Cannon Beach Oregon

Haystack Rock at Sunset
Haystack Rock at Sunset

The Oregon coast is a dreamland.? Highway 101, which runs along the coast from Astoria down to Brookings,?is the gateway to?a 340-mile?collection of misty beaches,?wide sea stack filled bays, and?incredible endless surf.??Around every turn in the highway is an amazing?new vista, the view often better than the last, promising that the next viewpoint will be even more breathtaking.

One such incredible vista, Cannon Beach, is located about 20 miles south of Astoria.? Cannon Beach has to be considered as the?jewel in the Oregon Coast.??A popular destination, it has been visited by humans?for centuries.? It is both?scenic and wild in its demeanor, and always memorable, mainly due to?its key feature,?a 235-foot basalt sea stack named Haystack Rock.

You may have seen Haystack Rock before. ?Undoubtedly, it is the most photographed natural feature in Oregon and is featured on many travel guides. It is also Hollywood famous, being shown in the opening scene of movie ?The Goonies? and also in one of my favorite flicks, Steven Spielberg?s ?1941?, where it poses as the California coast in the opening beach scene.

Haystack Rock is mighty and magical. It seems that every time you look at it, the Haystack takes on a different persona.? In the morning sun it is green and lush, in the fading sunset it is dark and ominous.? At high tide it stands tall as wide Pacific breakers crash all around it.? At low tide it is more serene as a mossy home to mollusks and seabirds. In fact, the rock is a protected nesting site for sea gulls, terns and puffins.

The sunsets at Cannon Beach are second to none. I was there for two nights and each sunset had a different look and feel. ??People gather on the beach just for the sunset event, most of them arriving with a camera in hand. Groups pose in front of the setting sun and many more gather near Haystack Rock for a chance to include the behemoth in their sunset memory.? People stroll in the surf, or ride rented bicycles up and down the beach, providing additional photographic fodder to eager shutterbugs.

Tandem bicycle on the beach
Tandem bicycle on the beach

The beach stretches out in both directions as far as the eye can see. I walked pretty far on the beach but I never reached the end. The brown beach sand is loose, but if you walk near the surf it is hard packed and easy to stroll upon. Or better yet, take off your shoes and walk in the surf. The water is cold but it is refreshing. Cannon Beach was never really crowded. Maybe there are more people at the beach on the weekend, as I was there on a Sunday evening through Tuesday morning.

Haystack Rock sits in the “intertidal” region of the beach, meaning that it can be reached by land at low tide.? The Haystack Rock tide pools are home to starfish, sea anemone, crabs, chitons, limpets, and sea slugs. ?Included in my hotel room was a small book of current tide tables. The first thing you are to look up is the time of low tide. Low tide is a prime time to walk on the beach and also to get up close to Haystack Rock.

A view of the Haystack from my hotel room at the Surfsand Resort

At the Surfsand Resort, where I stayed, the rooms are cozy and they are all very close to the beach. My room included a balcony overlooking Haystack Rock, which was nice.? When I woke up in the morning I could see the towering sea stack, in all its glory, absorbing the heat of the morning sun.It was nice to be staying so close to the beach.? The soft sand was only a short stroll from my door.? A walk on the beach did not have to involve any footwear what so ever!

Other than Yellowstone, this is one location that I visited that I really want to come back to. I will be back!

Cannon Beach Gallery

Location

Mount St. Helens at the Johnston Ridge Observatory

The valley between the Johnston Ridge Observatory and the mountain is remarkable
The valley between the Johnston Ridge Observatory and the mountain is remarkable

Today I drove from Vancouver, Washington to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, overlooking Mount St. Helens.

It was overcast, so the chance of seeing the mountain in all its glory was slim, but the opportunity to visit the blast zone and take some amazing photos was still there.

The drive up was great. It was Sunday morning, so the traffic was light. Still, It took two hours to reach the mountain.

The highway that leads all the way to Johnston Ridge is excellent. It approaches Mount St. Helen’s from the west. It includes many spectacular viewpoints and a few serious bridges that span rivers and canyons. There is a lot to look at on the way up the mountain.

The sun was shining when I arrived, and the valley below the mountain could be seen. It was beautiful. However the top one-third of the mountain was mostly obscured by clouds.

Every now and then a hole in the clouds would give a peek at a portion of the summit. As another visitor pointed out, it was like looking through a puzzle piece.

The summit features an interpretive centre with viewing windows, plus outdoor patios with benches, both for viewing the mountain or for interpretive talks given by the National Parks Staff.

Also at the summit, there is a great little walking trail that takes you up higher and away from the building, to even more spectacular viewpoints. The trail loops back to the parking lot, or at one point you can tackle other hiking trails that will lead you to Spirit Lake or even Windy Ridge, where I was two days before.

There were many sights to see other than the mountain. In the valley far, far below elk could be spotted. As well, wildflowers shared the landscape with gnarled stumps and snapped-off tree trunks that remain in the same state as they did following the eruption in 1980.

On the walking trail you will also see a memorial monument that shows the names of all the people that perished in the disaster. The monument is placed so that it faces Mount St. Helens.

After being on the summit for three hours, I decided that I had seen enough and headed down the mountain. It was wonderful to see so much, and to witness how nature is reclaiming this beautiful spot on our earth. It was definitely worth the trip.

Johnston Ridge Photo Gallery