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The Missing Oregon Coast: Waves After Dark
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Depoe Bay, Oregon) - The world often forgets the Oregon coast exists well after the sun goes down. Tourists don’t hit the beach after dark much, and miss a whole bevy of interesting sights, especially on clear nights like this. Aside from those who venture to the watering holes to get all liquored up, people just let the sidewalks roll up and maneuver them back to their hotel rooms.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of just a bit of what exists.
It’s 3 a.m. in Depoe Bay, at Trollers Lodge. I can hear the waves from here, about 100 feet away, crashing somewhat loudly on the rocky cliffs of the tiny town. Earlier, I could see them too, as the sun was leaving its last splash of color across a deepening blue/black sky, obscured further by a mass of clouds on the horizon that muted the colors and made it darker much faster.
There’s the regular elongated “gong” noise from a buoy as well. It’s all so cozy and calming.
I’m here with two laptops, both sitting around me, like two small faithful dogs. Yes, it’s the ultimate in nerddom, I suppose: one is technically for work, and the other for playing vid games on the road. Except tonight there has been no video game playing. I’ve been good.
I am, it turns out, in a place where the day is actually ten minutes longer. Did you know that? The difference between a coastal sunset and a Portland one is about ten minutes.
There’s a hint of blue in that sky now, even though it’s 3 a.m. and nowhere near dawn. A fairly bright moon is illuminating things – or trying to. It’s only about two-thirds full. But the sky is mostly clear, with a decent helping of stars out. They twinkled at me a lot through the swath of bluish moonlight earlier.
I’m used to seeing that hint of dawn back in P-town, with my wretched habit of playing video games until 6 a.m. The sun is starting to peep its head in the east, and the peeps below are waking to their real jobs and work-a-day life. I’m a night owl by nature, I suppose. Underneath it all, I admire that life, that structure. I’d hate it, I’m sure. But it would be nice to keep normal person hours for a while.
No, here on the coast, the light in the sky is a pleasant reminder of the nocturnal side of nature.
About midnight, I was driving back from Newport, utterly engaged by the barely visible sight of the bluish surf to my left. It rose and disappeared constantly as I screamed along 101, past Moolack and Beverly Beach – a misty, engaging visage that eventually caused me to slow down and stare. Manic Street Preachers was blaring, with their gorgeous fusion of Bach-like melodies, half-screamed over punk rock-meets-butt rock crunchy backgrounds: a strangely dichotomous soundtrack to the big screen show just beyond my car window.
Eventually, I hit the forested tunnel of Cape Foulweather and the surf pretty much disappeared, but that lopsided blue moon lit the twisting road nicely. Much appreciated, Blue Dude.
A few minutes later, I was on the north face of Foulweather, and the entrance to Otter Crest Loop, with its little viewpoint, gave way to an explosion of nighttime sea vistas. I had to pull over immediately. The Manics’ gutsy, somewhat creepy “She is Suffering” was wrestling my eardrums, and as I stopped at the edge of the parking lot, looking straight out to sea, a massive spray of white, frenetic foam detonated directly in front of my brights. Had I not been about thirty feet above the sea and 50 feet back, it would’ve towered over me four or more times my height. I thought it might actually hit me for a second. I was pleasantly shocked and awed.
That song seemed appropriate for only a minute. I was compelled to shut the engine off, turn off the lights and kill the stereo in no time. I had to listen to the surf, as well as see it in its natural light. The moon turned the waves and foam blue, but left the jagged basalt of this funky little viewpoint jet black. The sharp shapes were mere outlines in the dark, an inference of geological structures.
Enormous swells rumbled into existence less than 100 feet from the edge of the rocks. They would rise in an ominous fashion to an imposing height, making that slightly thunderous noise – and they hadn’t even hit anything yet. These were monsters. Seriously.
Then suddenly they would get frothy on top, and that line of foam would slither forward as the rumbling decreased, giving way to a tinier sound as the waves folded over on themselves, forming big curls.
Amidst this mighty display, parts of the watery chaos would glisten in the moonlight.
The curls would crash in on themselves with a hefty noise as well, and suddenly that enormous splashing sound would give way to the impact of tons of water compressing air as they walloped the basalt.
All of it seemed to happen in slow motion, but it was probably only a second or two. Then as the waves and foam cascaded all down the shoreline, another monster would be rumbling into existence behind it, and the whole scene would start all over again.
For about five minutes I couldn’t get enough of it. Still, periodically I looked up at the twinkling stars, and something that looked like the Milky Way stretching into the sky above me. I tried to keep my eyes up there, looking again for a shooting star. I see them almost every time I’m on the coast. I’m lucky that way. I feel like I’m John Locke on LOST, except that my special relationship is with the coastline, and I probably get to see things others don’t.
It was impossible to stop staring at the growling sea, however.
Now I sit here with increasingly droopy eyes, as the same surf sings me to sleep in the distance.
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