I’m convinced that driving back roads provides some of the America’s best adventures. A trip last fall down Oregon’s coast confirmed all that I enjoy about departures from boring interstate highways: you will meet talented, genuine people and with a little luck, stumble upon some great woodworking, too.
My wife, Shamrae, and I flew into Portland, then used our GPS to navigate through bustling city traffic and head west through the rain to Cannon Beach on misty Highway 26. From Cannon Beach we headed south on Highway 101 with no destination in mind. For the next five days, our rules of the road were simple: Pull over to check out anything interesting and spend no more than two hours a day in the car. Each day included walking on the beach and visiting art galleries including the plethora of fine glass shops along the way. And of course, we stopped for anything related to woodworking.
After visiting several myrtlewood factory outlets stocked with some ho-hum mass-produced bowls and accessories, I nearly drove past The Myrtlewood Gallery, below, in Reedsport, Oregon. At the last second, I made a hard, wheel-squealing right turn off Highway 101 and into their parking lot. My last-second impulse ended up being the best decision of the trip.
Luckily October on Coastal Oregon is an ideal time to visit this beautiful part of the country. The tourists (like us) are few and the residents are among of the friendliest I’ve ever met. Within minutes of looking at the beautiful furniture, rocking chairs, turnings, and carvings, it was apparent we had stumbled into a woodworker’s nirvana. Luckily shop owners Gareth and Sharon Mast, below, were both minding the gallery that morning. When Gareth learned I was from WOOD magazine, he immediately offered me the behind-the-ropes tour.
Gareth walked me through several buildings with enough figured wood and burls to keep any woodworking club busy for years. When touring one outbuilding, I asked Gareth about the flat-bottomed boat (we landlubbers call them duck boats here in the Midwest). Gareth explained he used it for crabbing. In fact, he insisted on taking the afternoon off so we could experience crabbing first-hand.
After a quick trip to the hardware store for a pair of crabbing licenses for my wife and I, we were off to Winchester Bay to toss his pots to the depths. That’s when the day’s second woodworking adventure began. After dropping a trio of pots, Gareth led us to the deserted, but log-littered North Bank of the Lower Umpqua River for a bit of beachcombing. Less than a minute after dragging the boat ashore, I spied a piece of exposed log, below, with a rippled surface.
I don’t know much about driftwood, but I did recall reading that a wavy surface below the bark was often a telltale sign of figured stock. I pointed this out to Gareth, and he confirmed my find.
The three of us spent a leisurely afternoon checking pots, bagging a few keepers, below, and more beachcombing (another unfamiliar activity for Iowans).
I spent just one an afternoon with Gareth, but I knew a lifelong friendship was about to begin. Gareth and I kept in touch via e-mail upon our return. A month or so later, he informed me he and his son Jason Mast, also an accomplished woodturner, had returned to the shore to retrieve the wavy-skinned log.
Gareth Mast , left, and WOOD magazine Managing Editor, Marlen Kemmet, right, after a successful day of crabbing and beachcombing at Winchester Bay, Oregon
See a slide show of Gareth harvesting and processing the found log, which turned out to be quilted bigleaf maple.
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