Written by Migin on 23 Sep, 2005
Most of Oregon’s coastal towns are transected by Highway-101. Visiting is just a matter of pulling over and parking. To explore any part of Cannon Beach you must make special effort by exiting the highway. But to even get to Cannon Beach is a…Read More
Most of Oregon’s coastal towns are transected by Highway-101. Visiting is just a matter of pulling over and parking. To explore any part of Cannon Beach you must make special effort by exiting the highway. But to even get to Cannon Beach is a three hour drive from where I live and we don‘t plan to stay over. It’ll be a long day.
Lines on the map reveal, in concept if not appreciated fact, the roads from cities in the Willamette Valley (Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene) are for most of their length a single lane in each direction. While stretches may run straight there are twisted sections to all, and worse on some. What looks like a shortcut on the map might become a carnival ride of a drive, fun for passengers but exhausting for the driver. Some days seemingly everyone in the world competes for that same road space and movement becomes a kind of rush hour crawl. Often there’s someone who, for whatever reason (but mostly out of state plates reveal a lack of confidence stemming from unfamiliarity with the road), drives so slowly they end up dragging a string of bunched up cars. And you can’t pass because on-coming traffic is obscured by the topography of the Coastal Mountain Range. For all that they’re not very tall mountains a mountain road is still a mountain road. Then comes the Pacific Coast Highway (101), and although it runs straighter along its course all other rules still apply. There really aren’t any shortcuts.
There are a couple of ways of approaching such a trip. The first is to drive straight to the destination, arriving in a more timely, if somewhat stiffer, fashion. The second is to break up the drive with occasional stops. We usually do the later. Sometimes all the stops include favorites, sometimes they include places we haven’t seen in years, occasionally we discover something previously overlooked. Oregon provides lots of choices. And every place we stop this day smells great.
One place we tried to stop was Arcadia Beach State Recreation Site, 3-miles south of Cannon Beach, at a point where 101 runs close along the shore. Arcadia, I know from previous visits, has a number of interesting rock formations and an inviting sandy beach. However, it also lacks an empty parking space this day, so we move on. Another good thing about all those choices.
Returning from Ecola State Park one day we capriciously chose to drive through this town, unvisited for years, remembered as a weatherworn place of no particular physical distinction, other than the massive Haystack Rock. And now…well, cosmetic changes are always noticed first, but these reflect how CB is thriving. In fact, a few weeks ago local news did a piece about increased property demand, versus existing structures shortage and rising property values here. They spoke to a couple out of Spokane, Washington, who’d been looking forward to buying property in CB for forever, but seeing their chances rapidly diminish were intent on finding ‘something now’. Something now is quite expensive, and will only get more so. It’s a good thing visiting isn’t.
We want information
Housed in a single-story shingled structure, at the corner of Spruce and 2nd, the Cannon Beach information center would probably make a good first stop in town. Here more of CB’s artiness is evident in the bronze jellyfish topping the railing posts along the side, just next to the public drinking fountain topped with sculptured pelican. Be sure to pick up the visitor’s map among the numerous pamphlets available for local and regional attractions, activities and accommodations. The woman on duty was friendly and very helpful. The next block eastwards on 2nd has a large convenient parking area where the automobile slots abut the rear fence.
In the Park
Immediately adjacent to the Information Center is City Park with the usual amenities, including several tennis courts, and a skateboard park fronting 2nd. It was very crowded the day we explored and unless we’d come prepared to play tennis (we hadn’t) found pretty much everything fully engaged, although the main users of skateboard park appeared to be some sort of drill team having a practice. For those looking for picnic facilities, shade, and lawn, a better choice, or least an alternative, would be Les Shirley Park on 5th beyond Ecola Creek to the west side of Hemlock.
Searching for Haystack Rock Viewpoint
It’s on the pdf version of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s CB map, but isn’t signposted within CB. There’s a place in midtown that seemingly would offer an outstanding view if you could gain enough altitude to see over the overlapping rooflines. Coincidentally this is where the map indicates the viewpoint to be, lying between Hemlock and 101 where the town climbs the most significant hill it has. These streets all have dead end signs, but thinking perhaps that one end was at the viewpoint we turn into one after another in a fruitless search. We tried flanking streets—hoping for a side entrance—again to no avail. We ended up on the highway looping between the CB exits north and south of the indicated position. There’s a turnout along the CB side of the highway in an appropriate position. Maybe, I venture, that’s it. I think if we pull over, exited the car, and step through the trees we’d find the promised view. I think it’s just not developed—yet. I get overruled, we don’t stop to verify. But the exploration convinces me the rest of the map is correct.
