August 25, 2018

Exploring Cannon Beach, Oregon

Foggy mountain tops, dense green forests, rocky shores, and glistening waves… these are the ways that I would describe the beautiful landscapes we explored in Oregon. My family had first visited the Beaver State back in 2013. While I don’t remember much from that vacation, I do recall a lot of fond memories being made three years later during my high school chamber choir trip to Portland and Astoria.

Before my sister and I went on our choir trip in that year of 2016, we had recently discovered the video game called Life is Strange which is based in the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon (click here to read my detailed review of the game). We started to develop an emotional connection to the game’s unique characters and intriguing storyline. We also enjoyed listening to their soundtrack of instrumental guitar melodies and indie folk songs. The more episodes that we played, the more we fell in love with Oregon and desired to visit there again.

Fast forward to this year and now my sister’s dream is to someday own a coffeehouse off the coast of Oregon. This past spring she graduated high school, so my mom thought it would be a good graduation gift to take her and the whole family to Cannon Beach. I was overjoyed to be going back to the beautiful state and have more than just a few days to really absorb all the coastal scenery.

Unlike our Eastern Europe trip earlier this summer where we had a fixed itinerary that took us to new cities almost every day, our vacation in Oregon would be much more laid-back and relaxing. We stayed at a Sand Castle Condo that had a slight view of the Pacific Ocean to enjoy from our porch. The living-room and bedrooms all felt super cozy, so I’m glad that we decided to stay there for the whole of our trip which was 5 days.

The beach was a close 2-minute walk away from our condo, so we would always start off our mornings by walking to and from the famous Haystack Rock, a recognized symbol of the town. Geologically, the Haystack Rock is a 235-foot sea stack composed of basalt that was first formed by lava flows springing from the Blue Mountains and Columbia basin. The other three, smaller rocks that are near the Haystack today are referred to as: “The Needles.” It was interesting to see the sea gull wildlife on the top of the stack. There were tons of the wild birds flying around the rock as if to guard their sacred home.

The cedar shingle siding of the houses along the beach reminded me of the pictures that I’ve seen of Nantucket and Cape Cod. My mom described to me how leaving the cedar shingles untreated will eventually cause the wood to fade into gray. I wouldn’t mind living in a house with that kind of siding along with large windows that overlook the foggy beach.

Our early morning exercises across the shore always helped my family to fully wake up, and then my sister would recommend local beaches and state parks for us to visit afterwards. The longest time we were ever in our car was around 30 minutes, so it was nice to have so many amazing scenic destinations conveniently located around the Cannon Beach area.

Did I mention that Cannon Beach is known for their cute, wild bunnies everywhere? I wasn’t surprised when my sister discovered that there was even a Facebook page entirely dedicated to them. We saw so many wild bunnies of different colors and sizes resting near or hopping across the streets as we walked to the beach every morning which was always something to look forward to. Sometimes we’d see young kids feeding them raw carrots or wild raspberries which the bunnies especially seemed to enjoy munching on. They must be so used to humans feeding them because they almost never flinched when we tried to get closer to them!

After our first day of resting and recuperating from our 5-hour flight to Portland, my family and I were eager to explore the Cannon Beach Mall. If you’ve ever been to the charming shopping mall in Cape May, NJ, then think of the Cannon Beach Mall as its West Coast version! We enjoyed browsing through the many souvenir shops and surprisingly found a smoothie/coffee bar in one of them. Shopping is always more fun when you have a refreshing berry smoothie in hand, am I right?

Which came first? (The chicken, obviously!)

We also came across a decently-sized candy store called Schwietert’s Cones and Candy which sold every type of normal and out-of-the-ordinary candy you could imagine. I had not enjoyed a caramel apple in so long, so I’m glad that the store was selling them! Both times that we visited the shop during our trip, there was always country music playing inside (Luke Bryan’s songs, as expected).

I loved visiting some of the local art galleries, my favorite being Steidel’s Art which features fantastical art and depictions of Cannon Beach. My sister and I both loved the work called Castle Haystack so we ended up buying two 5.5” x 8.5” frames of the painting to take home with us.

For lunch, we enjoyed some fresh seafood at the Local Grill and Scoop. The staff was very friendly and accommodating, and the snow crab that I ordered was delicious! We even struck up a friendly conversation with the family sitting at the table next to us. They happened to live in Portland and were spending the day at Cannon Beach with their newborn baby (so cute!).

Once we had our fill of shopping and eating, we drove to the nearby Ecola State Park. Though the word sounds like “ebola” (at least to me and my sisters lol), “ecola” means “whale” in the Tillamook language.

We were delighted with the park’s view of the coast and foggy mountains beyond. William Clark, while searching for a beached whale with his 12-member team near Cannon Beach in 1806, had stumbled upon the viewpoint and wrote down in his journal: “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed…” I can understand why he felt that way! Both days that we visited the park were sunny and bright, so I’m happy that the weather always gave us a clear view of the beach below.

Another highlight of our Oregon trip was finding so many tide pools at Hug Point Park. The week before we had left for Oregon, I had decided to read the classic Twilight novel again (I think the last time I read the book was back in middle school)! I was fascinated with Bella’s description of the tide pools that she observed when she was with her friends at La Push beach. I didn’t remember reading about the tide pools before or how they essentially fostered aquarium life right on the beach for anyone to admire.

