Oregon Coast Adventures in Aurora Borealis, Glowing Sand, Owls
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Oregon Coast) – Just spend a couple days on the Oregon coast, and if you let yourself just be kind of zen about it, you'll bump into some amazing things. Actually, it helps to wander the beaches at night as well.
Things you may find on the beaches at night right now: glowing sand, a stunning meteor or two, some interesting wildlife sightings. If you've got the right camera rig, you may get to spot the Northern Lights as well.
It's late in this crisp, October day at Cannon Beach and the sun, moon and stars seem to have already aligned perfectly. This stunning moment at Haystack Rock happened just after dusk.
Sometime in the early a.m., I start experimenting with night shots at Manzanita. During one long exposure, a shooting star comes blazing down the sky – unfortunately it did not show here. But imagine my surprise when I spotted some layers of reds and greens on the horizon – clear evidence of hints of the Northern Lights.
I wasn't the only one to catch this magnificent sight. And in fact I had caught the low-budget version. Central Oregon coast photographer Cody Cha was doing more or less what I was doing a little over 100 miles to the south, at Pacific City. Cha got the real money shot of the Aurora Borealis – actually bunches of them. Enough to create this stunning time lapse.
Glowing sand was visible on the beach here, which means it was likely several other places along the coast as well, like possibly Lincoln City, Oceanside, Gleneden Beach or Waldport. This shows up as tiny, greenish/blue sparks in the sand when you shuffle your feet backwards. More on glowing sand here.
Glowing sand is to faint to be photograhed - and Aurora Borealis usually isn't visible to the naked eye around these parts. Now there's a conundrum, if there ever was one.
Not long after this I decide to head north again towards Oswald West State Park to try some night photographing up there. On the way up the hill towards Neahkahnie Mountain, zooming along 101 at close to 50 mph, an owl swoops in out of the darkness of this rain forest and appears to buzz my car. I nearly hit the massive creature.
The next day, that sweet Second Summer had returned. A nice, bright and fairly warm day created inviting scenes like these around Manzanita.
Dusk created more dynamic sights around Cannon Beach, between the moon, stars, sea and sand.
Later that night, a startling moon lit up Seaside as groups of people took turns playing on the swing set on the beach here. It is notable that all were in their 20's or older.
Things got dark and brooding much of the following day, but just after dusk, Seaside's Necanicum River had plenty of scenic eye candy to offer.
The real surprises that third night happened at Arch Cape – a tiny little village just south of Cannon Beach. The nighttime scenes here were stunning, to be sure. But most impressive was since this place is pitch black – and kind'a scary, even with a flashlight – the glowing sand was magnificent. It was still rather faint, but here it was so dark that even the indistinct flickers of light stood out in the black sand.
Occasionally, you could even see little sparks in the tide line where the ocean was nudging these tiny, bioluminescent critters around. That was surreal and spectacular.
The coming weekend and next few days are spelling great weather on the Oregon coast, so my prediction is that conditions are good to see the glowing sand phenomenon – though it is hit and miss, and you never know where you it may show up.
My suggestion is to head to the coast and take in the sights and sun – plus parts of the rescheduled Beach Cleanup happen on Saturday, and there are numerous enticing festivals around the region as well. But also hit the beaches at night. You'll likely be surprised.
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