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Cannon Beach - A Beach Town

August 26-29, 2015
Written August 8+

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

d150826_02_path.jpg On Wednesday (8/26) we left Florence early for a long drive up the coast highway to Cannon Beach.  The day started gray, not quite fog, but definitely not sunny, fairly typical I'm sure.  Highway 101 is a wonderful drive, but a bit slow.  There are narrow bridges, twisty curves, and dozens of small towns and communities.  After 20 minutes we were already tired and hungry, so we stopped in Yachats (love that name) for breakfast and splurged with a cinnamon roll and crab omelet.  Marianne loved the first, I liked both.  We recommend the Drift Inn!
We continued a slow drive, one that would take almost seven hours for 132 miles. Curves, construction, vacation traffic, and village stops all took time.  In Newport, we took time out to look at a few of the glass workshops that are popular in this area.  I liked "Volta" in Lincoln City, but the last thing we need to drag around is breakable kitsch.
We had originally planned to stop for a factory tour at Tillamook cheese.  So did half the summer tourists on the road this day.  We could not find parking and determined that was a clue that crowds would be too much.  We tried the neighboring Blue Heron "French" cheese store, but saw little more than a large, grocery-store style refrigerator case of cheeses and the other half of the day's tourists.  Really, we had not been inundated with tourists before these cheese heads and we reached our limit quickly!

Two hours later, we reached Cannon Beach and almost immediately took a walk in the neighborhood.  Seven hours in the car had stiffened these old muscles.  We walked in both our own bunny-infested neighborhood and in "downtown", among the bars, restaurants, shops, and other tourist necessities.  Even in this busy end-of-summer week, the crowds were manageable.  (Parking, that bellwether of crowdedness, was easy enough.)
Bunnies, feral house pets, were everywhere.  Cute, but I imagine they make gardening difficult.
The evening walk on the beach was hazy and the sunset was golden, not red. Nice nevertheless.

d150827_02_daytrip.jpgOn Thursday, we cruised along north of Cannon Beach and I think I went nuts on pictures, so text will have to follow as I find time.  (Besides, many people don't even bother to read!)
The early morning beach in Seaside was just me, birds, and three hardy surfers.
The photo excursion worked up an appetite and Marianne and I stopped by Pigs 'n Pancakes for a healthy meal.  In fact, it has been tough sticking with our diets in this environment.  I hope there's not been too much damage by the time we find scales to weigh in on.

After breakfast, we headed up to Astoria, "the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies".  The town is at the mouth of the Columbia River and its history is the theme for the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  I like this kind of thing and Marianne allowed me to wander to my heart's content.  Balance for past art galleries.
The best display was of a Coast Guard rescue in the middle of the infamous Columbia River Bar.
The Museum also had the old Lightship Columbia on display. 
The living spaces looked open and generous, while at a stationary dock.  I imagine it was different, tossing like a cork for days on end in winter storms.  Normal duty was two weeks on and one week off, but one unlucky crew had to stay aboard for six weeks, when storms made the five mile transfer impossible for the extra weeks.
The light itself was an array of six train headlamps.
On the day of our visit, the Columbia was quiet and peaceful as the pilot boat made its run out to one of the ocean ships leaving for the trip across the bar.
Our other Astoria stop was at The Flavel House.  Captain Flavel was a successful river and bar pilot who developed local businesses to become the wealthiest man in the area in the late 1900s.  His retirement home is open to visitors. 
From Astoria, we went west to Fort Stevens, the most western place we could drive to in Oregon.  One of two forts that guarded the mouth of the Columbia, Fort Stevens has the distinction of being one of the only American mainland bases to ever be hit by enemy artillery.  In early 1942, a Japanese submarine lobbed nine rounds onto the beach below the batteries. Our visit was perfectly peaceful, both on land and out in the river bar.
d150827_50_dinner.jpgOn the way home, we stopped at the Wayfarer Restaurant for a 3pm meal.  The beach-front restaurant has a great reputation and the service was nice, but the neither-lunch-nor-dinner menu was limited.  Too bad.  The view of Haystack Rock was perfect.

The Wayfarer waiter suggested a visit to Hug Beach, a few miles south, and we took the suggestion.  Marianne sat on a beach log, while I tramped around taking pictures.  The beach was a perfect example of the Oregon Coast at its best.
The rough headlands are topped with trees precariously growing in the overhang.
The Hug Beach falls are very small due to the ongoing drought, even here in wet Oregon. (No kids fell off while I was there.)
Hug beach was named for the road original settlers blasted out around a point that interrupted the beach sand "highway".  The road "hugs" the rocks.
No sunset, but no energy left to go out loaded with the big camera and tripod, so it was all good.

Friday morning breakfast was back at the Wayfarer Inn and we enjoyed a nice, two-hour, meal with a wonderful view.  We recommend it!!

From there, it was into town for shopping and gallery viewing.  We started with Icefire, a glassworks with a very Oregon commercial approach: no wholesalers, no galleries, no selling website, just folks walking into the Cannon Beach workshop. We talked with Jim Kingwell and bought eight of his practice pieces - "comfortable" drinking glasses.  He makes a few of these every day, just to warm up, before he moves on to his wonderful color pieces.  Nice pieces.  Nice stories.
From there, it was over to the watercolors of Jeffrey Hull, a self-identified surfer who found a way to survive on the coast.  His work accurately gave the sense of the local, foggy, coast. Impressive skills, but I'm afraid watercolor strikes me as "decorator art".  Sorry.

d150828_13_bond.jpgNext door, we visited Blue Bond Studio and Gallery, art again not to our taste, but it at least had the smell of a real workshop!

After a few more anonymous studios and galleries, we did make another purchase: an eternally moving globe I had been looking at online for months.  In person it was even more interesting.  Drop by my office to see it in action.

Next, it was off to dinner at Newmans at 988, a cute yellow building with wonderful food.  This was a bit of a splurge, but worth it.  The duck and halibut were both done perfectly, although it took two times in the pan for the duck to be finished.
I suppose we should have walked a few miles after such a meal, but we settled for a few yards of just looking at wide open Cannon Beach.  This will be our memory.

Overall impression of Cannon Beach?  The quintessential Oregon beach town.  Pretty homes, dynamic beach, good shopping, good dining.  Worth a return trip.

Saturday morning and it is time to head to Portland, another story.

John and Marianne


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