Category Archives: Beaches
Amid a lot of literal and figurative cloudy weather, I found the perfect golden window other day for a walk. Nothing like leg stretching and photography experiments in the sun to make me feel better about the world. Okay, a mountain top would beat it, but hey. Rocks, moss, leaves, a passing seaplane, wings of a dove, er, seagull, and my boy Jackie Chan. Seeing him cut loose on a beach would prompt a smile from the biggest curmudgeon. All is right with the world. Well, mostly.
I’ve climbed mountains in the Rockies, walked in temperate rainforests, scrambled in the Sonorans, and ambled across eastern wildflower meadows, but Dungeness Spit might be one of the most unique spots for a hike I’ve encountered. Situated on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, the spit bends like a fishing rod into the Strait of Juan de Fuca as it reaches out to shake hands with Puget Sound.
I’d read that the spit was a nice place to visit, so when my mom visited from Virginia, I put it on our itinerary. I didn’t realize that I’d actually want more time to explore Dungeness Spit. A flat trail stretches along the top of a long bluff, accessible from a few different points. There were great views of the strait. At one point I did my best Sarah Palin impersonation. If not Russia, I could see, in fact, see Canada from the bluff. At the east end of the bluff, a trail heads through forest to the base of the spit itself. There are a few interpretive signs on viewing platforms, but I wanted to get down there. I just checked out the beginning of the driftwood-strewn, wave-lapped spit, which extends over five miles into the water, where a persistent sand hiker will find a lighthouse. I already want to return. Happy hiking.
Contrary to popular belief, I enjoy many pursuits besides hiking. Many of them involve creativity, eating, or nature. So it was that my lovely wife and I took out our new kayak the other day for a quick spin. It is a Swedish kayak that comes in three pieces which ratchet together. This means we can stuff the pieces in the back of a modest-sized vehicle or easily carry them down a path to the river. (The modular nature of the boat is also crucial for ease of storage). With all three pieces assembled, it’s good for two people (and a dog), while if you take out the middle piece, it works for one person. The trial run was on a gorgeous day in the Willamette Valley. We paddled upstream to Elk Rock Island, where we debarked and played around for bit on a beach. An osprey soared over the channel, and I longed to see it dive for a fish, but it was not to be. On the return leg, we passed a large sightseeing boat, the Portland Spirit, and we were concerned about its wake after ski boats had rocked us a tad, but because of its relatively slow speed, we were fine. I’m looking forward to more kayaking adventures in the future. Time for sunscreen and flotation devices!
On any weekend with good weather, Cannon Beach tends to be swarmed by tourists, yet the area scenery is always peaceful and soothing. The ocean itself feels like an endless well of calm and inspiration. I enjoy staring at the shifting swells and breaking waves, the combination of scenery and the audible whish and splash of waves and the calls of seabirds making a truly unique spectacle. Westward lies a range of possibilities. Back in reality, I wanted to take a few modest walks right there, on the sand and in the forest. The weather even cooperated surprising for the Oregon Coast in early spring.
We rented a cottage near the beach and a quick walk showed an awesome sunset on display. Inhale that marine air! The next day, after hanging out with family for a few hours, I wanted to find a nearby hike and avoid repeating earlier endeavors. Once again, the internet was my friend. A quick search found a state park I didn’t know.
Multiple sites refer to Haystack Hill State Park, but I find no mention of it on the Oregon State Parks web page. Regardless, Haystack Hill is located roughly midway through Cannon Beach, climbing to a highpoint I’d previously missed. The acreage was supposedly donated to the state for preservation, and there has been no development beyond an unsigned trail which climbs the quarter mile to the top of the hill, then splits in a couple directions. I found a few unique views looking down on famous Haystack Rock. I also enjoyed some awesome trees and lush ground cover. What a great find.
Today I had to get out of the house, and I was lucky enough to hike with Jackie Chan. We visited Elk Rock Island, as I had the other day, but the weather was very different. It was dry but gray and cool. I found a new spot to scramble on mossy rocks that’s out of the way. Jackie was pretty excited about a sandy spot among the rocks, but he was content sniffing everything in the woods, too, including some very cool small ferns. Unfortunately, his mere presence seemed to spook some crows as I was trying to get a better shot of a large group of them. Does any reader know why it’s called a murder of crows? Enjoy the photos.
I have written of Elk Rock Island in previous posts, but I hadn’t been there in months. Spring Park, the access point, was closed for some time for maintenance. Today I found out what that meant when I zipped over there after the first half of the Trailblazers game. North Clackamas Parks & Rec crews completely resituated the access and revamping it so it will not bog down in mud, and the grade is improved. They put in a bridge over a little boggy area and a resting spot over a side channel. Nice work.
Walking on Elk Rock Island is neither epic nor exotic. Yet it is a small natural oasis Portland area residents should treasure. I know I do. My experience today was very different than my previous hikes here. With winter rains collecting in spots that are bone dry in summer, and water level high enough to cover part of the north side beach, the overall feel of the island was very different. That is not a bad thing. The light on the now mossy, grassy rocks on the south and west sides was amazing. Without leaves on the cottonwoods, the forest high on the bluff was much different, with sneak views in various directions. The beach area was gloomy in the shade, so I didn’t dally there. By the time I circled the island, the light was already shifting, but the views were still great. Something about the water made me look forward to getting out in a kayak when it warms up more. Happy outdoor adventures, everyone.
