Monday, September 29, 2008

Caves, Canyons and Critters of Low Tide

The smooth surface of sand in this cove showed only the slight ripples where fresh water from a mountain steam dribbled a path to the Pacific Ocean. The only footprints on the sand wear mine and Ed’s yet we barely left a trace. The sand packed hard under our feet had been saturated and cemented solid by the outgoing tide.

At this time of day, waves washed beyond this sandy cove and revealed hollowed rocky caves. I squatted low to crawl inside a few. They did not go deep. They made arched passageways connecting one to another. I could see light from above in one. Like a whale’s blowhole, waves from high tides would later erupt through this hole sending up a spout of salt water. Now, I felt just a slight dampness near the opening of this natural ceiling. I found a weathered piece of driftwood wedged between two of the caves. And, I saw a stone shaped like a fossilized seal nestled in another.

The rocks of the caves created two narrow canyons along this stretch of coast. We climbed down as far as the rocky footing would safely allow. We wondered for a bit about how we’d get back up the rugged wall if we continued. Then we jumped anyway landing some three feet below. Mussels coated the walls around us. Starfish clung to rocks. Ed tried to pry a starfish from its hold without budging the critter. Anemones lay in puddles on the sand. I touched one and it squirted water out its spongy body at me.

We felt privileged to see this coastal landscape at low tide. One day later, we went back to this same spot. This time we visited at high tide. By contrast, waves covered the sand and thrashed the walls of the canyons. The caves were submerged. Fountains of water shot into the sky when the ocean’s pressure forced it though openings in the rocks. There’d be no safe passage now, no place to pose for a photo on the sand, just the fascinating, ever-changing face of the Oregon coast.

September 27, 2008

Mile maker 168 slightly north of Neptune State Park,
Oregon Highway 101

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