The Pacific Coastline between Astoria and Brookings has some breathtaking tourist attractions. The Canon Beach is one such place. The wind is relentless and one must get a proper foothold unless one wants to be driven into the sea. In the distance is the Haystack Rock which rises like a black leviathan, about 235 feet above sea level. It is supposed to be the third largest monolith in the world and is 20 million years old. Lava flowed through the earth’s crust into the ocean, to form this giant structure. Winds, surf and glaciers have made inroads into its belly, leaving a cave like refuge which acts as a bird sanctuary. The outer surface is covered with marine life like anemones, crabs, limpets, sea slugs and others. At low tide especially in summer, the rock is accessible.
Two smaller rocks to the south rise straight out of the water and are called Needles. The area around these rocks is like a marine garden. The beach was called Ecola Beach till 1922, when a canon was salvaged from a wrecked ship and mounted on the beach. Locals assure us that this is the very best place to kiss on the North West coast.
Downtown Canon Beach is an affluent tourist destination. Ancient houses and landmarks are well preserved. Shops display paintings and art works which are beautiful to look at, but frightfully expensive to buy.
The northern end of Hemlock Street is the entrance to the Ecola State Park. A huge wooden whale commemorates the first meeting between the Americans and the native Indians. The Corps of Discovery saw the body of a whale (Ecola) on the beach, and thought they could get enough blubber and oil for their use. But the natives had taken it all away, leaving only a 105 feet skeleton behind.
The Ecola State park is an environmentalist’s dream with its lush forests and towering Sitka spruces, its wild life and birds of different plumage. There are numerous hiking trails that lead down to the ocean. Gray whales can sometimes be spotted on the beach in summer. But this doesn’t prevent adventurous surf riders from hitting the waves.
From the Ecola State park, a trail leads to the Tillamook Rock Light House. It sits atop a huge rock jutting into the sea, which is called “Terrible Tilly,” as many lives have been lost because of storms and boisterous waves that lashed it.
The Light House is 136 feet above the ocean and was operative between 1880 and 1957. Now it serves as a columbarium, where the ashes of the dead are preserved in urns.
It is difficult to believe that the Americans discovered the Pacific Coast only 205 years ago, when President Thomas Jefferson sent a team led by Lewis and Clarke, to explore the continent up to the ocean. They travelled 4000 miles to reach there. The native Indians had made it their home 10,000 years earlier.
Fort Clatsop is another place worth visiting. It was the last stockade encampment where the explorers stayed before returning home. Though the original structure was burnt down, a perfect replica was constructed in 2005 – a simple structure of cedar logs, with four rooms on either side and a passage between. Sacagawea the teenage girl who became wife and mother en route has been immortalized in American history. She served as interpreter, and peace maker between the Americans and Indians, and also helped them find food.
Nature and History make holidaying along the Pacific Coast an unforgettable experience. The constantly changing colour of the ocean from white to blue to green because of mist and fog is something that remains in the mind’s eye, long after we leave the place.