A Year’s Turning on the Oregon Coast

Spence here: {Billy is taking another hiatus from posting, as he is swimming through mid-terms in school.} Over the holidays, my sister sent us some remarkably accurate, thoughtful gifts! Among them is an amazingly raw and beautiful and tragic and fun and under and overwhelming piece of poetry in the form of a book by Michael J. Wilson, called A Child of Storm. What follows is a pipette of the poem “Study (Three Seasons”:

The nervous system is the figure of a tree

feathered and dropping then rebuilding itself

January is a purple bruise–the coldest month–a diamond mistaken for ice

You were pale and falling into a hole that you were filling up…

January is a full stop

a wrap everything up and hold it–hold it–hold it month

A moment of hardening–sap freezing into copper holding–

all that energy holding–wait–wait–wait–

That great release of spring–

We escaped town and went to the Oregon Coast to witness solstice and the great dark times of winter. We were rewarded with two days of full sunshine. A brisk, slanted breeze held us up on the beach, but back at the ‘warming hut’ (our rented yurt) we slept on bunk beds (I got the top one!) with the heater blasting and made epic egg-in-a-hole-in-the-breads, one after another. On our last afternoon, parked at an overlook called Roads End, we finally stopped our fidgeting and succumbed to a glorious, sleepy, hazy dream–we napped sitting up in the seats of our jeep, with the sun pouring in and a view of undulating 6-8 foot waves spread out before us. Hunger woke us up a bit and we ventured further down the beach to Neskowin to watch Venus and the Knife of Time rise over Proposal Rock.

As the snow came down back in Portland in buckets, we ran through Billy’s 2016 journal of days and hysterically cackled at our fortunate lives and our unfortunate, ridiculous, insulting whining. Because what?! We really have it too good to be true.

A Tale of Two Trips to the Coast

View From Cape Meares

This is a tale of two trips to the coast…

Spencer here: The first set of pictures chronicles some of the adventures my sister and her partner and I had a few weeks ago. It was a grand time. In my journal, a stream of consciousness two pages long still didn’t encompass all the things we managed to see and do while they were here. I just hope they had as good of a time as I did!

A few highlights… We hiked out one morning to Warrior Rock Lighthouse at the end of Sauvie Island. I hadn’t done this pleasant stroll before and now I want to take Billy there. It is mostly through river area, Alder trees and farmland, and at the time smelled very sweet. The leaves were golden yellow and bright orange–a pretty good Fall showing for the Pacific Northwest, to two visitors from the Midwest, which I think boasts some of the most magnificent tree colors rivaling New England! In any event, we also managed to eek out a trip to the coast. Ryan was in the mood for pancakes, and we found some at the end of Lincoln City. Awesome! We made our way to the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport. What a fantastic find. The hotel is very strange, although could have been more strange. We had the ‘Ken Kesey’ room, (the famed author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). All the rooms were named and decorated as such, after famous literary figures. I was tempted to stay in the Oscar Wilde room. Maybe next time. We toured lighthouses, the bay, the beach, Rogue Brewery–where we became honorary ‘Rogue Citizens’–an awkward, but festive affair ending with a dollar off each beer and a ridiculous ID card. We wandered over to an Irish Pub and then landed at a local spot called ‘The Sand Bar’. We met a wayward traveler, (a ‘drifter’ as Ryan liked to call him), named Tyrone. When I told Tyrone I had a hamster once named Tyrone he didn’t flinch. We played some pool and tried to keep up with his stories as they jumped around more than steel head in Tillamook Bay. Where was he from? It was hard to tell, but he spent time in Hawaii, the Midwest, maybe Florida and had a house in Newport. He said he came to Oregon originally to surf, as he heard there weren’t any sharks. Well, that was the year a guy got his board bitten in half, with an arm attached. “There are sharks”, I said, “but you’re more likely to get hit by a bus.” This didn’t persuade him. I almost took Ryan and Al surfing. The weather was good–a little chilly–but its the Oregon Coast–its always a little chilly. I showed them Otter Rock, where Billy and I love to surf. Next time. We had more IPAs to find. Among the catching up, we did manage to squeeze in a quintessential Portland thing–riding bikes, bar hopping to local micro-brews. I love how my sister and Ryan are up for anything!

Next up: Billy and I at a secret locale… Since Billy has been super busy with school and work, he missed the epic trip to Newport. Thus, we took our own trip to the coast, near Manzanita, and we camped out a night to give him a bit of a ‘vacation’. Contrary to what it seems, Billy did not study on this trip! We got to our secret camp spot late, leaving Portland after class and were sad to discover one of our secret camp spots was taped off. It was dark and we were running out of gas, so we decided not to investigate. We found a gas station instead and continued on to our backup spot. All worked out in the end. In the morning, we hiked around on the beach at Oceanside, munching a lovely hot mid-day meal in the sunny parking lot like a tailgate party–complete with beer, wine and coffee! We then decided to head to Cape Meares lighthouse. We saw the ‘Octopus’ tree, I was caught being a tourist, and then we found an amazing little path to a secret cove. I stopped the jeep and looked down the rocks–spotting basically a dark hole in the bushes and I sniffed out the trail. Turns out it was a locally known spot–the trail itself kept up by volunteers and lovers. There were many crab shell, rock, driftwood, chalk drawing shrines and a strange human-made waterfall/drainage. Anyway, it was a good sunny spot, in which we stayed and relaxed in lawn chairs until dark.

