Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park

There were two things at the top of my ‘To See/Do While Living in the Pacific Northwest’ list when we first moved up here last summer: (1) See a puffin, and (2) Go to the beach. Luckily, both were within a short drive from us during the warm weekends of summer.

We packed up with a buddy and headed west to visit Haystack Rock, a 235-foot-tall basaltic monolith on Cannon Beach which houses a multitude of nesting seabirds, including puffins.

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Haystack rock and the surrounding offshore islands are part state park and part national wildlife refuge, making for a confusing clash of children, kites, and joggers intermixed with tide pools, bird nests, and jellyfish. We arrived early enough in the morning to have nearly the whole beach to ourselves, with only a few joggers and the fog sharing it with us.

After wandering the beach for a while, we decided to visit an adjacent area not accessible without driving around to Ecola State Park: Crescent Beach. The beach is accessible by either walking north from Cannon Beach or via a 1.25-mile trail down some cliffs. First, though, we stopped at the picnic overlook, where whale watching and, well, picnicking are prime. If nothing else, the dog certainly enjoyed the view.

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After a brief break, we began our descent down the cliff to the beach, which was otherwise deserted during our time there.

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As the tide was receding, the intertidal zone hiding under the dark northern waters became more apparent. Dungeness crab, purple sea stars, flatworms, urchins, and small fish hid under rocks, limpets, and barnacles.

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The area was beautiful, and filled with life, even in the late summer. There was even the promise of new life in the coming year, as evidenced by this early instar, or caterpillar stage, of an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly.

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When we returned to Cannon Beach at low tide to further explore the tidal pools, several thousand of our closest friends had also decided the sunny afternoon and intermittent sea fog were a call to go to the beach, making walking and finding parking difficult. After a quick jaunt, we decided to head home for a well-earned afternoon nap.

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