Seaside Stories

So Close, But a World Away

June 28, 2016 | by Dan Christopher

Kayakers paddle in the Necanicum Estuary

Exploring Seaside, Oregon’s outdoors

“Roll up your jeans—we’re getting in the ocean!” my girlfriend, Brooke, insisted.

I couldn’t argue with that. We were on a soft, beautiful, clean beach on the Oregon coast. The water was refreshingly cold, quickly waking me up after our drive out here. This was our first visit to Seaside and we’d decided to give it a go in my parents’ RV.

We saw Seaside as a great escape from long hours spent at our jobs. Though we had been dating for nearly a year, this was our first chance for a getaway. Our relationship was pretty young, but it was solid, and we’d been talking about marriage—this would also be a great new challenge.

I could feel a smile on my face as I embraced the vastness of the Pacific Ocean—a huge contrast to the quaintness of the community where we decided to play and unwind for the next couple of days. First up: Brooke and I becoming a Lewis and Clark—of sorts—on the Oregon Coast Trail.

Following in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark ended their historic exploration on these expansive shores more than 200 years ago, but a statue erected in the 1980s commemorating their journey stands to this day—it’s a bronze depiction of Lewis and Clark and Lewis’ dog, Seaman. Brooke insisted on stopping for a selfie with the trio on our way to a section of their trail.

We started our hike just south of the city at Tillamook Head. Tillamook Head is a craggy, ocean-splashed promontory that rises a thousand feet and juts out into the relentless tides marking the trailhead of the Lewis and Clark trail at Elmer Feldenheimer Forest Preserve. About a mile or 2 in it becomes Ecola State Park territory. We meandered south through the coastal forest of spruce and alder.

The mossy, fern-lined trail took us peacefully through switchbacks, around stumps and berry-thickets, up and down slopes, and along jagged cliffs.

This wasn’t a race, rather a leisurely “stop and smell the roses” sojourn. We enjoyed every twist and turn in the trail. The panoramic ocean views were awesome and at times you can eye the famous Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. As we paused to enjoy one particular vista, Brooke snuggled close and squeezed my hand.

Before long, we passed a camping area for backpackers. In the clearing were three little log shelters that another group of hikers told us are available first-come, first-serve for those wanting to spend the night. Sounded like fun to me.

Our hike south on the Tillamook Head trail ended in Ecola State Park. Surrounded by towering trees and dotted with picnic tables, the park is meticulously manicured and sits atop a bluff overlooking the village of Cannon Beach and monolithic Haystack Rock, one of Oregon’s most famous landmarks (we remembered it from The Goonies). At high tide, Haystack Rock towers above crashing waves. At low tide, as we could see, it was ideal for scores of beach visitors snooping for exotic critters in the tide pools. Another visitor, a mom of a couple of giggly children, mentioned that she did her research in advance online. She looked up the tide tables reports to find the best times for critter-inspecting.

Our return hike to Seaside was equally relaxing, though, the 6.3 miles seemed a little longer this way. As a final reward for our efforts, we were treated to the amber glow of the setting sun as it met its date with the horizon.

Before calling it a night and returning to our RV park, there was time to stroll around town a bit for a little window shopping. At one of the many spots on Broadway where you can pick up the treat, we bought a few bags of saltwater taffy to nibble and also bring home to friends. At another shop, I bought a bronze Haystack Rock keychain for Brooke. She loved it!

Quiet adventure

Wanting to make the most of our last Seaside day (of this trip) we opted for kayaking on the Necanicum and Neawanna Rivers, which wind through town on their way to the Pacific.

Serene. Quiet. Relaxing. We almost silently glided along the river. We heard little more than our thoughts and our paddles dipping into calm waters. As the outfitter recommended, we started out paddling north against the current so the trip back to dock would require little effort and afford us time for easy conversation. The suggestion also came with the tide tables in mind as the water levels are tidally influenced—in other words, shout-out to the outfitter since he was watching our backs for safety.

Sitting low in the kayaks, our shoulders were about the same height as the banks of the river. A few clouds decorated the blue skies. Occasionally we heard rustling in the tall grasses.

“Check that out,” I said, pointing to a bird’s nest near the top of a tall tree.

“Oh, look—an eagle!” Brooke pointed at the bird flying toward it.

We smiled at each other. I should definitely start shopping for more than a ring for her keychain, if you know what I mean.

Before we had to leave, we decided renting bicycles would let us get a good overview of the city and the beach. There were options, of course. Big Water Trikes. Surrey bikes. Mopeds. Even street legal electric cars and golf carts. But we went with the traditional style through Wheel Fun Rentals, touring the town starting near Broadway Street.

Mustering up our best pedal power, Brooke and I aimed for The Promenade, the concrete boardwalk that stretches south along the beach for a mile and a half. We passed joggers, skateboarders and parents with strollers.

We pulled off at a popular spot just off of Avenue U, well-known for surfing, but also a good spot for collecting sea shells or simply wriggling your toes in the soft, sandy beach. We set aside our rides for a moment, sitting down on a piece of driftwood, gazing at the horizon, the foamy waves and the giggling kids splashing in the surf. Fun.

Seaside is not far from the city. But to be sure, it is a world away from the urban din. For us, it was a great escape.

Find out what other great activities Seaside has in store!

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