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Simpson Reef

Bald eagle standing on his fish. (Click to enlarge, you'll find him.)

August 23/Day 37. I’m standing on a high promontory overlooking Simpson’s Reef, gazing out to sea when suddenly—it takes a second or two to register—a bald eagle swoops into my field of vision, just at eye level, with a large fish, still wriggling, clutched firmly in his talons.

My camera dangles around my neck, useless; the moment is gone. The eagle lands below me on a small group of rocks at the edge of the surf, standing on top of the still writhing fish. After a quick look around to see if he has any challengers, he begins tearing at the hapless fish with his hooked beak.

Simpson’s Reef is an archipelago of rocks, just offshore, that is home to Oregon’s largest colony of sea lions, harbor seals and similar marine mammals. The slope of the rocks and the shallow water makes it easy for them to haul themselves out of the ocean to catch the warming sun. The cacophony of their

Simpson Reef

barking is loud and constant: arf, arf, arf, arf. I’m spellbound by the display. In some places they cover the rocks completely, a squirming carpet of fur.

Someone at the viewpoint mentions that last week they spotted a gray whale from where we’re standing. Several minutes later a woman, pointing, exclaims, “I see one!” All eyes follow the arc of her finger and there, just beyond one of the lower rocks I see his spout. This time, I have my camera ready and manage, over half an hour, to catch his spout several times, as well as see his back and his flukes when he dives deep.

I find it easy to spend more than three hours at Simpson’s Reef, but after a while hunger rules and I drive the 20 miles back to camp for lunch. Following lunch I wander on the beach for a few hours, wanting to absorb all I’ve seen today, wanting to somehow own it, deeply—to possess it with my soul.

I spend the rest of the afternoon in a more mundane pursuit:  readying the rig for travel. My goal tomorrow is Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Northern California, a short drive down the coast.

Flukes, center top

Spout, center left








Simpson Reef headlands

Seals rock!

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