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.
Oregon Coast Weekend of Weird Weather, the Muse and Meanderings
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Oregon Coast) – It’s late July, and the Oregon coast is up to some unusual tricks. One weekend in particular showed the region doing some odd things, meteorologically – stuff I’ve never been able to quite figure out. It was acting like summer and winter all at the same time, and with a few other surprises thrown in.
It’s also a weekend where I get to play manic tour guide to some friends from Portland, and I wind up seeing a few new sights as well. That’s quite rare, since I’ve literally mapped every single beach access between Florence and Astoria – about 180 miles worth of Oregon coastline.
Friday begins with a jaunt into Rockaway Beach, where it’s all cloud cover, but a strange mugginess is pervasive over the whole north coast – normally an area known for its breezes and slightly chilly temps, even in summer. But here, I’m sitting in a quaint little watering hole named Rick’s Roadhouse and Grille, gazing out at thick clouds and sweating.
Thick clouds normally mean cool temperatures. But not today.
My current surroundings are not so mystifying. At Rick’s, the staff and the locals are super friendly, I immediately notice. It’s a new place, with a cozy feel that’s classy without being snooty. I down an exceptional meatball sandwich while chatting with the jolly owner Rick, and it’s enough of a handful of major marinara and meatballs that I’m a little embarrassed to be talking to someone while attempting to stuff my face with such a culinary monstrosity. But then it’s only Rick, who created the thing, and he’s probably just giggling inside at my food antics. He’s probably a little pleased with himself, actually.
A little while later, I’m back home in Manzanita, where the Friday night Farmer’s Market is in full swing. I take advantage of one of their legendary free range beef hamburgers and some wild fruit drink concoction that had a wacky hybrid fruit in it, which I can’t exactly remember. Something like a cantaloupe fused with a strawberry, or something freaky like that. It was delicious, but I still nicknamed this genetic experiment “Frankenberry.”
Late that night meant hopping around Manzanita’s insane bar scene – all two of them. I kept darting back and forth between The Watering Hole and San Dune Pub, where I managed to meet a couple hot young thangs.
None, however, matched the stunning eye candy of Sarah and Allison behind the bar at the Watering Hole. Yow.
On Saturday, the heat is really on. Yet it’s raining. I’m driving down Highway 53, towards Manzanita, and I have the air conditioning on – in the rain. It’s quite surreal. Over the last 24 hours I kept thinking how conditions felt like a dream, especially for the coast.
My destination of the day is called Day of the Muse. This quirky little funfest is held at the Nehalem Bay Winery, stuffed with a lot of different kinds of artists – a day dedicated to the creative spirit. To add to the quirkiness of it, it’s not necessarily held every year. Sometimes, they skip a year, or two or more.
The spirit of “whatever” runs rampant at this ultra laidback establishment. As if that approach wasn’t enough, the event was actually kickstarted with a visit by Ken Kesey and his Further bus back in the 90’s. So there’s kind of a blueblood lineage to this happenstance-ruled happenin’.
Part of this delirious mish mash is Portlander Pilar French, whose subtle bluesy, folksy Americana graces the winery’s stage for about an hour. I sit and take it all in with her manager and good friend, Stacey.
A couple hours later, it’s time for me to play my favorite role of all: crazed tour guide. I first drag the two lovely ladies to a wacky secret spot near Manzanita, where the hike begins to Short Sands Beach. However, instead of heading down that long and winding path, I try to take them to a bizarre set of hidden cliffs I’ve found in the past. These are like something out of Planet of the Apes, with angular, craggy rock structures stretching up from the ocean, looking a bit post-apocalyptic.
However, the brush had grown so high there was no means to get to that area. Instead, however, we made our way to the stunning overlooks that soar above the ocean not far away – all part of Cape Falcon. A high, green-covered hill ascends towards the sky here, with various jagged, basalt openings and sheer cliffs closeby. A trail leads to the top, where you can see what I later discovered was called Treasure Cove: a boiling, oceanic caldron of death that churns with unimaginable ferocity below. You look down through a set of cliffs so tightly placed together it’s as if you’re looking down a chute.
Pilar was particularly intrigued by an enormous sea cave below, which caused the sea to make quite a raucous there. Enormous crashes emitted from the massive hole, muffled by distance and the basalt enclosure, but loud nonetheless, as the waves slammed hard inside the interior of the cave and smashed large pockets of air.
This is one of the very few spots on the entire coast I’ve never been. It was an astounding feeling to explore here.
I’d always been intrigued by the strange basalt column that jutted up from the sea in this cove, but only seen it from a distance. Now, I got to see it closer. It was indeed curious, looking like something left over from an ancient civilization of giants. It turns out this structure is called Cube Rock.
Not far from it lies another bit of basalt sticking up out of the ocean – this one called Pulpit Rock. One 100-year-old description I found of it talked about the spectacular sights to be seen when heavy waves crashed over, making one heck of a splash.
Next up was a quick trip to see probably the only real castle on the Oregon coast: the B&B called Arch Cape House. This grand structure looks a bit like a Swiss ski lodge as well, and it’s always a kick to watch people’s reactions when I take them round to this place. Their eyes light up as well, just like mine did when I first found it years ago.
