Nothing Peaceful about the Pacific

Current location: Harris Beach State Park, Oregon  Clear and sunny predicted high 61F

shore birds at Harris BeachAs anyone knows who has lived near the Oregon coast, the Pacific Ocean in this part of the world is anything but peaceful. It is wild, raging, cold, and big.  Waves are monumental, even historical in some places.  The wind often blows relentlessly, the skies are often stormy, although we have been blessed on this trip with brilliant sunshine. 

I never thought much about this face of the ocean until I visited other places where the seas are gentle and the surf laps at white sands like a kitten at milk.  Last night when we hiked down to the beach, my first thought as I stepped onto the sand was, “Oh my gosh!  I forgot how dark the sand is here!”  Before our Florida visit, I never gave it much thought, it was simply ‘sand’.  Although as a sand collector, my jars of sands from around the world run the gamut from white to brown to gray to yellow to brilliant red, even black.  There is a black sand beach just south of here on the California Lost Coast, so I didn’t have to bring it from Hawaii.

evening walk down to Harris BeachThe winds in Brookings were howling yesterday afternoon, with a steady 20 mph blow.  The ocean as far as I could see was whipped up into a frothy frenzy, and the waves crashing over the rocks had long veils of wind-whipped mist.  It was beautiful, and energizing, wondrous to behold.  Not peaceful or necessarily relaxing.

There weren’t many people down on the beach due to the wind, but a few hardy souls braved the wild weather.  We saw a young woman get out of her car and climb the big rock overlooking the largest sea stack island on the Oregon Coast, Bird Island, also sometimes called Goat Island.  She stood in a few yoga poses, a rather amazing feat in that wind, and then I heard her voice against the wind in prayer.

woman chanting to the ocean at Harris BeachDown on the beach, a lone woman with gray hair to her hips was raising her arms toward the wild waves and chanting and singing loudly toward the sea, oblivious to us and our dog as we walked behind her in the wind. Crowds are definitely not a problem when visiting the beaches in Oregon.  It is always a bit of a shock to me to see people lined up arm to arm with umbrellas and towels on those beautiful white Florida sands vying for space.  Not here. 

Another difference:  both in Texas and Florida, along the Gulf Coast, we found beaches, long level gorgeous beaches where you could walk as far as you could manage.  There was nothing to make you actually turn around and walk back.  Here, walk one way and get stopped by cliffs, another way the jumble of rocks is too complex to navigate, or the tide has come in and there is another small sea stack blocking your progress.  I saw no tide pools in Florida, or in Texas.  I saw so many beautiful shells, but no agates or crazy weathered sea rocks.

north on Harris BeachThere are three major routes down to the beach from the campground.  The first route is a road, paved, but rather steep, and that route ends at a large parking lot.  There is an accessible paved trail down to the sand, restrooms, and picnic tables.  From this area, the beach can be accessed either along the paved trail, or to the north down a short rocky walk over huge driftwood logs to the north end of the beach.

wind whipped Mo at Harris Beach at the accessible walkwayThe second major route is called the South Beach Trail, another steep, but narrow path that has been partially paved to withstand the severe beach erosion that can destroy it annually.  We like the South Beach Trail, and Abby likes it as well because it leads outside the state park boundary and she can be off leash.  It is a bit more distant from our campsite, so last night we chose the road to get down to the beach.  Walking back up the same way is a boring long steep haul up. 

Instead of returning that way, we found the meandering path the winds over rocks and driftwood, and then up another steep and very narrow Rock Beach Trail that ascends an overlook with benches to enjoy the view. 

found the middle trail up to the overlookWe have hiked down this trail before, but going up was much easier.  None of these trails are particularly long, and ‘real’ hikers might get a bit bored with them.  We saw plenty of real hikers in the park, loaded down with backpacks, hiking the coast.  There are many beautiful, long, and strenuous trails in the vicinity, especially at the nearby Samual Boardman State Park, but we simply haven’t wanted to find them.  We come to Harris Beach to relax!  No matter how many times we visit, the beach is never the same.

up the Rock Beach trail at Harris BeachAnother fabulous feature of the beaches here is that they are dog friendly.  Some areas require leashes, but there are many off leash areas nearby where Abby can run, chase balls into the surf and hike the trails with us on her own.  After spending so much time trying to find dog friendly places along the Gulf Coast, it is wonderful to be back in the happy dog land of Oregon

For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, in spite of the high winds above us and around us, our little campsite on the northeast side of the campground was protected.  Our awning barely fluttered, and then only now and then.  After returning from the beach we couldn’t believe how still the air was in our space.  Mo built a nice hot campfire without a bit of trouble from the wind.  Above us, we could see the giant spruces whirling around, but the campfire smoke didn’t even go in circles as usual, it rose in a nice column straight up most of the evening.  Crazy, but welcome.Rock Beach Trail at Harris Beach State Park

Rock Beach Trail at Harris Beach State Park

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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