Monday, December 15, 2008

Pacific Storm

Once again the decision to travel to a tourist destination in the off, off season has paid off. Not only are lodging, dining, and ale at reduced prices, but the most aggravating element of tourist spots, the tourists themselves, are gone. Cannon Beach, Oregon was at a 'normal' early December level with locals and a few travelers strolling around and enjoying the shops, ample parking, Christmas ambiance, and, of course, the brewpub. Travelers tend to have the flexible and open mindset to go wherever opportunity or interest may lead them while tourists seem to need to see everything in the tourist brochure and see if for a rigidly prescribed amount of time. The other thing that identifies tourists is that they pretty much want to see those touristy sights in a pair of bermuda shorts, white pleated ones with matching sandals for the ladies, with the sun shining warmly down on them. That precondition makes it certain that they will never see what we saw over the weekend; a genuine, kick ass, 60mph wind gust, 25' (8m) wave producing North Pacific winter storm.

We checked into our two bedroom ocean side bungalow on Friday afternoon. This rental would cost you your first born son (mine was along on this adventure) during tourist season but in December it was roughly the same as a Holiday Inn Express. The storm was anticipated by the innkeeper as we were handed a lantern and told it was for "when the power goes out"; which it indeed did. In addition to No1 son and I, our party also included the VOR and No1 Son's lady friend, CycleKat. When we walked down to the beach to view the famous Haystack Rock, we were sand blasted by the northwest winds and watched huge waves breaking far offshore. The VOR and I got up early for the 6am low tide to see if we could get near the tidal pools but with the wind and waves it was hopeless. A combination of the storm and full moon made the 12:30 high tide on Saturday the highest of the year, something we definitely wanted to see. The best place to view that seemed to be Ecola State Park, which included some Lewis and Clark history, the temperate rain forest, and a great view of the ocean and the Tillamook Light.

We arrived at the trailhead and admired the ocean and the tide rolling in. We also learned about the concept of the 'sneaker wave'. CycleKat and I were on the shore crawling around some big timber that had washed ashore when the fairly monotone warning, "better run", came from No1 Son. The sneaker wave got me wet to the knee on one leg but CycleKat had water over the tops of her swampers plus one of the logs rolled on her ankle. Fortunately all was well and the VOR found a stand with plastic doggie dung bags in the parking lot, which both of them used to line their boots after changing to dry socks. The hike was great through the giant spruce and fir and I had the privilege of hugging a tree that was there and roughly 200 years old when Captain William Clark strolled by in 1805. We were rewarded for our 800' (250m) of vertical with a spectacular view of the Oregon coast and the Tillamook Lighthouse, a very strange and eerie place indeed. And the storm was very impressive.

There is something about a storm hammering the shoreline that brings out our primal emotions. Watching the lovely swells roll in as the kids play in the surf is nice but when the folks at work ask about the weekend it will be the awesome power of the storm that's discussed, not the serenity and beauty of the beach. Locals kept apologizing for the nasty weather but I had to tell 'em that I couldn't have asked for a better experience in their town. I'm still waiting for a good Lake Superior northeaster this year but our trip to Cannon Beach and its accompanying storm will be remembered for a good long time.


Silbs said...

Neat post, the video brings it alive and reminds me of a photographic trip I took to the shores of Washington (similar coast). I, of course, went at a time when layers were not a consideration.

bonnie said...

Looks like a great trip!

I had to laugh at "Sneaker wave". I didn't even need to read your explanation, Quint & I did a short coastal hike on our last day on the Olympic Peninsula & he ended up up to his ankles in one of those!

We had the best time watching those giant logs get tossed around in the waves, and it wasn't even a real storm.