Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Memorable Novembers on the Oregon Coast
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Oregon Coast) - When November rolls around, it always brings me back to some of the more eventful times I've had goofing around the coast - and just how varied and full of surprises the region can be. Especially those days of discovery, when I’d just begun exploring the Oregon coast in incredible detail, just before and during my excruciating, painstaking documentation of every single beach access, bar, restaurant and whatever else. These were times when the idea of bouncing around the beach at anything but summer was still a bit odd to me, and I was slowly making that epiphany that the coast and its weather had a lot more than met the eye.
It was, of course, a time of numerous adventures as well.
The first time I discovered the coast's wild mood swing surprises was in 1991, a trip that is now, in retrospect, a rather melancholy and bittersweet memory. My mother and I went to Lincoln City sometime just after Halloween and spent the night in a suite with a gorgeous ocean view. Being a landlubbing Salem guy at the time, I figured November meant nasty weather on the beach. Wrong. I was awed to discover bright, beautiful days, although they were quite cold and windy at times – but not all the time.
Still, the sunsets were amazing, and I spent considerable time just shooting pics of the intense colors. Oddly though, my mother was tired the entire time and I don't remember ever wandering the beach with her. I even tried dragging her bar hopping with me, which she was actually quite intrigued by (me too, as it was hard to imagine Mom in my wacky nocturnal environment). But she wound up nodding off into a deep sleep, and I amused myself with a horror movie festival on TV that was still running a few days after Halloween.
The next morning, Mom dragged me shopping at the Factory Stores @ Lincoln City. She found a small, stuffed bear she loved; and in her sometimes-kooky manner, she purchased it, gave it to me and told me to give it to her for Christmas. OK. Whatever. I laughed at this quirk then, and I still laugh at it now.
A few months later, she discovered she had leukemia - and would pass away later in the year. It would be the last really good memory I'd have of her as a seemingly healthy person. It turned out this was why she was so fatigued in that November trip.
On a more pleasurable note, such pleasant weather surprises hit home in early November of 1996. My girlfriend at the time, Kathy, and I cruised the winding, twisting road around Heceta Head Lighthouse and Sea Lion Caves under amazing, cloudless, blue skies and almost balmy temperatures. I felt like I was in another world. I had no idea the coast could be like this so late in the year. The whole thing was quite ethereal, traversing those twisted stretches of highway, under direct sunlight, as ocean vistas appeared and disappeared between rolling hills and glimpses of the beach.
In November of 1997, Kathy and I spent the weekend in Newport. On the 30th, a grey, overcast day, we ventured out into the ocean aboard the fabulous Discovery Tours cruise. These are too much fun - and not just because I couldn't stop doing an impression of Leonardo DiCapprio in "Titanic" by standing at the tip of the boat with my arms outstretched. We spotted whales, whales spotted us, and it was a load of fun learning to get your "sea legs" in these bouncy conditions.
We simultaneously giggled about - and felt horrible for - some woman who got seasick immediately. The poor lady had announced to employees she was a writer doing a story on the tour for some publication. Ouch.
We felt lucky we didn't get ill. But at one point, we realized we didn't feel that great either and had to quit moving around for the last 30 minutes of the cruise. That's karma, I suppose.
The next day was December 1 and extremely sunny. But most importantly, to me anyway, was that I'd always wanted to be on the coast in December. I was as delighted as a little kid over this goofy detail. The bayfront was hopping full of people, it was windless and relatively warm, and it was the first time I noticed the smell of fish processing activities there, which can sometimes be hideous.
Some of the starkest differences in weather I've encountered were in 2001. By this time, I was editor of a publication called Oregon Coast Guide, which eventually morphed into BeachConnection.net via a long string of stages. I went over to Manzanita to hang with my pal Molly, a close friend who worked for Nehalem Bay Winery. It was the night before Thanksgiving, and for some reason we stayed up late, drinking ourselves silly, and told ghost stories by candlelight, while a sizable storm pounded the roof. Poor girl: she went off to bed spooked.
The next day, I slowly drove down to Salem to join my dad for the big feast. Somewhere about the Three Capes Tour, a mighty storm hit. I tried stepping out at the parking lot of Cape Kiwanda to get some photos, but not only did I have to fight my car door in the fierce wind, but I had to battle the wind and a wall of nearly horizontal rain to even stand up. One gust shoved me back to my car. I took that as a sign, gave up and drove off.
Not even a week later, I visited Molly again, and with her dog, we wandered Hug Point (south of Cannon Beach) in windless, cloudless conditions and temperatures so warm I almost removed my shirt. Freaky.
Also freaky: we discovered some bizarre, prehistoric-looking bug lurking in one of the sea caves of this placid, late autumn strand. I think we both ran squealing in horror.
Less than 20 minutes later, we encountered tremendous rainsqualls near Seaside as we drove northward. By the time we got to Fort Stevens and the always-intriguing Wreck of the Peter Iredale, it had cleared somewhat. We were able to climb around the metallic skeleton of the ship under cold, overcast skies and occasional drizzle.
It was as if the Oregon Coast was somehow aware of its own reputation for moody weather and reluctant to give it up. Now, I look back and wonder if it wasn’t trying to teach me a little something about its schizophrenic nature.
Other Novembers still stick in my mind for one reason or another, as if mystically this time of year has wacky alignment of the stars that manages to tweak with me in some way or another.
One year, I remember an especially ethereal time at Hug Point, with the failing light casting a dim glow on a really low tide and nearly still waves, all under pristine blue skies. It looked just like summer, but it felt like November.
Last November, I stayed in Arch Cape for a few days and then drove back home to Portland on a stormy night, only to discover I’d left my power chord for my laptop back at my friend’s pad. I had to drive back at just before midnight, dodging falling branches and giant sheets of rain along a very dark Highway 26, just so I could finish an hour’s worth of work. I arrived around 1 a.m., droopy-eyed, and stayed the night again in Arch Cape. The next day was, of course, paradoxically pleasant and still, but I had to get back to P-town.
The rest of the month I remember battling a nasty cold that I’d caught from the woman I was dating. I was in the transition of moving down to Newport for a while, living there part time and Portland the rest. There were some massive, potent storms we dealt with at that little house in Nye Beach that month.
And now I ready myself for Thanksgiving dinner at a castle on the Oregon coast. I’ll be at the Arch Cape House celebration, which promises to be extravagant. This year, it’s the first I’m not spending with my dad or brother, but instead various coasties I’ve come to love as dearly as family members. I’ll later hit the bars to drink with them – and whoop it up with all those former coasties who come back to the coast to visit their families, but beeline it for the bars to avoid them later in the evening.
This website boasts it’s the teller of plenty of “beach secrets,” and that’s another T-day tradition that is indeed a bit of a secret, but not a beachy one. It’s kind of universal. And I’ll be at various watering holes along the north coast to help keep it alive.
We’ll see how much of it I remember.
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