One of the great things about Portland, Oregon is its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Portland, about an hour’s drive inland, tucked inside the elbow of the Columbia River Gorge (and spilling over it a bit), has its own water front, but when you want to see an ocean, it’s an easy day trip.
On our second full day in Portland, we headed to the coast. Our first stop was Cannon Beach. Pacific Northwest beaches are right up our alley. They offer interesting rock formations, sand dunes, and hikes through complex coastal ecosystems with more plant varieties than one typically associates with a beach. The Pacific coast is also open to the public–no private beaches are allowed–so you always know you can access the ocean.
Cannon Beach offers rock formations immediately off the coast and lots of sea gulls. Unfortunately, one of the more disturbing memories I brought back was of two headless seagulls, and both heads strewn further down the beach. I’d rather not think about what would behead two seagulls and not eat them. I’d like to think a predator like a beach-combing coyote or a large bird of prey (pterodactyl?) got interrupted.
Dead seagulls aside, we walked from the car across soft sand (which is a really great workout for your shins, should you be looking for one) to firmer but colder sand close to the waters edge. Then, we headed along the shoreline towards the largest rock formation within walking distance.
We discovered an inlet where the ocean hit the beach from two directions simultaneously. A channel had been created in the beach where the salt water ran far back, creating a large pool. Since the tide was coming in as we were going out, the channel was deep enough to reach to our knees. We rolled up our pants and crossed it.
As soon as we sunk our legs into the water, we started looking around for icebergs–it seemed impossible the water could be so cold without any nearby.
Seagulls in the distance flared up into a cloud of wings, rising like a stadium crowd doing the wave and then settling back down to continue loitering in the sun. Perhaps they were impressed by our daring.
After walking out to the rock formations, we turned to come back. We walked and walked, feeling like our destination wasn’t getting any closer. It’s funny how skewed distances can seem on a beach. When we’d started out, we thought the rock formations were less than 500 yards away. On the way back, we realized we must have walked closer to a mile. It was like one of those dreams where you keep running, but you’re not actually going anywhere.
At last, we returned to the seagull hang out in time to watch both a small boy and a teenage girl chase the gulls. The birds floated barely above the boy’s head, taunting him. I swear they were laughing.