I began my drive southward on Highway 101 along the Oregon coast in the town of Florence, following breakfast with a longtime friend in Eugene.
It had been more than 20 years since my last visit to the area, and I decided to make this scenic coastal route a part of my road trip back to Orange County from Seattle.
My first stop actually was a short drive to the north at Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of the most photographed scenes on the Oregon coast. It's a beautiful setting no matter the season or time of day.
As I made my way south again, I stopped briefly at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. There, I took a short walk through the forest and onto the dunes, where I could see the ocean nearly a half-mile away.
Along my way back to the car I came across a face that someone had drawn in the sand. It made me smile; its hair, tufts of grass poking through the dune, was the perfect touch.
I passed by many log woodcarvings standing by the side of the road as I drove, including a surfer on a wave — it looked like it would be more suited to Southern California — a giant fish in the harbor in Bandon, and a large bear holding a coffee cup in front of a coffee shop in Reedsport. I laughed as I passed by, and quickly made a U-turn to get a photograph.
At Bullards Beach State Park in Bandon, which sits between the 101 and the ocean, I made my way to the end of a road that runs through the park to the Coquille River Light.
Put into commission in February 1896 on the north jetty of the Coquille River, at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the now 120-year-old lighthouse guided mariners until 1939.
It seemed to sit in the perfect spot, surrounded by tall grasses and many sea-worn logs on the beach below.
Just across the river from the lighthouse is Coquille Point, on a cliff overlooking the rocks and sea stacks off the coast. It was a beautiful sight as the sun began to set while I watched and photographed people strolling between the towering stacks.
It seemed the best way to end the day.
I knew my nearly 1,200-mile journey south had to stay on track early the following morning, but I was already planning my return trip to this amazing section of coast.
IF YOU GO
Heceta Head Lighthouse: Tours are available daily. For information on the lighthouse, the keeper's house and the affiliated bed and breakfast, visit hecetalighthouse.com or bit.ly/1kTUs8w, or call 866-547-3696.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: The area offers hiking, camping, picnicking, dune riding and other activities.
Bullards Beach State Park and Coquille River Light: Facilities include about 100 full-hookup campsites, 13 yurts and a horse camp. Lighthouse hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily from mid-May through September; the tower is closed to visitors, but the fog/signal room remains open. For information, visit www.bit.ly/1mJyJSq or call 541-347-2209.