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Seaside Stories

The Tale of the Driftwood Forts

September 1, 2011 | by Julie

When I was a kid, I lived in Washington State, and every summer my family visited the Oregon Coast. Although we most frequently haunted Seaside and Cannon Beach, we also went to Lincoln City. On our vacations, we would spend hours combing the beach and collecting soda cans to turn in for candy money.

At times, there was so much driftwood on the sand that the sand was barely visible, and the nooks and crannies of stacked-up driftwood were certainly more than any kid could resist. So we climbed, slid (until we once got slivers-ouch) and found forts in the driftwood where we huddled and let our imaginations go wild. We were careful to not make campfires in the middle of the stacks, but the stacks did become our “houses”. We were somewhat disappointed to learn on our next trip that our houses were gone. But of course, it didn’t take us long to find new ones.

Driftwood forts are unique and if you’ve been in one, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. The wood does a good job of filtering out sound and it offers a sense of peace to duck below and experience the quiet. No matter how warm the day, the sand is cool to the touch, and often undisturbed. Once in awhile, unique treasures can be found including shells, rocks, smooth glass and items left behind from other visitors. We commonly found one shoe, or one flip-flop and (more unusual) coins, buttons and left-behind sand shovels.

Here in Seaside and in many towns along the coast, there has been a general decline of driftwood. We see pieces here and there but rarely the massive stacks that used to litter the coast. I am reminded that, throughout the years, the ocean changes…yet remains the same. Is the reduction in wood due to society making better use of our natural resources? I don’t know. I do know that having less driftwood swing ashore is likely safer for both people and wildlife alike and although it is a good thing, I always wished that I could show my kids how we used to find forts within the stacks.

Last weekend when we were traipsing on the beach, I did get that opportunity. We found a fort made entirely of driftwood. Inside was a driftwood bench, and plenty of room to sit and enjoy the dull roar of the ocean on the other side of the wood walls. Someone had likely stayed there and we didn’t stay long, just in case someone was coming back.

I realized that it is a fort of a different kind. Not one that nature made, as we used to play in, but one that man made, by dragging driftwood to where it was needed. It was different, yet offered me at least a small opportunity to show my kids what driftwood forts are all about.  And it was worth it when they sat on the bench, paused to listen to the muffled sounds outside and said “Hey mom, this is cool.”

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