The Oregon Coast will always have a foremost place in the recesses of my vacation memories. Growing up, the journey was done probably three or four times with my parents. On a few of those occasions, we would end up in Southern Oregon (Gold Beach) and ride jet boats up the Rogue River. One of my favorite vacations as a teenager was rafting the Rogue River in a kayak. I only got flipped once.
Michelle and I obviously love to travel but being that Naomi’s (Junebug) birthday was almost three months behind us, we wanted a simpler trip. We decided not to do the full Oregon Coast as that would require a ton of road travel with a baby but to rent a small bungalow in Cannon Beach. We ended up being glad we did.
After stopping in Portland (more specifically Lake Oswego) to visit with family, we took Highway 26 west until we ran into the Pacific Ocean. The drive got rural very quickly. Expansive farmland turned to densely forested mountains. In other words, my kind of terrain. There is definitely a reason I live in the Pacific Northwest.
We arrived in Cannon Beach the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and there was madness in the streets. The craziness of tourist cars backed up and down the main drags and pedestrians gleefully walking out in front of traffic. I cannot complain though because after all, we were tourists.
Our home for the week was “Lewis Loft”, the aforementioned cozy bungalow with a small kitchen and bathroom and a little living space. We were only two blocks from the ocean.
The beauty of the Oregon Coast, in general, can be summed up with a visit to Cannon Beach. Walking toward the ocean, one can look to the right and see the rocks and cliffs that announce the presence of Ecola State Park. To the left, where we often walked, one gets the glorious view of Haystack Rock towering 235 feet above the beach surrounded by “the needles” (other rock monoliths jetting up from the surf). At night, the scenery around the rocks was particularly photogenic. The sun dropped out of clear sky or below a pillar of clouds or through the common area fog casting rays of spectacular light toward its enraptured audience.
A cool feature of Cannon Beach is bonfires are allowed on the beach. One of our first nights walking in the sand, we could look across the beach and see, maybe, a hundred fires and people gathered around. When I tried to start our very own campfire, I failed epicly. I dug a hole in the sand, had wood in my possession, newspaper and even a Duraflame but the wind that night was just too much at the time I tried to start the blaze. I went home dejected.
I mentioned Ecola State Park before and we went there on Monday (our second day of the trip). Since there is some elevation in the main parking lot area, we got a truly stunning view looking south down Cannon Beach. Over toward the west, we could see the lighthouse (“Terrible Tilly”) that was on an exclusive rock far out to see. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a lighthouse similar to this one as to where the structure was located. Try to imagine how this building was constructed? Terrible Tilly is located 1.2 miles offshore into the ocean. I learned that the lighthouse was first commissioned in 1878. The first light was emitted from Terrible Tilly on January 21, 1881 (my birthday, I might add, but not for 99 years later). There are apparently all kinds of stories about the building of the lighthouse and the erratic weather and storms which made process extremely difficult for contractors and keepers and suppliers alike. When one sees Terrible Tilly out in the water, they can easily imagine these scenarios.
Our family engaged a 3 mile loop hike (Clatsop Loop Trail) from Indian Beach in the State Park. This was a very peaceful hike through the woods including old forest and even rainforest. Toward the middle of the hike, we encountered empty cabins and a deserted overhang structure. Apparently, hikers can camp here for a maximum of three days and they would be approximately 1.5 miles from the parking lot and in the deep woods. This would have been a welcome development if we were prepared and had time (imagine the starry canopy above the trees and far away from big city lights). Just beyond the camp was a view of Terrible Tilly. This time, we could not see the beach as there was a huge ridge of trees to our left which blocked the view. This was an exclusive view of the lighthouse and its isolation out in the sea.
Our second day involved driving north to Warrenton where Fort Stevens is located. Named after a slain civil war general, Isaac Stevens, the fort was constructed at the end of the Civil War in 1863-1864. The fort is located at the mouth of the Columbia River, as the water that divides Washington and Oregon States dumps into the Pacific Ocean. As a kid growing up, this was one of my favorite places to visit with my parents. The biggest part of the base (that is still standing) is Battery Russell which was constructed in 1904 and I loved running around on the two story structure as a kid and going down inside the fort (where there was no lighting) and yelling and scaring other tourists. Michelle wouldn’t let me do that this time but the experience of walking on the old concrete structure recalled those fond moments of the past. It had been so long since I had been back there.
Fort Stevens claim to historical fame was that the base was the only target of enemy fire in the continental United States during World War II. On the night of June 21-22, 1942, Japanese submarine I-25 fired 17 rounds toward Fort Stevens but only destroyed a baseball backstop. There is a memorial on the grounds of the base for the soldiers stationed at Fort Stevens and the crew of the submarine. Good thing we are all friends now.
The change of pace of actually staying in one place on a vacation was certainly welcome. Cannon Beach was an exquisite getaway and one anchored in colorful and fond family memories. Now the specialness of this spot on the Oregon Coast has been passed along to Michelle and to little Junebug. Sappy…probably, but who cares?