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Covering 160 miles of Oregon coast
travel: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway,
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Surrealism on a Nocturnal Oregon Beach
at Manzanita on another night, this one with a full moon brewing
Oregon) – When the night comes, Oregon’s coast becomes
an entirely different creature. This is often my favorite time to
hit the beaches, as they are deserted of travelers and tourists,
and somehow a little more unnerving and filled with a sense of slight
danger – increasing the adrenaline of this experience, adding
some new, indefinable element. Somehow, the waves looking more ominous
and threatening at night, as if one of those big ones 100 feet from
the tide line may be a tsunami.
seem to occur at night on the Oregon coast as well, which aren’t
always seen during the day. In some moments, natural occurrences
can happen during daylight as well, but at night they take on new
dimensions when seen at night.
Like one particular
and peculiar evening in January of 2006, where I wandered onto the
beaches of Manzanita around 1 a.m. The stars are bright and resplendent,
with Orion standing out, his figure looming larger and more brightly
than that of ancient, all-knowing Neahkahnie Mountain in this dead
of night. In fact, Neahkahnie is dwarfed not only in size, but by
the fact it’s a mere shadow figure in the distance.
with Neahkahnie Mt. looming in the distance and foamy waves
near the bluffs
I park the car
on the road above the beach, and quickly notice something odd in
the dark. A long line of mysterious foam stretches along the beach,
standing by itself, close to the vegetation line, yet hard to see
in the opaque of night. Like the dim horizon in the distance, it’s
another great but fuzzy line extending along the length of the beach.
I approach, I’m startled to notice that it’s moving.
It turns out there are TWO such lines across the beach’s length.
One is a line of foam left there by the crazed tide, perhaps only
minutes before, perhaps longer. The other line of foam IS the tide
itself: a totally surreal sight of moving white bubbles –
almost appearing then disappearing again and again
I feel like
I’m on that wacky island in the TV series “Lost.”
I know Manzanita, its “Wheeler Moments” legend and strange,
serendipitous sides very well. It’s notorious for things you
can’t really put your finger on. But this is weirder than
usual. I fully expect to see a horse traipsing past me, or a vision
of some lost loved one. (You gotta be watching “Lost”
to understand what I’m talking about).
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This night is
a weird mix of low, low minus tide and stormy waves. So what you
get is a surf that tends to lurk farther out there than you’re
used to, yet can pull some awful, tidal gymnastic surprises and
abruptly jump up close to the bluffs connecting the road with the
As I tread in
the dark, I see the tide is far away, and things get weirder the
closer I get. Huge chunks of foam are breaking up like ice islands
of the arctic North Pole. Abruptly they change direction, coalesce
together and create giant walls of suds that approach me, sometimes
even chasing me. Beautiful. Extremely strange. Certainly surreal.
In the midst
of running and observing all this, the stars continue to shine brighter
than they ever have in my former life in the Willamette Valley.
I think to myself about Beach Connection readers and the greater
population of this state: why the hell aren’t you people out
here more often??? I mean, I’m here all the time and I still
encounter freaky, amazing stuff I’ve never seen before.
again walk towards the tide, but never make it there because the
tide and its wall of furious, freaky foam comes zipping back towards
me again, collecting all the suds to chase me. This is perhaps the
freakiest tide I’ve ever seen. This happens over and over
again, and each time I start laughing loudly with glee. I’m
like a little toddler getting chased and teased by a family member,
and loving every second of it.
I come back to my car, only to see the tide shoving the foam up
close to the vegetation line again, where I had just been. It jostled
its way up some 50 to 100 feet farther than I was down on that beach.
I had left just
in time to miss one nasty, foamy sneaker wave.