Day 4 entailed a lot of driving, with a few stops along the Oregon coast mixed in. Our first attempt was a lighthouse very near Newport, but the line of cars just to get into the park was extending beyond visible range of the entrance so we took the hint from a few others in line, turned around and continued on.
The next stop was in Pacific City at a beach. I’m not sure what the initial motivation for going to *that* beach was, but when we got there it seemed like the thing to do was drive down onto the sand. Many vehicles, including a few cars were out there and we figured it must have been well enough packed sand to manage driving around. I really should have given more though to what was going to happen if we *couldn’t* drive around on the beach sand before pulling off the concrete ramp. At the end of the ramp was maybe 20-25ft of loose sand – we got through it to the packed area just fine, and once on the more packed sand could indeed drive around just fine. We got out and walked around a bit, but my desire to go wander was greatly limited by my realization that we might be stuck on the beach, which was too bad because there was a sizable dune that would have been fun to climb.
The Focus is a little front wheel drive car with standard all season tires and minimal ground clearance. These things should have registered earlier. I gave a few cautious tries getting through the sand, not wanting to get so far in that we couldn’t back out. After parking again to sit and consider the optinos, on the third try I got a bit more speed and just went for it figuring if we didn’t make it the difference of being down on the packed sand vs. stuck in the deep sand wasn’t going to be of much consequence. Fortunately, the result was a successful departure from the beach. On the way out, we noticed a tow truck at the ready up in the paved lot and realized that should have been a warning on the way in.
During the moments of deliberation, we did see one Cadillac driven by someone much less concerned with the consequences than we were. It was a rear wheel drive vehicle, I think, and at the end of the ramp the driver appeared to just punch it to see how far they’d get. They turned the other way (longer stretch of deep sand) and I think made it maybe 100 yards before coming to a halt. I’m not sure if they knew something I we didn’t, but they appeared to have been even less concerned about the return trip than I had been. Or, maybe they were just old and figured they had come this far to drive on a beach and damned if the tow truck fee was going to stop them.
Next stop (or maybe I have these backward) was the Devil’s Punchbowl, which is a bowl with a small inlet which supposedly has some very cool swirling currents. I took a few pictures and we walked around and down to the beach nearby, but though it may have qualified as an interesting structure, there wasn’t much activity. We did get to see a standup paddle boarder surfing along the rocks. We also got to see him failing to surf along the rocks, which I found more entertaining.
We stopped off at the Cape Meares Lighthouse and got a tour. If I recall the description right, it was the second highest lighthouse in Oregon (217ft), but the shortest (38ft) given it’s position on a cliff above the ocean. It was in a little state park which also included a short hike to the Octopus Tree, which was a bit like hiking through a tiny rainforest on the Oregon coast. We were on the lookout for puffins, but were skunked.
The real destination of the day was the haystack rock at Cannon Beach where we wanted to be at low tide to see some of the tide pool creatures. There was a road closed heading away from Cape Meares, so we got there a bit later than expected, but just in time for the maximum low tide and had a chance to poke around a bit. It’s a very popular place though and they had ‘guards’ keeping people behind a line. We got to see and get pictures of some of the life – mostly anemones and mussels. I’m not sure if there would have been starfish earlier in the day before the moved on out with the tide. This was also the less low tide, being about 3ft. higher than the other low tide of the day which had occurred around 4:30AM, so that may have affected our creature spotting opportunities.
It was a bit odd walking on the tidal plane. The sand was very firm, even to the extend that many people rode ‘normal’ bikes around – not road bikes, but not the new trendy fat tire bikes either. There were even vendors out there renting little tricycles. I guess this is also what made the beach in Pacific City driveable for the most part.
After our tide pooling, we continued the drive north to Aberdeen, WA. We wanted to get to Quinault on the West side of Olympic National Park that evening, but without a solid plan we didn’t have a specific place to stay for the night. When we got to Aberdeen, the option to just get a hotel won out and we stayed there (about 45 minutes short of Quinault) given that we expected limited hotel options further up the road anyway and didn’t really want to find a camp site in the dark.