A Couple O Grommets

grommet [ˈgrɒmɪt], grummet 4. (Individual Sports & Recreations / Swimming, Water Sports & Surfing) Austral informal a young or inexperienced surfer (from the Free Dictionary.com)

Billy here:  We just got back from our last foray to the coast, surfing, hiking and sight-seeing some beautiful beaches. The weather forecast of rain didn’t bother us, neither did the lackluster surf data showing small waves right on top of each other. We just went out there and learned a lot about each beach, our boards, our own attitudes about our abilities and relationship with the water. As OregonSurf.com says:

All of the info available to us these days is great, but obsessing over the data is going to make you crazy and cost you a lot of great surf sessions. And it is important to keep in mind that most of Oregon’s surf spots are beach breaks, not reefs, and are therefore very fickle even under otherwise predicable conditions. Basic rule of thumb, just go!

Our friends Jane and Maren, along with their baby Pomeranian Salty, joined us for a couple of days to surf. We have been coming up with names for our surf gang (which my sis Shannon is an honorary member) ranging from “Meat on the Bone” to “Escuela Vieja”, but Maren’s suggestion, Platypi, just might stick. The platypus is a weird anomaly of a water creature. Seems like a good fit.

We surfed all along the coast from Cannon Beach to Otter Rock, soaking up sun and rain alike and discovering hidden gems (such as Hebo Lake) and shady detours (such as the good ol’ boy Sand Lake overrun with 4x4s, “Those sands dunes aren’t going to destroy themselves!” our friend Maren quipped). My favorite place by far was Devil’s Punchbowl at Otter Rock. It is a sandstone formation at the tip of an ocean headland at Otter Rock, which was carved out by the sea. Underneath one side is open to a tide pool designated as a marine garden, where you can walk inside the sandstone “bowl” and watch the waves crash through an arch into the ocean. At high tide, the bowl fills with water and submerges the tide pools. There is something otherworldly and dreamlike about the place, like slot canyons in Utah. All in all, we have had a fantastic time surfing and getting in shape hiking sand dunes and up and down capes.

Now we are getting ready to hit the trail tomorrow!

spence here: its hard to remember all the things we have packed into the last few days.  i have been living so presently, lately, that memories and the future seem to feel like the same thing.  did i dream we went surfing and saw seals and cormorants? we definetly did that. did i almost lose my cool during a sandy, rainy, tarp gone wild situation?  yup. did i finally stand up on my surfboard and feel the rip tide pull me into a sink hole? yup. have i walked 15 miles and seen the mountains open up before me at 6,000 ft up?  not yet! maybe this week!

one of the highlights of our second surf mission for me was the beach called otter rock. the surfers/people seemed really laid back, and even though it got crowded on a sunny sunday afternoon, it still felt like an expansive beach, with room for everyone to flop around. there were a lot of people that really knew what they were doing out there surfing, which was inspiring to watch.  but none of those people scoffed at the beginners and i had one guy tell me he was glad i was there.

another highlight was our epic “walk” around the bay ocean spit. i love this place.  if you are ever taking the three scenic capes loop drive along the coast between cape meares, cape lookout and cape kiwanda, you might not want to miss this little town and gigantic spit.  it is just south of the town of garibaldi.  it ended up being a much larger spit than we anticipated, thus our “walk” was a bit longer as well, turned out to be 12 miles. but i’ve always wanted to see more of it, since i haven’t been there for a few years, when i took my birding class. awesome. flowers, birds, large-leafed prehistoric looking dripping stalky plants, hidden trails, rocky beach, strange overgrown old campgrounds.

yet another highlight was our time with jane and maren. playing cribbage in their sweet euro-van with a sliding glass window was a good time. cape lookout beach and our beach combing discoveries,  pacific city and the pelican brew pub.  i ate some fish and chips. i’m very thankful that they lended us their extra surf board as well.  it enabled billy and i to go out on the water together, and i must say, i’m a fan of the zebra-striped “pig-board” (a name i’ve given to it from the movie “point break”).  i caught a lot of waves on that thing.  finally getting the hang of it.

lastly, before going on our hiking segment of the summer, i am feeling extraordinarily appreciative. surfing and exploring really helped me clear my mind and enjoy more of what comes to me. going out into the water and feeling the power of the waves, appreciating the sun and sea smells. i also wanted to say a great thanks for all the wonderful support and enthusiasm we’ve received from all our friends and family. i think that has been my favorite part of all this. happy solstice! and here we go with the photos…