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It's Fall on the Coast: Summer is Here
Forest, Spirit Spots, Await at Oregon Coast Village
By Andre' Hagestedt
at Neskowin's northern beaches
- Along what's nicknamed the "corridor of mystery" (really
the Nestucca Valley) - that dark tract of steep, winding road and
dense trees between Lincoln City and Pacific City - sits a mystifying
yet resplendent secret little village that seems to eternally defy
change or progress in any great surge. Neskowin is nestled in the
midst of this forest and sweeping, soaring hills, as if it's hiding
from the world, resisting its influence of growth, of hotels, big
eateries or cotton candy-makers. Instead, since its meager (but
suspect) beginnings in 1876, Neskowin has remained this sleepy place
with almost nothing but a pristine beach.
nothing but beach. Then again, there's much more to this beach than
meets the initial glance, including the legendary "ghost forest."
Surreal First Impression
this ethereal little place just once, and you'll agree there's something
vastly different here. My first impression of it took that to new
I call it part
of my own "personal X-Files." It was 1987, and I was dating
this amazing beauty for about a month - exactly a month, actually.
It was the second full moon and Friday the 13th in a row. This was
weird enough. But Christine and I were celebrating our one month
anniversary together (we'd hooked up on the prior full moon/Friday
City Vacation Homes There’s something
for everyone among this selection of wondrous homes: smaller
homes with a view to a large house that sleeps 15. All the
homes are either oceanfront or just a few steps away from
the sand – all with a low bank access and fantastic
views. Most are in the Nelscott area; one is close to the
casino. You’ll find a variety of goodies, depending
on the home: fireplaces, multiple bedrooms, dishwashers,
Jacuzzis, washer/dryers, hot tubs, cable TV, VCR, barbecues;
there’s a loft in one, and another sprawling home
has two apartments. Pets are allowed in some homes –
ask ahead. Each comes with complete kitchens so you’ll
have a home away from home. Most have the seventh night
free. Prices range from winter $85 to summer $230 per night.
She and I joined
a group of friends at their beach cabin at Neskowin about 1 a.m.
We immediately hit the beach, and serendipitously, we found a big
bonfire still burning - as if waiting for two star-crossed lovers.
We chatted and
sipped champagne beneath a cloud cover so thick the moon was not
visible, with the dark surf burbling not too far away. At one point,
I noticed something odd in the darkness. There was a faint, undulating
patch of red on the horizon, apparently on the water. It was as
if something was glowing from beneath. It didn't look like anything
was casting the glow from above, as the moon wasn't to be seen,
and it certainly wouldn't have looked red. Whatever it was, it must've
been huge, and it kept changing shape.
I thought I
was seeing things, but finally pointed it out to Christine, and
we spent the next half hour staring at it, trying to figure it out,
with theories about UFO's and whatever just flying. Just as we began
zipping up the foredunes to the cabin to grab our friends, it disappeared.
They simply laughed at us when we told them.
Ten years later,
I talk about this with an expert on glowing phytoplankton from Florida
- and had already discovered this couldn't have been a fishing boat.
She said there is a brand of glowing critters known that glow in
red, but these waters are too cold for that. The rest of her response
still chills me to this day: "There's still much out there
we don't know about."
Beach State Recreation Site
in Proposal Rock
At MP 98, the
picturesque and engaging village of Neskowin is largely comprised
of a few condominiums, two golf courses, a couple of businesses
and a smattering of charming and even posh little homes.
The beach is
really the real top bill here: a nearly never-ending promenade of
sand. But because of Neskowin's relative isolation, it's a treasure
trove that's usually not very crowded.
From the parking
lot it's a short walk to the beach and its slightly unusual dark
grains of sand, plus enough driftwood to make yourself a decent
the main beach access, you'll see a lovely little stream winding
down to the ocean. The highlight here, of course, is Proposal Rock,
which greets you on first sight upon entering.
is the intriguing blob-like structure sitting in front of you, boasting
a small forest sitting on top. There's a sizable creek between you
and it, however, and to get to the structure means crossing this
cold body of water barefoot.
Atop the rock,
there are some hidden trails meandering through the forest where
the views are somewhat legendary. Watch the tide closely or you
could get stranded, and be careful of the trail's slippery entrance.
