We all have those days when we just need to escape. Living in Portland, Oregon gives me an array of venues, each providing a different scenic and meditative place where I can immerse myself. The northern Oregon Coast is one of my favorites as it provides an ever-evolving atmosphere for contemplation. When my everyday schedule starts to get the best of me, I gather my camera gear and head out. Rarely do I plan these trips as they are accessible day trips. The night before decisions are the best as they offer me an earlier start.
The northern Oregon coast is a magnet to many, especially those of a solitary artistic nature such as myself, for there are many wondrous areas to appreciate the variable moods and actions of the sea. This particular trip found me traveling northwest on Highway 30, along the banks of the Columbia River. A light drizzle traveled with me as I drove the dark highway with only the small passing town lights, and headlights of those heading into the city for work, lightening the predawn sky. Tension in my neck and shoulders begin to recede as I draw nearer to where the Columbia River meets the sea. My destiny close at hand, as is evident in the silhouettes of ships appearing in the beginning rise of the sun’s rays, as they light the peaks of the dark choppy waters of the mighty river on which anchored ships sit. Life is stirring as I drive through Astoria, Oregon, a town of antiquity and it’s four mile long Megler Bridge that spans the Columbia River.
Arriving at Cannon Beach the rising sun rays have begun to dissipate the early morning fog. I am in luck as the low tide is nearing its end, leaving a wide beach to stretch my legs.
Pools of salt water were left from the retreating surf around Hay Stack Rock, as crews begin to set-up informational signs about the tide pools, a signal to me that possibly a group of school children would soon be arriving. Wanting more solitude, I returned to my car and headed further south in search of my retreat.
South of Cannon Beach on Highway 101, I arrived at my destination, Arcadia Beach which is between Hug Point and Cannon Beach. Hug Point was an old-passage way for wagons and automobiles, before 1940, so-called because the roadway hugged the shoreline contours as it connected Arch Cape with Cannon Beach. With a trained eye one can see a piece of the abandoned section of this earlier roadway at low tide covered with colonies of anemones, mussels, starfish and sand.
Visiting this area of the Oregon Coastline in the middle of the week during the off-season, offers a meditative venue of nature’s art, especially at low tide. Massive rock formations, once connected to the coastline, stand separated by years of relentless pounding of the sea, evidences of such in the form of trenches, surrounded these Herculean pieces, trapping sea water and creatures alike. I am not drawn to view the old passage nor to sea life stranded in the pools, instead I find myself captivated by the abstract art formed by nature and where it leads one’s gaze.
I place myself and camera gear on the firm cool wet sand near a grouping of massive sentinels. My line of sight follows the artistic curve of the smooth-edged sand banks retaining shallow calm water that flowed slowly past the monolith sculptures of nature, each adorned with mussels, and sea anemones glistening in the sun’s rays. This watery path lead to the more aggressive waters of the sea that were instrumental tools in the design of these statures. As I contemplate each shot, I lulled not only by the beauty within my camera’s frame, but by the sound of the rhythmic waves of the reversing tide. A feeling of well-being and clarity enfold me. Relaxed, I am thankful for such an opportunity.
Pleased at my early arrival for I was experiencing the solitude I so desired as I ambled over to Hug Point Waterfalls, while the tide is still low. One must be ever so aware of one’s surroundings no matter where you are for various reasons. Here though, because of the tempestuous nature of the sea at high tide, one can become trapped or at worst pulled into it’s icy turbulence without provocation, by what is known as a sneaker wave. As in life nothing is as it seems. Do not be fooled by the calm, for calm is the opposite of turbulence and the two go hand in hand as a balance, as is the way with nature.
Arriving at Hug Point Falls I reclined upon the now sun-warmed accommodating sand and reflect upon the sounds surrounding me. This was the tonic I so needed. Born on the cusp of Pisces and Aquarius, I feel this is why I am so drawn to water. The source of arresting sounds of the fall of water over the small rise of Hug Point Falls and those of the over-lapping waves of the sea, allowed any remaining tension I retained, to completely drain away with each receding wave, as my mind and body became one with my surroundings. What a gift to oneself.
Distant voices interrupt my meditative state. Opening my eyes I saw the source, as an older couple strolled along the tide pools heading my way. Their beloved pet, of an indescribable canine breed, chased an occasional seagull and snapped at the items offered up by the waves of the incoming tide. Again I take up my camera and begin capturing the beauty that surrounded me.
