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One Serene and Surreal Night Where Oregon Coast Meets the Rest of the Universe

Published 10/13/23 at 6:54 a.m.
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

One Stunning Surreal Night Where Oregon Coast Meets the Rest of the Universe

(Manzanita, Oregon) – Once again, while loitering around the north Oregon coast, I find myself exploring at night. It's the wee hours, past 2 a.m., and not a creature was stirring. Except me, of course, along with a handful of truckers whizzing by on test runs of new vehicles. (All photos Andre' GW Hagestedt)

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The odd and sundry things you discover at night: like that little factoid about trucks. It turns out the trucking industry tests out new vehicles in the middle of the night, so sometimes you'll see runs of them in the Oregon Coast Range in the middle of the night.

That tidbit aside, it's a beautiful mid-September and the stars are out in full force. Typical Second Summer weather, it's windless at the moment. Up above Manzanita, on the overlooks at Neahkanie Mountain, all this is quite intoxicating. In moments like these, you feel connected to everything.

The dark gray of the horizon out there meets the black of deep space – an ocean of stars intersecting with the Pacific Ocean. A comment I'd heard once that resonated with me comes to mind, something Philip Johnson of Oregon Shores and CoastWach once told me. He said something to the effect of the coast being the only place where he felt connected to the rest of the world.

Highway 101, on the overlooks above Manzanita, at 3 a.m.

It’s amazing how someone else can articulate what you’ve been feeling all along. Phillip echoed and honed in on what I’d been trying to say for many years, that it was as if the simple act of putting your toes in the water automatically connected your body and soul with the rest of the oceans around the world, and thus the rest of the land masses. Yet add to that the universe floating above you: nighttime always makes me feel like I could almost taste what it's like moving around out there.

Certainly at this moment in time, with the murmur of a calm, September surf in the distance, I felt like I was hooked up to not just with the rest of the planet in some esoteric, spiritual way, but with the rest of the universe.

Also see Green Nightglow Above Us All the Time, You Just Didn't Know: Washington / Oregon Coast Science

This wasn’t hard to imagine, as the Milky Way stretched out boldly in a hazy, cylindrical gauze of light from the horizon to the east. Constellations were shining brightly and at least two stars were much brighter than all the rest, leading me to believe they must be planets.

In my head, it all goes far beyond the waters and geography of Earth now. I can’t see them, but the big black holes, all the dark matter, the interstellar dust clouds and all those burning orbs and swirling galaxies seem that much more linked to this already-mysterious ocean. It's an overwhelming feeling of awe and contentment that can envelop you at moments like this. My two favorite things are right in front of me: the galaxy and the ocean.

Manzanita by moonlight

Somewhere out there, in that huge array of white and bluish dots, some other sentient creature is looking back this way – hopefully – and probably thinking the same thing. Hopefully they’re connected to an ocean this beautiful as well.

Standing up here, I was not only lulled by the water below but enthralled by what moves in the sky. From this vantage point, like so many times before, I saw no less than four magnificent shooting stars. I’ve always said this spot is a lucky place. Make a wish here: you may be surprised what happens. But for astronomical purposes, Neahkahnie Mountain rocks – given the right conditions. If the sky is clear enough, I almost always see numerous shooting stars from these overlooks, no matter what time of year. It’s downright magical.

Thusly protrudes the science nerd in me, and I suddenly become obsessed with capturing the Milky Way in my camera. I go from beach bum to amateur astronomer, shooting pics left and right of various angles of the sky and of the surreal mix of starscape and seascape around me, all the while hoping I’ll catch one of those comets as well.

Nehalem at night

In the back of my mind I suddenly remember something about the “False Dawn Of Omar Khayyam” or zodiacal light, appearing right about now, an interesting astronomical phenomenon where you apparently can see a sort of pyramidic or cone shape of light. I really don’t think I saw this at all, although conditions were quite ripe for it. I had to look up the details on this after my little photography session, and then cross reference the photos. Nothing.

I did, however, finally do a story on the False Dawn / Zodiacal Light.

All I know is the world is strikingly different at this time of night, and utterly fascinating. I’d probably make a pretty good vampire, as there are times I enjoy the beach at night more than during the day.

The same spot under clouds at night

At this gem of a moment, the lights of Manzanita paint the clouds above, and Nehalem, farther to the east, paints the distant clouds a bit differently. These then at times look like massive, wandering ghosts.

Manzanita's overlooks are some of the most spectacular scenery on the coast during the day.

The stars are almost raging in their presence, creating this wondrous visual pairing of twinkling from above and twinkling from the village. Meanwhile, a red light from a tower – or maybe the airport – is reflected in the ocean.


Then I suddenly realize there’s only so much effort you can put into such beauty without suddenly succumbing to it totally and completely. I abruptly lose the need to photograph it, and simply fall back onto the side of my car, head tilted up, and soak it all in. I can’t work at this any longer. All I can do is admire this enormous expanse of stars and that rustle of the ocean below.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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