There is a tiny cave-like crack in the structure, providing a peek
to the ocean.
end of Neskowin
Near the entrance,
look for a small, round brass plaque, an oddity embedded there early
in the century.
is one giant beach, with sands running northward uninterrupted from
the bottom of Cascade Head, through Winema Beach, to the edge of
the Nestucca Bay - about five or six miles. Funky features and colors
populate the very southern end, the cove-like area which bumps into
Cascade Head. One of the trails atop the headland skirts Neskowin,
providing incredible views from above.
of the Village
The word "Neskowin"
is tribal language for "plenty fish," because of the area's
abundance of the slithery ones. One historical anecdote talks about
a creek here so full of fish one summer in the early 20th century
that the waters were black. The original residents were natives,
of course, and they weren't treated nicely when they were booted
from the spot.
name given to the place by settlers was Slab Creek, with the first
homestead created there about 1876. This was only after years of
the area being used as an Indian reservation. In order to allow
homesteaders, the U.S. government herded them somewhere else again,
moving them to the mouth of the Salmon River.
the village's only industry for years, then lumber for a time. Meanwhile,
it never grew beyond a smattering of homes. One hotel - Neskowin
Hotel - was built around 1895, but was nearly washed away. It was
later moved a little more inland, by blasting a spot out of the
hillside. Proposal Rock Inn stands in its place now. Other hotels
showed up the late 1940's.
|Creek at Neskowin
was named after Charles Gage proposed to Della Page on it around
the turn of the century. Della's mother, Sarah Page, so named the
The first golf
course was built in 1930, a year after electricity came to Neskowin.
The road that later became Highway 101 was built in 1910. Somehow
- primarily through the insistence of residents - Neskowin has hardly
changed over the years, although now homes are slowly popping up
all over. Still, no major development in terms of hotels and tourist
traps are happening, and it remains this dusty gem in touristy terms.
Secrets of Neskowin
forest of Neskowin
is the proliferation of ancient tree stumps - nicknamed the "ghost
forest." This downright spectacular oddity is almost a rare
sight in Neskowin, but you may not know just how spectacular it
is unless you know what it is you're looking at.
They look somewhat
like old, ragged pilings leftover from something manmade - but they
are, in fact, stumps of a forest some 2,000 years ago or so. As
many as 100 are sometimes visible in various shapes and sizes. It's
theorized that around 2,000 years ago a massive, cataclysmic earthquake
abruptly dropped this forest possibly more than 25 feet. Then, somehow,
they were preserved by sand and mud, rather then being destroyed
and scattered, as natural erosion might've done.
The theory is
that either a tsunami brought the sand in or the earthquake rattled
up so much soil and sand it covered the forest. The other dynamic
here is that these were obviously lopped off by some enormous force
- which scientists believe is a tsunami either immediately after
the initial event, or one such as the wave that wiped out these
shores in 1700.
There are similar
stumps periodically visible near Newport, although these are quite
rare. One, however, is consistently visible sticking out of a cliff
in Nye Beach, just beneath the Sylvia Beach Hotel.
sands of Neskowin
Most of the
westbound streets along the beachfront area are named after other
Oregon towns, like Salem, Monmouth and Corvallis, etc. Ride the
street running alongside the beach, and about a mile north of the
first major curve you'll find a hidden beach access, cloistered
well between a couple homes. Even before the big curve, there are
some accesses that are unbelievably beautiful - and devoid of people.
end of Neskowin is different from the more populated section by
the main access. There's something more mystical going on here.
Perhaps it's the darker sands near the tide line, which plunges
rather abruptly into the surf, making for more spectacular wave
action. Or maybe it's the different quality of the sand here: the
grains are bigger, coarser and there's an interesting propagation
broken seashell bits. This is no ordinary Oregon beach.
and Serene Impressions
tide line of north end
It's a rainy,
dark day in spring 2005, and I discover some of the backstreets
of Neskowin. Near a lodging called The Breakers, I pop out onto
a strange beach of black sands, where a flat patch sits at the top
of a somewhat steep tide line. Normally, this would create some
rather intense wave action, but the high tide and stormy weather
causes the waves to dart up on the flat section, then dart back.
It's odd, but beautiful. Not a normal beach. Plus, there's such
a sense of peace here, coinciding with the awe I feel. For the first
time in my life, I experience something I could only describe as
it's summer and I tread to the very northern end by the secret access.
Again, I feel that transcendent, metaphysical tranquility - but
more profound. I find this strange, not just because I'm a science
geek, but because of the area's mistreatment of the natives in the
past. They were ousted by white folks rather abruptly. You'd think
there would be an opposite vibe. But not here.
I can't explain
it. There is simply some mystical and extraordinary quality to this
part of Neskowin. It's not just because it's completely devoid of
crowds. And others I've talked to about it have verified this feeling.
In fact, in a conversation with Oregon Coast Aquarium's Cindy Hanson,
she brought it up before I did.
I recall my
first experience with the mysterious, glowing red blob on the sea.
I can't help thinking there's more to this beach than meets the
eye. Indeed, I am certain of it.