As I have attempted to demonstrate in previous posts, the Columbia River Gorge is a pretty awesome place to play in the outdoors. Today I took a tour of the Washington side with my wife and our faithful pup. We began at the lower end of the Cape Horn area, where we walked through fern and moss draped trees to eyeball a beautiful cascade right below the rock and mortar protected outlook. Good start.
After meandering past further road views from the Cape Horn area, we stopped at the St. Cloud recreational site, a pleasant surprise set in an old orchard on the bank of the Columbia River. We walked through the orchard and down to the water for some close up views of the famous river. Such views!
As we left, Jackie trotted by a great old log that seemed to me to have a leonine face on its end. Soon, we drove by the famous Beacon Rock but didn’t dally long, then paused briefly at an historic marker pullout which referred to the Lewis and Clark expedition coming through the area. A landslide 500 years ago came down from the area near Table Mountain and dumped debris in the river here. The spot also offered a unique view of Cascade Locks, where Cheryl Strayed ended her PCT hike (shameless attempt for search hits), and I was disappointed to learn that Char Burger is no more.
Stevenson was next on the agenda. This is a cute small town on its way to being a real destination. It has good restaurants, a brewpub, some cute shops, and lots of waterfront. Retirement spot, anyone? Following Denise’s good instincts, we headed for the waterfront, and wandered by a restaurant and walked down a trail below a lodge. Nice place to visit. If only we had some spare cash for real estate investments…
When we left Stevenson I briefly contemplated a hike up Wind Mountain, but thought better of it. Too chilly. Go east, (not so) young man! Coyote Wall was calling me. So we headed to the area popular with mountain bikers and hikers alike. The start may have been the best part in more ways than one. The old road was easy walking, and within five minutes saw two bald eagles relaxing on a snag. It was the best view I’ve ever had of an eagle.
Once we ventured off the road onto a rocky muddy trail, the landscape changed a lot. The hills undulate, and there are cool rock formations. I was slightly surprised that the area was quite green, but it is January. The temperature plunged as cloud cover came in, and we decided to turn back, since we still had a long drive home. It was a great day of walking and sightseeing with the fam.
At a secret location near Milwaukie, Oregon, I took my boy Jackie Chan for a river shoreline stroll. This is no typical shoreline. Hardly a sandy spot in sight, and the one we found was protected by audibly possessive Canada Geese. One of the curious attributes of walking near a major metropolitan area is the juxtaposition of natural elements with manmade elements. It was no different this afternoon. I found remnants of what I believe is a dock, floating lumber surrounded by old stumps, and a heron badgering a kayaker when it neared the roost.
The walk was almost entirely on rocks, so we did not move quickly. Yet with a narrow focus on nearby objects rather than on distant viewpoints, I found it endlessly fascinating, and very peaceful. Seeing the heron take off multiple times with a great squawking, gracefully soaring over the river, was a highlight. I only wish I had a better camera more suited to catching a magnificent creature in flight. Perhaps next time.
The power of nature is everywhere. Last week, before my wife and I wrapped up a brief but fantastic beach trip, we saw that power on display. While dining at a great restaurant overlooking the shore, Tidal Raves, we noticed people walking out on a rocky point. Occasional massive waves crashed onto the point, and the hikers disappeared. We both thought the hikers may have been a bit short of brain cells. It looked like an amazing spot, enhanced by the potential danger of big waves. So of course I wanted to go out there too.
After finishing our tasty meal, we found an nearby access trail, and we wandered along the shore. Denise was still recovering from a heel injury, so it was tough for her to attempt such a walk on uneven ground. Ultimately, she stayed on a grassy shelf above while I clambered out on the rocks, feeling at home.
As I headed to the end of the point, the surface became very irregular. It seemed to be some kind of volcanic rock. I definitely had to watch my step. I skirted a steep drop off and crossed a gap in the rock where wave surges came through, then clambered onto high ground to wave gawk. In moments, I was mesmerized. Such power, such beauty. Even as I wanted to move about, I could not turn my back on the waves. Not every wave was spectacular, but there was a large one on a regular basis. A human being on the rocks seemed inconsequential.
Other people were also watching the ocean further up the cliffs that resembled a bluff, and I sauntered that way after leaving the point. Denise and I looked for whales but did not see any. As we walked back to our car, a man and woman said they had seen multiple humpbacks slightly to the north. It was good day on the Oregon coast.
My wife and I were very lucky to get what was basically a free trip to the beach. The weather finally turned, so we hoped the rain would help firefighters with the many fires in the American West. Alas, the precipitation was relatively modest, but that meant our beach trip was more pleasant than expected. After romantic walks on the beach in Newport, we visited Yaquina Head. While Denise stayed in the visitor center, I strolled up Salal Hill and checked out Cobble Beach below. Great spots. I think we visited the area more than a decade ago. This was a great rediscovery, and well worth the time.