Florence, Oregon holds so many happy childhood memories for me! I have been talking about it for years, telling David “We have to go there! You will love it!” And so we have and it is as wonderful as I remembered. Seeing places my parents took us to and a few that we did not see. The magic starts with where we are camping, in the forest, at the Elks RV Park! Who knew?
The beauty begins long before we reach Florence. Cruisin’ into Florence up the 38 along the Umpqua River! Trying to beat the rain! And we did, just barely though.
Florence Elks RV Park, Mercer Lake
Absolutely beautiful!! Florence Mercer Lake Elks RV Park! We feel like we are alone in an exquisitely landscaped forest! Nestled in the pines with wild rhododendrons everywhere you look! We even have a cute little street lamp at our site.
Kato is even excited to be here and jumps in Davids lap to help him back into our spot.
We are going to miss the 109th “Rhody Festival” this weekend but we are certainly not going to miss the rhododendrons! They are everywhere! Not just bushes but trees in all kinds of colors! All we have to do is look out our window and they are smiling back at us. When I say they are everywhere it is an understatement. Massive amounts of rhododendrons growing wild along the road, in the sand dunes, in people’s yards. Everywhere!
Darlingtonia Botanical Garden
Darlingtonia State Natural Site is a state park and botanical preserve located five miles north of Florence, Oregon, on U.S. Route 101, at the Mercer Lake turn off (same road as the Elks RV Park) If you are heading up the 101, it is worth a quick 10 minute pit stop. Unique and fascinating!
This 18-acre botanical park provides parking and a boardwalk trail out into a fern bog that is home to Darlingtonia californica. Also called a cobra lily, the rare, strangely-shaped plant with yellowish green hooded leaves that form erect, 10 to 20-inch-high hollow tubes.
You will walk along the wood path among the Darlingtonia and catch a glimpse of the pretty orchid flowers along with the rather creepy hooded insect catcher. Nectar inside the plant’s hidden opening attracts the insects. Once inside, an insect becomes confused by the transparent areas that appear like exits. It’s all over for the bug at this point. He is lunch!
Thank goodness they are so fascinating because they are not, I mean NOT attractive! The flowers have five purple petals surrounded by yellow sepals that bloom in May and June. Lucky for us we got to see the flowers not just the hooded beast! The associated species include an orchid, California lady’s slipper, and two lilies. The orchid like flowers are lovely but the cobra headed insect snatchers, effective but not pretty. But then I don’t like snakes…..
Heceta Head Lighthouse
Pronounced “Ha – SEE – Ta” by most, the Heceta Head Lighthouse and Light Keeper’s house are circa 1894. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse is a working lighthouse anf the Light Keeper’s house is a B & B for rent. The Heceta Head Keeper’s House is perched on a cliff with a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean and the beach below.
Paths from the Keeper’s House lead both to the beach and to the lighthouse. It is one of the last remaining Light Keeper’s cottages on the Pacific Coast. It was raining and cool so we opted for a long distance view from the turn out instead of hiking up the trail.
Sea Lions and Their Caves
Sea lions can be seen and heard from the beach. But if you want an up close and personal view of these amazing creatures, Sea Lion Caves is the place to be! There is an elevated observation area where you can view the entire underground cave system and its wildlife. It’s a Sea Lion Beach Party!
Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park
Simply known as Honeyman State Park, there are two miles of sand dunes between the park and the ocean. Two natural freshwater lakes are within the park. Yes, these are the dunes and lakes of my childhood vacation memories!
I thought the massive sand dunes along the Oregon coast stretching approximately 40 miles north from the Coos River in North Bend, to the Siuslaw River, in Florence were amazing as a kid. As I revisit them with my husband as an adult, I still do!
When I was a kid, all I cared out was the awesome fun of running down the dunes with my brothers, legs flying so fast it must have looked like the cartoon character legs spinning like wheels as we raced from the dunes into the lake below! I no longer feel the urge to race down the dunes like I did in my youth. But to climb to the top and marvel at the vastness of the rolling sand dunes is satisfying on a whole different level.
It was an overcast day but you can catch a glimpse of the ocean over the dunes. The dunes are a result of millions of years of wind and rain erosion on the Oregon Coast. These are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. Some dunes tower up to 500 feet above sea level The sand rolls on for miles with pines trees of all kinds growing right out of the sand.
We had some rain and lots of wind while we were here. The wind was howling as we hiked up the dunes, heads down, trudging up one dune and then the next until we reached the top and could see the ocean. Spectacular!
Took a souvenir of sand home in my shoes! In fact, I had so much sand in my shoes it felt like the steel tip in a ballerina’s toe shoe! There was hardly any room left for my toes! Plenty of room for happiness with the memories overflowing from childhood as I smiled at my husband. He had finally seen what I had been talking about for years!We had seen it together 🙂