I instantly became fascinated and grew more excited to go to Cannon Beach and find some real-life tide pools along the coast. Out of all the parks that we went to, Hug Point Park did not disappoint my big expectations. We came across so many green sea anemones and vibrant-colored sea stars that at the end of the day, I felt like I had truly lived my best version of Bella’s experience at La Push beach!

Speaking of La Push, my family and I were also able to visit the actual beach where the La Push scene for the Twilight movie was filmed. Ya know, the part where Jacob accidentally spills too much to Bella about his ancient family tribe of werewolves and their history with the cold ones? The actual location for the Twilight movie scene was in Indian Beach, Oregon. It was a peaceful drive to the beach as we drove through the murky, green forests.

I remember first looking at the beach and feeling my jaw slightly drop. Popular movie scene aside, the beach by itself made me swoon with admiration! It looked like such a serene setting with the sun shining down on the tide pools, the waves gently rippling, and the sky blending in with the soft, white clouds beyond. The young toddlers playfully skipping across the pools with their pet dogs close behind only added to the memorable view.

I could not wait to walk along the shore. As I expected, the water was extremely cold so I only let my feet get slightly wet. My family and I found many sea anemones and sea stars hiding in various places near the rocks. I even spotted a small hermit crab using his two large claws to pick at green kelp for food! I was actually very proud that I had discovered the hermit crab by myself since my family always seemed to spot every other sea creature before I could (probably because I was obsessed with taking too many pictures of everything)!

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

Pink anenome!

The third day of our trip, we visited Arcadia Beach where the fog practically covered everything so we could only see 20 feet ahead of us! I found a large rock formation that seemed friendly enough to climb on, so I decided to be bold and climb up halfway. Of course, that presented a great photo opportunity so my mom happily obliged me. I almost felt like a mermaid up there, perched on the rock and looking towards the sea while I waited for the tide to rise so I could jump back in. Can you tell that Ariel was my favorite Disney princess?!

Very foggy!

On the way back to our condo we passed a sign that indicated the North Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain Trail, so we decided to park and explore some of the forest while we had the opportunity. It was nice to hike under the shade of the foggy trees and admire the wild hyacinths.

About half-way through our trip, I started to become curious as to why Cannon Beach had its particular name. I mean, out of all the things the local people could have chosen, why would they want to associate their beach with a cannon? So I did some online research and learned about the USS Shark’s shipwreck back in the 1840s. After crossing the Columbia Bar, the crew had decided to weigh anchor without taking proper precautions. The ship had unfortunately become stuck in the Clatsop Sand Spit and started to tremble and split apart, forcing the crew to quickly evacuate. The ship was left to break into pieces overnight, and so the twelve cannons it had once carried were lost under the sea.

In 1846, one of the cannons was first spotted by the native Tillamook people. Decades later in 1898, mail carrier, George Luce, had detected the cannon and was able to successfully pull it out of the sand with his neighbors and their team of horses. The cannon is now preserved at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum.

Although my family didn’t plan enough time in our trip to browse through the Cannon Beach museum, we were able to visit a couple of awesome museums during our stop in the historic town of Astoria. My sister, McKenna, was especially excited for the movie exhibits at the Oregon Film Museum. Of course, my family and I watched The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop while we stayed in Oregon. It was exciting to see the same places that we had visited in our favorite movies. For example, The Goonies featured the Haystack Rock, and during the outside ceremony in the movie, Kindergarten Cop, the same view that we took in at Ecola Park was featured in the distance!

At the Oregon Film Museum, we learned that over 300 movies have been filmed in Oregon (including the Twilight series, of course)! The museum is comprised within the former Clatsop County Jail, so the rooms were very compact but it made the atmosphere of the exhibits more intriguing. In one of the prison cells, we found a whole boatload of Goonies merchandise! Fun fact: the museum officially opened on the 25th anniversary of The Goonies' release.

The other museum we visited was the Columbia River Maritime Museum. We toured the interior of one of the Coast Guard boats, and then looked at some artifacts including boat parts, ancient maps, and old salmon and fish labels from the 1900s. The most prominent thing I learned from the exhibits as a whole was how dangerous the Columbia Bar truly is. Sailors nicknamed the river bar: "the graveyard," and shipping vessels still have to travel through it everyday to maintain the economy despite all the risks they take to cross through it. It's even considered the most treacherous river bar in the world with hundreds of sailors lost at sea from major shipwrecks since the mid-1800s. I definitely have a lot more respect for the brave men who face those rough waters everyday!

Driving through the streets of Astoria and admiring the fishing boats along the sea reminded me of how charming the old town is since I last visited it in 2013. I enjoyed the lookout view from The Column, a famous tourist attraction that shares details and artifacts of the historic trip that Lewis and Clark once took around the Columbia River. Beyond the tall spruce trees were sloping blue hills with a little fog looming over them which made for a peaceful view. It was fun to see visitors flying wooden airplanes over the top of the lookout and see where they landed. I remember my sisters and I flying our own planes over the column when we were young. Seems like ages ago...

Our week in Oregon was a relaxing conclusion to the summer, and I'm grateful that I got to experience so many scenic places off the Northwest Coast with my family. Have you ever visited Oregon? Do you love the Northwest Coast as well? Let me know in the comments below!


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