Cape Falcon to Tillamook Bay, August 8th 2007.

Our camping beach for the night had steep cliffs behind it and the smooth black gravel was littered with occasional clumps of sharp red rock. Are these the remains of occasional landslides? (100% chance of rocks all falling on 20% of the beach?) Or are rocks always falling somewhere here? (20% chance of falling rocks everywhere?) Twice in the night I woke up to the sound of a rock falling on the gravel, suggesting the latter probability. However, none landed on or tents or even on the large tarp.

The rain quit early in the night but all our gear was still sopping wet in the morning and had to be packed away like that. I launched first and explored several small caves in the cove around our beach. The rock in this neighborhood looks like crystallized basalt and it breaks off in the most wonderful faceted surfaces. When Dick Ryon joined me we explored the rest of Cape Falcon and found many beautiful caves. One area here is called Devils Cauldron. I suspect when the waves are large they blow water out cracks and vertical holes in the cliffs everywhere.

In the middle of Cape Falcon is a public beach named Smugglers Cove, so I named our camping beach Ninja Cove. Smugglers Cove was one of the places where I had considered camping. An advantage of these public beaches is that we can get drinking water there. But we had already filled our bags at the waterfall in Ninja Cove so there was no reason to land in the surf at Smugglers Cove. We skipped past the beach and explored the second half of Cape Falcon. This section was spectacular rock gardening! The faceted basalt continued with many caves and arches. We found one cave that was over 100 yards long! Dick and I both entered through separate entrances and met in a large chamber. Then we saw a long cave leading clear through the point to the next cove! Despite seeing light at the end of the tunnel, when we paddled through this cave it got so dark we could not see the roof. Worrying about banging my head had me cringing and ducking every time a swell rolled through. Another cave, more of a tilted slot in the point, had a pillar of basalt, only 6 feet wide, rising out of the water and holding up the ceiling 20 feet above. You could choose to go either way around this obstacle in the middle of the cave.

Suddenly we came out of the last arch and saw miles and miles of dumpy sandy beaches lined with hotels and houses. The fun for the day was over. Well, the fun was not really over. Dotted down the coastline were clusters of rocks so we had something to look forward to every hour or two. Haystack Rock (the second one we passed on this trip), Twin Rocks with a wonderful arch in one of them. Castile Rock, which does look like a castle on a hill. Not a fantasy castle with towers but a real medieval European castle of a type I have seen in photos.

Around lunchtime we arrived at the mouth of Nehalem Bay and I promised Dick a civilized shore-based stand-up lunch. (Rather than eating sitting in our kayaks offshore). One way to do this would be to paddle a mile or two up river to where the jetties ended. Before we did that we looked behind the south jetty first. I had expected there to be calm water behind the south jetty of the Columbia River and been disappointed. But here at the Nehalem River we were pleased to find a channel of calm water all the way to the beach with no waves! The sky had started out overcast but cleared by the time we landed and we took off some of our gear and dried out the sweat from the inside of our dry-tops.

On the way to the beach Dick had noticed a strong current going out behind the jetty. I launched first after lunch and let this current pull me out. Then I turned into the spilling waves outside the protection of the jetty and surfed back in again. Even with my fully loaded touring kayak I was able to get a few fun surfing rides! This would be a fun place to play with a lighter more responsive kayak.

At the end of our paddling day we had several options for places to stay near the mouth of Tillamook Bay. Most of them required paddling 2 miles past all of the brick-brack of the long jetties. After the nice calm channel behind the Nehalem River jetty we peaked around the south jetty at Tillamook Bay and found another mild protected beach. We landed here despite a long hike from the water to the dunes and nothing to camp on besides sand. The sky stayed clear and all our damp gear dried out. The horizon had some clouds on it but we still had a spectacular sunset.

All text and images Copyright © 2007 by Mike Higgins / contact