field Guide” team is raiding our archives to take you on a series of road trips.

Last week we headed up the Cascades to end on Mount Baker. So this week we're swinging back down along the coast, starting in the Olympic Peninsula. Load up on sand buckets and salt-water taffy, it's time to roll!


The Olympic Peninsula Wilderness Coast

Olympic National Park in Washington boasts the longest undeveloped stretch of coast along the contiguous United States — 73 miles — and much of it is wilderness. We spent a few days backpacking around 30 miles of it.

The whole time I had a strange feeling. Most of my wilderness experiences have been around craggy mountains because that's the area that was harder to develop. This was my first time in coastal wilderness, and it was magical. Teeming with wildlife and raw beauty, this hike gave me a taste of what our coast may have been like a few hundred years ago, and I want to go back. — Michael Bendixen, camera/editor

Miniature boats connect Oregon and Japan


The Pacific Ocean seems incomprehensibly big — the kind of expanse only freighters and other well-equipped boats can cross. But in 2011, two mysterious pieces of carved, red wood washed up on beaches in Gearhart and Florence. The head curator of the Portland Japanese Garden recognized them as the crossbeams of the gates to a Shinto shrine. He figured the beams had been swept out to sea by the tsunami two years before, so he and several Garden board members led an exhaustive search through Japan to find which of the 80,000 shrines were missing its gates. Eventually, they solved their mystery and returned the gates to Okuki.

Inspired, Nate Sandel of the Columbia River Maritime Museum partnered fifth-grade classes in Gearhart and Okuki for his miniboat program, with the goal of teaching us all that the world is not so big after all.  — Aaron Scott, producer

Cannon Beach

The Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest is one of the biggest events of the year in Cannon Beach. The competition is tough as nails and the teams must get on the beach before sunrise to beat the ocean tide. The clock starts ticking as the tide goes out. Once it hits low tide, the teams start working ever more frantically to finish their masterpieces before the tide comes back in to sweep them out to sea. In filming the contest, I was fascinated by all of the tools and techniques used to sculpt the sand into something amazing. — Todd Sonflieth, camera/editor

Bikepacking from Portland to the Coast

Tillamook State Forest

With over 4,200 feet of elevation to climb, the Trask Trail is ironically considered the easiest dirt route to the Oregon Coast.  Maria Schur and Madi Carlson took on the route with a couple of gravel bikes loaded with camping gear, snacks, Pixie the dog, and even a disco ball!


The route is incredibly varied and includes pastoral stretches, intense gravel climbs, active logging roads, long stretches of idyllic forest trails, and the Trask River for a refreshing dip. Although Cape Lookout Campground was a great landing spot, we were never waiting to get to a destination – we were there the whole time. — Danika Sandoz, producer

The lost city of Bayocean

Bayocean Peninsula

Bayocean Spit is a beautiful stretch of coastline on the west side of Tillamook Bay, with a long, broad beach for strolling on the western shore and a quiet, waterfowl-filled bay on the east side. Early 20th-century developers thought it would be the perfect spot for a lavish resort for Portland's well-heeled tourists. They poured money into the project and named it "Bayocean Park."

The ambitious emigrant vision of a "Millionaires' Playground" was over-the-top, with elaborate mansions, a wedding-cake hotel crowning the bluff, paved roads with sidewalks, and a grand, warm-water natatorium.

All of it washed away because of half-baked jetty construction.

It's one of those fascinating stories that Oregonians born after the 1940s may have never heard of. —  Jule Gilfillan, producer

Exploring tidepools at the Oregon Coast

Cape Foulweather

Like a lot of Oregonians, I suspect, I had no idea how colorful and life-filled our local tidepools are! According to Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University distinguished marine ecologist and former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oregon's tidepools are among the most visually rich in the world. Exploring this area with Dr. Lubchenco was fascinating: her knowledge and love for these areas, combined with the stunning images collected by our photographers, Michael Bendixen and Nick Fisher, opened up a new world to me. — Jule Gilfillan, producer

The Newport fishmonger

Newport Docks

Everyone seems to know each other on the docks in Newport. You'll see people hauling garbage cans full of fresh salmon and crab off their boats and stopping to chat about the weather, their kids and how business is going. While we were filming Amber Morris buying salmon and halibut from the Two Sisters fishing vessel, the fisherman pointed out that Amber's son was working on his fishing boat just a few boats down the dock. It's a small world full of colorful characters. But watch out for the scat the sea lions leave behind. They like to hang out on the docks too! — Cassandra Profita, producer

Sandboarding down the Oregon Dunes

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Geology has given Oregon a gift. Nearly 40,000 acres of rippling, rolling sand, interspersed with hundreds of gem-like lakes, form the centerpiece of the largest dune system in the West. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, stretching north to south along the coast for about 50 miles between Florence and Coos Bay, was set aside in the 1970s to give the public access to nearly every acre. Motorized ATV users have free run on about half the acreage, while the other half is set aside for quiet, contemplative, non-motorized use. Among the nearly 500,000 users who arrive each year, you’ll even find a few intrepid souls who come to put their sandboarding skills to the test. — Ed Jahn, producer