A stormy Oregon Coast provides colorful tide pools

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Nora waits for a wave to recede among tide pools.

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California barnacles cling to a rock amongst tide pools.

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Many starfish and mussels reside in a cleft at Haystack Rock.

Editor's Note: Part 1 of this rainy foray to the Oregon Coast appeared in this section last Wednesday.

CANNON BEACH - After a full day and night of black clouds and torrential rain, a faint morning light seeped through the window of the inn.

The clock said 6:42 a.m.

I hustled into the clothes and rain gear. I hooked a camera over a shoulder and snapped Nora the Schnauzer to her leash.

I promised Darlene our return to the inn for the 9 a.m. breakfast. We headed for Tolovana Park, five minutes from Arch Cape.

I planned to reach Haystack Rock well before low tide, scheduled for 8:14 a.m. on that Wednesday in early April. Experts suggest an hour or two before makes for the best tide-pooling.

I wheeled the truck into the empty Tolovana Park and stopped facing the Pacific with The Rock in view to the north.

Haystack Rock stands 235 feet high at low tide, and in the early morning mist it appeared at least as wide as tall.

According to "Oregon Coast Tide Pools: The Complete Guide" (at beachconnection.net on the Intertnet), "This is perhaps the best place to send people on the entire coast," says (Tiffany) Boothe (with the Seaside Aquarium). "Not only are the pools crawling with life, but there are also people there (in summer) to tell you about the critters you are seeing," she said. "You can expect to find sea stars, hermit crabs, anemones, purple shore crabs, small sculpins, mussels, limpets, nudibranchs, sea urchins, chitons, sea cucumbers, red rock crabs, porcelain crabs and birds - including puffins."

With no other tide-poolers in sight, I shouldered the camera and let Nora jump out.

She needed no encouragement and bounded northward across the mirror-like sheen of sand.

I quick-stepped beneath a darkening sky toward the reflections of massive and needle-like rocks on the sand. The distant Tillamook Head formed a dark background.

The Rock and the area around it receives protection as a Marine Garden and as a National Wildlife Refuge.

In an 1846 example of drift-cannons, one from the U.S. Navy schooner Shark washed ashore north of Arch Cape and a few miles south of the Elk Creek community, now the city of Cannon Beach.

The schooner wrecked later in an attempt to cross the Columbia Bar. Two more cannons, possibly from the Shark, washed up at Arch Cape on the weekend of Feb. 16, 2008.

As we drew close, details of the rocks became more evident, including craggy surfaces, yellowish algae, metallic green plants and dark mussels in the unrelenting clasps of tan barnacles.

Nora and I waded among barnacle-sheathed boulders and peered intently into pools at the base of The Rock.

I saw the usual anemones, mussels and barnacles. I studied pools carefully for sea urchins, porcelain crabs, red rock crabs, hermit crabs and purple shore crabs. I kept a careful watch for puffins on The Rock.

Alas, I saw no crabs or puffins.

I eventually spotted a pair of purple sea stars locked tight to a rock. Then, around the north side of The Rock, more stars than I could count fastened tight in clefts near the sand level, including purple and bright orange ones.

When a small wave receded, I crossed a pool to get close to the stars and Nora followed.

Then larger wave cut us off with water well over the tops of my boots.

A man and a boy watched our dilemma.

"It will recede in a few minutes," the man said.

It did, and I stepped across.

But Nora stood on a rock and waited.

And waited.

Then, the worried boy waded in and picked her up. I missed the photo of her licking his face, but I thanked him.

Shortly after that, when the rain arrived, we headed home toward the Arch Cape Inn for breakfast.

Perhaps a few minutes late would be OK.

Perhaps not.

Editor's Note: Part 3 of this report from the Oregon Coast will appear in this section next week.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com. More of Don's photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com .

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