This park, at the corner of Sunset and Spruce, isn’t sign-posted, but the sculpture is highly visible from without. There’s no dedicated parking. The small paved area is partly roofed and has the few offered amenities; benches, water fountain, a trash container, and planting box with flowers. Considering the park’s small space it’s crowded with people, mostly just lounging in the shade to escape a relentless sun. (Although somehow they seemed to shift out of the pictures I took.) Centrally located along the edge nearest the beach is the sculpture giving the park its name. A small sign on one side of the whale reads "Endangered species. Please keep off," but there’s no interpretive sign to explain the whale’s significance (see the Les Shirley Park entry). One step farther (and down) and you’re on the northern most spit of Cannon Beach’s eponymous beach with Ecola Creek running at an angle to the coastline just beyond. Two figures, sharply silhouetted by a late afternoon sun, pilot a rubber dinghy along the waterway. I can’t help but think of William Clark and his men on their hunt for blubber. And if you look right, beyond the creek, you can see the point that is Les Shirley Park on the north shore.
This Ain’t Happening
Immediately adjacent to and diagonally across from Whale Park are two of the locations from the Historical Society’s Historical walking tour. I expected to see some hardcopy copy of this at the museum or information center, but didn’t. It does exist online so you can print it and bring it with you. I didn’t and this is as much as we saw.
In the late evening reflected light illuminates the ocean long after the sky has darkened. A mouse, some relative of Speedy Gonzales no doubt, whizzes in front of the car to vanish, unharmed, into the dark. And deer graze in the dimly lit gloom along the opposite side of the road as we pass, apparently unconcerned about our presence. We stop at a viewpoint to watch the waves roll in, jagged white lines in the inkiness. It was a long day. It was a great day. And, still, everything smells great.
First you have to get there. From the public parking at the corner of Hemlock and Gower we walked the few short blocks to the beach by following Gower until it bent into Ecola Court’s ramp down to the sand. At first the sand lies…Read More
First you have to get there. From the public parking at the corner of Hemlock and Gower we walked the few short blocks to the beach by following Gower until it bent into Ecola Court’s ramp down to the sand. At first the sand lies in loose drifts and shifts beneath your feet, causing a sideways slide with each step, and then it’s packed sand that firmly supports your every step and the walking becomes easy.
It sometimes amazes me to see so many people on an Oregon beach. Often, in winter especially, these are fairly lonely places but for the ubiquitous person with their dog somewhere down the beach. Except, of course, for weekends when people from the valley come out for the day. Having weekends off is such a rare event in my household that I’m sure my impression of many of these places is markedly different from those whose only coastal experience is on weekends, which would differ again from those who only see them at the height of tourist season. I often crave the near solitude of a winter beach, but I also enjoy sharing the space with other appreciatives at any time. There are a few places that seem not to follow the feast or famine of visitors and Cannon Beach is one of these, there always seems to be a fair number of people enjoying the space. But it’s summer now—tourist season—and today the masses are definitely out in force.
There’s a pair of young girls, one pale, one dark—a striking contrast. They make their way through the low surf to a point—the process of their determination of when to stop invisible to my distant vantage—where they turn about, and holding hands they stop…and wait. Soon a larger wave rolls in to strike them across the lower back. They squeal gleefully, their voices merging with the cries of gulls, and their bodies shake with laughter. They call out to friends to join them. Unheeded, voices lost in the ocean’s white noise, they exit the water to rally their troupe. Soon a group wades out together. A child’s life is filled with possibility made out of the simplest of experiences.
Gangs of bikers roam the beach, racing across the sand. But it’s all amiable, without discord. You’ll pass people carrying these recumbent tricycles, called funcycles, going both to and from the beach, as they’re meant for use only on the sand. I’m surprised by the number of unused and unsupervised vehicles dotting the beach, especially since the rental cost runs about $10 for the first 90-minutes. Occasionally near perfect concentric circles, like oddly placed crop circles, mar the sand’s surface with no rim track leading in or out. We all may be sure we know how they got there, but no one will claim to actually having seen them under construction.
A mother maneuvers a black shark-shaped kite against a deep blue sky while one of her daughters buries the other up to the chin in dry sand. Both of the girls giggle throughout the whole process. When they are satisfied that the one is well and truly entombed they call for their mother to come critique their expertise. This necessitates landing that great fish, and so she reels it in until it lies flopping on the sand. Then they all laugh together and with one child’s face lowered and pressed to the other while both smile up at her—the perfect cherubs—she takes their picture. Did you get it mommy? A day they’ll obviously remember.