We go inside, meeting Barbara the proprietor, and she’s pleased to meet a couple of lovely friends of mine from P-town. They’re conversely impressed by the surroundings: antiques everywhere, including a gorgeous chandelier. It is truly regal.
I can’t stay inside very long, however. Something is quite bizarre with the weather. It is unbelievably humid. I’m sweating more than I do on 90-degree days in Portland, and I’m extremely uncomfortable. I actually rush us out of there, as it’s become unbearably hot.
It’s quite surreal. I’ve never encountered anything like it. The dewpoint index is surely well over 100, if that’s possible. The ocean must be causing an extra shot of humidity the likes of which the area has never seen before.
Outside, it’s much cooler – mostly. We head a bit north, to a secret spot just above Hug Point: a small, forested bluff overlooking the ocean with a 180-degree view of the ocean. Someone has set up a camping site here. A tent sits by the fire pit. We’re a little worried someone is in there getting’ it on, but we never heard a peep out of them, if they were there.
We notice the waves have greatly increased in size, as the wind has suddenly kicked in. It’s summer, yet the waves have a stormy quality to them. It’s downright odd.
So, like the “smart” tourists we are, we descend to Hug Point and decide to practically jump in the maniacal waves.
Actually, it’s me that prompts this first. I start wading in the water, begging the girls to join me. It’s really quite warm (which turned out to be a problem much of the summer, coaxing people in and getting them sucked away by riptides). Pilar shrieks at the water at first, claiming it’s too cold. But she eventually becomes acclimated, and Stacey soon after follows suit.
We spend quite a while wading fairly deeply into these massive waves. It’s really quite odd. They make a storm-like display on the nearby rocks and out on the ocean, but they dissipate somewhat quickly on land. Most of the time, that is. Quite a few of them were monster sneaker waves, causing us to run for it. Still, I let myself get wet up to my thighs. I never wade out that far. It was extremely exhilarating.
For a couple of hot chicks from Portland, I suppose I’ll do anything to show off.
Next up was a stop at Bill’s Tavern in Cannon Beach, where we stuffed our faces and drank a fair amount of fine beer. I took them to Seaside, where we downed gourmet ice cream at Zinger’s Homemade Ice Cream – one of the few sweets I ever eat.
I then toured them around Seaside’s cove area, at the southern end, where surfers abounded, and we watched them fight the wild waves. Someone’s adorable big black lab was trying to swim out to join his master, which also greatly amused us.
The evening ended with even more drinking back in Manzanita, and me darting back and forth again between the San Dune Pub and the Watering Hole.
On Sunday morning, I snag a stunning breakfast at Bread and Ocean Deli. This place was apparently the talk of the town all weekend, as I overheard a couple tourists going on about it, and Pilar and Stacey raved about it all day on Saturday.
They have an out-of-this-world antipasto sandwich, made of salami, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and seemingly a dozen other goodies all crammed between a delicately toasted paninni.
My sense of exploration doesn’t end. The mugginess isn’t quite as bad, but it’s still pretty rough. It’s colder, however, at least on the beaches, and there is a lot of atmospheric fog enveloping headlands and such. This is when the coast seems quite literary – like something out of a classic novel.
I spot something unusual on the beaches of Manzanita while driving through town. It can’t be. This is so out of context, my brain is ready to explode.
Sure enough, as if it were the annual Beach Cleanup from SOLV – where dozens of truly oddball items are found – there is part of a car on the beach. A lone pair of wheels and axle sits on the beach, probably dumped here by yesterday’s wild waves and storm-like action. Or it was scoured out of the sand by the waves.
Thus, I begin to explore the north coast, thinking there will likely be more oddities washed up on the beaches.
It doesn’t take long. The next beach north of Manzanita is Arch Cape, and it yields an interesting bit of flotsam from the sea. Embedded in a creek spilling out of the upscale neighborhood of Arch Cape is a large wooden wheel of sorts, looking like something from an old mill. My guess is that storm waves from the day before brought it here as well.
Meanwhile, the stony beach of Arch Cape disappears to the north and to the south, swallowed up by that moody mass of fuzzy gray. Northward, the bluffs of the village and other features are completely gone after a ways, invisible behind the fog. Normally, you can see Cannon Beach in the distance. Something about this scene reminds me of an old English detective novel. It could’ve been straight out of Charles Dickens or Sherlock Holmes.
To the south, the rocks of Arch Cape look foreboding and slightly alien in this mist. A large chunk of a small tree sits embedded in the sand, along with black streaks on the beach that are indicative of lots of phytoplankton in the area. It must be a combination of major blooms of the little critters and of the sea churning so many of them up and out onto the land. Their microscopic bodies leave oily residue, as well as make for major amounts of sea foam, and often brown goo on the waves if there’s enough of them.
I check Seaside’s beaches for flotsam, walking almost a mile, but I find nothing.
It’s a striking, crazy landscape, the Oregon coast. There’s nothing like it. If you know what you’re looking at, then it’s even more amazing. Sure, there’s the beach. And there’s the great food, nice hotels, interesting events and some truly amusing moments to be found at local watering holes. I got to explore all of these.
To really enjoy this place, however, you’ve got to spend a while, be willing to learn a few things, and just carefully explore while keeping your mind and eyes open.
This is when the true sense of wonder can begin.