As I capture nature’s art and it’s intent, more people arrived to beach-comb or to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Young adults were the last to make a trek along this beach, probably due to the previous late nights activities. Their young athletic bodies, with agile limbs, transverse the rocks as they noisily explored their surroundings. This did not perturb me for it filled me with adventurous thoughts of my own nimble youth and vitality. Though not as spry as I once was, I am grateful for these delays due to my age, for they afford me a more thorough exploration of my surroundings. As I watch their youthful enthusiasm, I am aware that they are not being truly appreciative. This will only come with time as I have had to learn. Our lives are paths which we must all take and each brings about a new awareness. We must not be critical of those who have not caught up or have surpassed our current path, for they have not traveled as far, nor have we traveled as far as those before us.
People are friendly here, a nod accompanied with a spoken “hello” from a smiling face prompts an enthusiastic reply. Some stop to chat about photography upon seeing my gear. Others proudly display their finds and mention where they found them. Children squeal as they run knee-deep in the icy waters, along with an occasional shriek when a wave pushes them from behind, soaking once dry warm garments. I come alive watching and capturing the human interaction with nature.
Hunger forces me to return to my car and since I did not pack a lunch I’ve decided to head back to Cannon Beach for a bowl of clam chowder at Moe’s. I enjoy this place for one can watch the goings-on along the shoreline. The chowder’s warmth spreads through me as I watch those bundled-up souls braving the icy wind as they stroll and play on the beach. A simple but pleasant meal break.
Not wanting to retrace my route, I decide to travel south along the coastline to Tillamook on my return trip home. More of nature’s art is seen in the wind sculptured trees that line the road, along with panoramic scenes of ocean waves, boulders and sandy beaches. I turn east and follow the shoreline of Tillamook Bay, passing through tiny fishing communities their boats dotting the bay.
I can’t resist the Tillamook Cheese Factory, the true reason for this chosen route, as I am a lover of cheese and here you can sample to your heart’s content before you buy. Let’s not forget the desert in the way of an ice-cream cone, dish or shake. The stress released by my journey so far has prepared me well in the practiced art of patience as I become one of the throng of tourists who visit here. Waiting in line I observe my surroundings and take in the many forms of human life. I like to think up small life stories to attach to those that interest me. It is a mental game I enjoy.
After purchasing my cheese and eating my one scoop of ice-cream in a cup, as I am always on a diet these days, I resume my drive towards home by taking Highway 6. Dairies, their pastures filled with black and white cows, spread across the landscape. Inland water-ways swell from the incoming tide as it reclaims its mark on the pillars of the piers and docks stationed along the banks.
The landscape changes even more as I make my assent up the coastal range, which is evident in the forest that grows there. Gone are the trees sculptured by the insisting coastal winds. The trees here have chosen their own paths, some standing tall and wide, others succumbing to the soggy soil as gravity pulls on them, their roots slowly relinquishing their hold. As I continue to follow the asphalt ribbon I have chosen, I feel the Pacific Ocean diminishing as I near the summit. Instead of dread or sadness, I feel gratitude that I am fortunate to have experience what I have this day.
Having reached the summit I begin my descent, again I take in my surroundings as the forest gives way to farm land, orchards and vineyards. Highway 6 connects to Highway 26, known to the locals as Sunset Highway. Here the traffic grows in numbers as it becomes a multilane freeway. The homeward journey lengthens as traffic becomes more congested when one draws nearer to entering the Portland Metro area. With the masses, I traverse through the south-east blocks of the city, my chosen route to bypass the more heavily congested routes. As I made progress I saw many things of photographic interest. I found myself not thinking of the heavy traffic but instead of how I need to come and spend another day in the city to experience and capture images of the life here.
Leaving the city behind I continue my way towards home, on the far south-eastern edge of the great Portland Metro area, the distant Mt. Hood stays in my sight on this last leg of my journey. It beckons me to visit it too soon, exploring it’s many trails with hidden alpine wonders to photograph.
I journal my experiences when photographing for they are such wonderful experiences of time taken to study ones surroundings. When processing my photographic image files I often write thought-provoking phrases to go with a group of photographs. Here is one from my experience that day.
Ride the waves of life for they will recede.
To see more Sea Escapes visit my website
©copyright 2011 Dee Browning All Rights Reserved