Rugged, pristine Oregon Coast is the perfect place for a reunion

The Haggerty family strolls along Cannon Beach on the northern coast of Oregon, with Haystack Rock towering in the foreground.

Kites and Frisbee discs, beach buggies and flip-flops. Hoodies and fleece jackets, wet suits and surf boards.  Boogie boards and badminton, smash ball and salt water taffy.

Some say Oregon has the most rugged and pristine coastline in the world, and these Oregonians sure know how to have fun with it.

They enjoy sand dunes and crabbing, long strolls on the beach and invigorating hikes in the ancient woods that jet out of this ocean. They love deep-sea fishing, putt-putt golf and 18-hole torture tours, gift shopping, incredible seafood, wonderful world-class Pinot Noirs and amazing Tillamook cheese.

In 1909, 10 factories created the Tillamook County Creamery Association. Now, 101 years later, the Oregon Chamber of Commerce swears the Tillamook Cheese Visitors Center is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Oregon, with nearly one million visitors each year.

I’m not sure that has anything to do with the “rugged and pristine coastline,” but they have some very fine cheese here.

Sticking 235 feet out of the Pacific Ocean like a very sore thumb, Haystack Rock towers above the other rock structures along Cannon Beach on the North Coast of Oregon, 48 miles north of the Tillamook Creamery.

Haystack is one of the largest “sea stacks” on America’s Pacific coast. With several other large basaltic rocks in the sea here, they’re separated by sand and water, but are joined together by their shared volcanic foundation beneath the shifting sands.

It’s a wildlife refuge for five different species of birds — Tufted Puffins, Western Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots and Black Oystercatchers.

Lewis and Clark spied this rock in January, 1806 at the end of their long journey to explore the vast unknown territory west of the Mississippi River.

Captain Clark wrote: “… I have a view of the coast for an emence distance to the S.E. by S. the nitches and points of high land which forms this Corse for a long ways added to the inoumerable rocks of emence sise out at a great distance from the shore and against which the Seas brak with great force gives this coast a most romantic appearance…”

Funny writing, but his point is well taken. There are lots of lovers strolling along, holding hands, on this beach these days.

Lewis, Clark and their Corps of Discovery were very happy to leave this coastline after passing a wet and tedious winter at Fort Clatsop near here. It rained most every day.

Still does.

But the fog and clouds that shroud these beautiful beaches make the photographic opportunities fantastic. A real photographer like Christopher Tomlinson would have a field day here.

Oswald West State Park’s Smuggler Cove is 10 miles south of Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. It was the first place cousin Mitch learned to surf, so that’s where he brought us. Mitch told us of an urban legend that claims pirate treasure is buried near this cove.  He also told us “The Goonies” was filmed here. It was about hidden treasure. Of course the good guys in the movie found treasure, but our cousins who went on a spelunking adventure came up empty-handed.

Mitch grew up here, surfing and looking for buried treasure. Now his sons, David and Nathaniel, follow in his flipper-steps. They boogie board and surf and search for neat stuff in Necamey Creek as it flows into the ocean here.

There are treasures to be found, even if they’re not gold and jewels. Live sea stars, mussels, barnacles, sea snails and colorful aquatic anemones — orange and pale green underwater sea plants — abound. Old growth stands of Sitka Spruce line the trail into Smuggler’s Cove, where the Oregon rainforest collects water and supports an incredible array of birds and wildlife.

The park was named after Oregon Governor Oswald West (1911-1915), who preserved Oregon’s beaches for public use.

What a concept. Think of what that would do along Colorado’s rivers.

Back to surfing, can an old 56-year-old gray-hair learn to surf?

“Sure, Billy,” Mitch said. “Just paddle over there against the rocks. The riptide will take you out, then paddle back into the surf, and head the board toward shore.”

An hour later, with a queasy stomach and Mitch’s encouragement, I hit the perfect wave. I rode it all the way to the shore. Only problem was, I couldn’t stand up on the darn long board.

I think the whole “standing up” thing is overrated. It’s all about the ride. The day was a great success. Grandma made it down the half-mile trail, and our pearly Irish faces were pretty well protected from the sun by an intense layer of fog. Most of us (them) experienced the surf the correct way.

The rugged and pristine Oregon Coast is a great place to experience a family reunion.


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