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'Going to the coast' and other notes on Oregon beaches

My Georgia boyfriend got to be “Balboa for a day” last week. Balboa was, apparently, the first westerner to see the west coast. I thought that was Lewis and Clark, but I guess that makes me Northwest-centric. Balboa was Spanish. He saw the West Coast of South America.

The conditions at Cape Kiwanda, which caught him off guard, came as no surprise to me. We climbed to the top of the huge sand dune and peeked between our fingers, trying to see the view of the ocean before the wind whipped sand into our eyes. We shouted over the constant roar of the ocean. I laughed at his reaction when his feet hit the frigid waters of the north Pacific for the first time.

Yes, it’s always that cold.

I took one of those “which accent do you have” quizzes, and it said I was from either Vancouver or Portland, which I thought was pretty good, considering even most Oregonians don’t know where Mulino is. It pegged me based on two things: I say “kittycorner” and I “go to the coast” instead of going to the beach. I’ve since spent some time pondering the differences between the phrases.

Last week’s trip confirmed my suspicions. We don’t always “go to the beach” because we don’t usually go for the beach. We go for the wonder of where the ocean hits the land.

Going to the beaches in other places is always about doing something. His family goes to the Gulf of Mexico, where shells pile up in huge not-sand dunes. There, looking for shells is done with an intensity I had previously ascribed only to competitive sports. In the various and sundry tropical beaches, people snorkel and scuba dive — a magical experience, to be sure. In California, hundreds of people cram onto beaches to eat ice cream, drink beer, boogie board and surf and bathe in the sun.

On the Oregon Coast, these activities are secondary, if people do them at all. “Shell hunting” means walking along the beach and maybe pocketing a sand dollar or two. Only a daring few surf in the north Pacific and only in wet suits. And sunbathing – well, you know.

People come to the Oregon Coast to do one thing: experience the ocean. You may get a sand castle artist or two. It is not unusual to find photographers trying to catch a glimpse of the puffins that are said to live on Haystack Rock (I’ve never seen them). The children and dogs splash in the water and chase seagulls.

But the majority of people are just walking along the coast line, alone or in groups.

Our ocean is wild and beautiful. It roars constantly — I’ve heard there are such things as calm, quiet beaches but I’ve certainly not seen one.

If you want to do things at the beach, go elsewhere. You’ll be able to do them in more style and comfort.

If you want to experience the vastness and power of the ocean, go to the Oregon Coast. It can’t be beat.

— Rachel Lynn Aldrich is a former intern for the Canby Herald who has returned to work part time for the paper until leaving this fall for her senior year in college



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Canby

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Humidity: 86%

Wind: 7 mph

  • 24 Oct 2014

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  • 25 Oct 2014

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