OUTDOORS - Life as a Beachcomber

Exploring beaches along the Oregon Coast can be so distracting, it can get some people in trouble.

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Seals take a break to sunbathe at Siletz Bay in Lincoln City on Don Davis' recent trip to the Oregon Coast.

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An historic bridge crosses the bay at Newport as the sun comes out after morning storms.

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The sun breaks through after a storm at the Oregon Coast.

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Waves roll in at Moolack Beach during Don Davis' recent Oregon Coast trip.

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The sun is out and the jacket comes off! Nora the Schnauzer plays keep-away with her coat on a windy day at the Oregon Coast.

NEWPORT, Ore. - The knife-edged wind rattled against my blue-and-white parka and black rain pants.

The parka's hood, zipped tight, covered my head and lower face up to my nose.

Nora the Schnauzer wore a light-blue raincoat that covered her back and chest. She pulled at the leash attached to my waist.

To keep up, I trotted down the 80 wooden steps from the motel and onto the storm-soaked sand of Nye Beach.

At dawn we had the beach to ourselves. I unsnapped the leash, and Nora raced across the sand.

Despite the wind, we had a 48-degree temperature. I soon felt too warm and unzipped my parka a tad.

I called Nora back and slipped off her rain coat. She bounded away like a deer. Then I dropped the coat. Caught by the wind, it sailed across the sand at 40 mph.

Nora gave chase, caught it and raced toward me, the flapping coat clenched in her teeth.

"Good dog," I said. "Bring it here."

No such luck.

Keep-away was her game, and it took 10 minutes to coax the coat from her.

Ah, I thought, the life of a beachcomber on the stormy Oregon Coast in April!

I scanned the wide expanse of wet, deep-brown sand dotted by several dark plastic balls used as floats by distant fishermen.

Most people ignore plastic balls, but they prize the rare ones made of glass.

My wife, Darlene, who chose not to comb the beach at dawn, said a few of the plastic balls should decorate our back yard.

I approached the closest ball. A ring of crud stuck to it. I moved it with my toe, and it rolled easily. Some have filled with water and don't move easily.

I left the ball, and we headed north into the wind, toward a jumble of rocks that form pools at low tide. A seagull surveyed its surroundings from a tire left on a rock by the high tide.

We poked around the rocks for an hour.

Then, a squall hit.

The wind roared.

The rain flew horizontal to the ground, spotting my cheeks and glasses.

A soaked Nora stood unblinking at my feet.

"You want to go back?" I asked.

She dashed down the beach to the motel on flashing legs.

So, that's how we began each morning during a recent week-long stay at the Oregon Coast: up in the morning, down to the beach and comb like the devil all day (well, for a couple of hours, until Nora ran her energy level down).

Then, Darlene, Nora and I became tourists. Once we drove south to Florence, stopping at shops, recreation and tourist sites.

And places to eat.

Another time we drove north to Tillamook, stopping at shops, recreation and tourist sites.

And places to eat.

And we combed beaches along the way, to let Nora run around, of course.

We visited Seal Rock, the Devils Churn Loop, the dunes at South Jetty at Florence, Heceta Lighthouse Beach, the Cobble Beach at Yaquina Head during low tide, Agate Beach, South Beach State Park, Beverly Beach State Park, Moolack Beach, Siletz Bay Beach, Fogarty Creek Beach and some other beaches with names I don't remember.

Needless to say, Darlene ended up with half-a-dozen smelly (in garbage bags) basketball-sized plastic floats for the backyard.

Some of the beaches made a lasting impression.

At Moolack, for example, I slipped on the wet-clay of a steep, deeply grooved path down a 20-foot cliff. I slid to the bottom with my butt on my left boot.

My bent left knee hurt like the dickens, but after I bounced up and groaned enough, the pain went away.

I wore the clay on my pants and camera bag all day.

Also, we twice walked in the sunshine at the driftwood-strewn beach along Siletz Bay before a late lunch at Mo's in Lincoln City.

Dozens of seals lay on the warm sand across the inlet, and Nora met friendly people and dogs.

I met a man carrying a handsaw. He looked for walking sticks, cured and smoothed by the salt water. He sometimes had to saw them loose from logs.

Then, Nora and I ended each day with another trek on the famed Nye Beach at the motel.

Once, after a long day of touring and shopping, we combed south with a strong wind and no rain at our backs.

We reached the dunes near Yaquina Bay in the dark. We wandered among them for some time, and I experimented with taking photos in the dark without a tri-pod.

Time slipped away, and when we returned to the motel Darlene stood outside at the patio door.

"I was just getting ready to go the office and get someone to go look for you," she said.

Oooops! We'd been gone more than three hours, and she worried that I'd pulled another Moolack Beach butt-slide and didn't bounce to my feet.

I apologized and assured her that Nora and I were sorry, that we would not to do it again.

I promised. Again.

Editor's Note: Part 2 of this report from the Oregon Coast will appear in this space next week.

Don Davis may be contacted at dondavis@wwub.com.

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