Guys in wet suits tote surfboards into the water, but the waves uncooperatively fail to mass sufficiently to facilitate a ride of any note. I suspect they knew this and just planned to hang out together, draped across their boards amid the swells. Better off, for those seeking motion and speed, are those in the surf with their boogie boards, sliding fifteen feet or more each time, and with the short turnaround they‘re almost immediately ready to go again.
Around by Whale Park, next to Ecola Creek there’s a volleyball net. It seems to be up most of the time, yet I’ve never seen it used. Perhaps that’s because this little corner where the beach curls back into town isn’t easily seen from the main portion of the beach.
And below Haystack Rock people cluster about the tide pools. The tide is in too far for the really interesting stuff to be exposed, and what is visible are mostly only barnacles, mussels, and a few small far colonizing anemone. Although if you bend low enough you can see tiny crabs scurrying away from you into the deeper shadows of rock-filled pools, while something washed up by the tide burrows back into the sand too quickly to be identified. Being the latter part of August it’s too late in the year to see Tufted Puffins nesting on the rock, they left several weeks back, but gulls and Murres dot its surface.
At the Cannon Beach Historical Society a claim is made that Haystack is the third largest single rock formation, behind the Sugarloaf, in Brazil, and Ayres Rock (it should be called Uluru since it was returned to the aboriginals and they returned to it its proper name), in Australia. Well the Haystack Rock farther south along the Oregon coast, at Pacific City, is taller than this one just for starters. And Burringurra, in western Australia, is actually larger than Uluru, both in height and footprint. And Beacon Rock, in the Columbia River Gorge is reputedly the world’s second largest, with only the Rock of Gibraltar larger than it. And in Mexico they claim Peña de Bernal is the third largest, while Swaziland claims Sibebe Rock as second largest. It’s very confusing.
There’s usually a modifier attached to clarify such matters. The largest limestone, granite, basalt, sedimentary, tertiary, or whatever, rock. These important defining components become detached by those who don’t understand their significance, think that others won’t, and, so, imprecision rules. This irks me. I never uncovered this problem when writing the Beacon Rock piece in my Columbia River Gorge journal, and so I contribute to the problem. This irks me more. I enquired of a State Geologist who merely suggested I use a less specific claim (an obvious one I’d already used in another entry), calling all other claims listed above dubious. I doubt the later. They’re undefined claims, imprecise, and therefore rendered misleading, but they’re not untruths. And what I needed was clarification and specificity—enquiring minds want to know—and to correct past errors. Good enough for government work, huh? So, essentially, I guess, you can believe whatever you want to, and why not…everyone else does.
Regardless, Haystack Rock is amazing. It stands 235ft tall and its generous footprint was once much larger. For a period of ten- to eleven-million years, beginning about 17-million-years-ago, a series of volcanic eruptions caused massive lava flows that spread along much of the coast before coming to a hissing stop in the sea. Of course it didn’t stop right away and parts of the coastline were thrust seaward with each upwelling, most obviously in the forms of headlands, by as much as 25-miles in some places. The sea immediately began its relentless grinding and chiseling, and beaches are slowly created. Ten-thousand-years-ago the Rock was still integrated. Then it becomes more singular, and more noticeable. Now it dominates the coastline here and can be seen from many miles away.
Written by Kerry on 21 Jan, 2001
The Oregon Coast is made for kite flying. It's a great way to get in touch with the raw force and unpredictable nature of the elements. There are a couple of small kiteshops in Cannon Beach and they'll happily sell you as much kite as…Read More
The Oregon Coast is made for kite flying. It's a great way to get in touch with the raw force and unpredictable nature of the elements. There are a couple of small kiteshops in Cannon Beach and they'll happily sell you as much kite as you can possibly handle. My advice is to spend 25 bucks and they'll put together a small kite with decent nylon string that looks good and will fly in most conditions. I've splurged several times on more exotic kites, but if you're launching one for the first time since elementary school it's best to start small.
Written by jodellebobelle on 23 Feb, 2005
Visiting Portland? Then put Cannon Beach on your list of things to do. Cannon Beach is only a 2-hour drive away and worth every minute of the drive. And the drive is scenic, as you drive through logging areas and beautiful forestry. Rent…Read More
Visiting Portland? Then put Cannon Beach on your list of things to do. Cannon Beach is only a 2-hour drive away and worth every minute of the drive. And the drive is scenic, as you drive through logging areas and beautiful forestry. Rent a car, or heck, rent a donkey; I don't care, but make sure you see Cannon Beach. My opinion is that your life isn't complete until you see Cannon Beach. Close