The Oregon Coast : Nehalem Bay

I have been to the Oregon Coast a few times now and I’m always drawn to Nehalem Bay State Park near Manzanita.  It is just one of the places I feel that has it all and is one of only a few places in the world where I don’t get antsy to go somewhere else. I admit that I like to stay active and have a hard time relaxing, I can do both here.

The park has a large campground that has sites for tents as well as big RV’s.  It is clean and well organized, without feeling cramped or over-crowded.  The park is set on a narrow four mile long sand spit with the Pacific Ocean on one side and Nehalem Bay on the other.  Its location gives you easy access to a beautiful stretch of sand beach on one side, with the relative calm of the bay on the other.  The small town of Manzanita is just a  mile or so away with a grocery store and several restaurants.

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On the ocean side there is a long beautiful stretch of Pacific beach that you can have mostly to yourself, especially if you walk south along the water from the campground.  Unlike Cannon Beach to the north, there are no beautiful offshore rocks to see but the upside is that it keeps the crowds away.  Unfortunately, the Pacific can be heard but not quite seen from the campground, but a short walk over some sand dunes leads directly to the water. The beach is one of the cleanest anywhere that I have seen.  Be sure to take a camera when you head down for a sunset, and if you’re lucky maybe you can see one as good as we did.

The bay side is a completely different vibe altogether.  The water is much calmer and has many outdoor activities such as kayaking, fishing, crabbing, and boating.  We were able to do three of the four and had a blast.  While kayaking in the bay we found a few areas with winding, river-like passageways that are more reminiscent of the bayou (sans alligators) than coastal Oregon.  There was also some of the straightforward paddling that you would normally find in a flat and calm bay like this one.

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The narrow channels through the reeds
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Nehalem Bay Kayaking

If you like crabbing but don’t have a boat, nearby is Kelly’s Brighton Marina where you can rent a boat with baited crab traps for a two hour adventure of setting traps, catching Dungeness crabs, and boating around the calm waters of the bay.  We only caught one crab of legal size but it was the crabbing experience itself that made it worth it.  Earlier in the day, when we went out kayaking, we met a couple from Portland who were going to try crabbing from their kayaks, something that would be extremely challenging but immensely rewarding.  We caught up with them later in the day and they had caught a crab just as big as the one we had caught in two hours of crabbing with three traps and two people to haul them in with.  They were very proud of their catch…and should be!

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The days catch, one legal sized Dungeness crab
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The fog made for some challenging navigation to our buoys and to the marina

And last but not least, I love picking blackberries here, anywhere for that matter but especially here.  As with most parts of the Pacific Northwest, they can be found here at Nehalem Bay State Park.  Blackberries straight off the vine taste better than any store bought varieties that I have ever tasted, and that includes organic berries from places like Whole Foods.  The problem with picking blackberries, (if you’ve ever picked them you know what I’m about to say) is that the plant will bite back and often draw blood.  The bush has thorns that grab you and get hooked right into your skin and/or your clothes, but the taste of fresh Oregon blackberries is worth the bloodshed.

So if you are only looking to get wowed by spectacular scenery this isn’t the place, go to Cannon Beach for that. If you want to get close to nature in a relaxing setting, Nehalem Bay State Park is the place for you.  It is definitely the place for me!

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The trail from the beach to the campground
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I MAY HAVE JUST ENCOUNTERED BIGFOOT!

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The eerie but beautiful Oregon Coast Trail

For the record, I don’t believe in folklore legends like the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Headless Horseman, but when I decided to hike a section of the Oregon Coast Trail this summer, I did not expect anything other than some sea mist and tall trees. What I actually came across that day was something that may have challenged those beliefs.

I have watched all of the same documentaries that you have about the legend of the Pacific Northwest, Sasquatch (a.k.a. Bigfoot). As a child, these documentaries terrified me and gave me no desire to ever go into the woods of Washington and Oregon. Seeing the grainy video of Bigfoot walking through a clearing in the trees was enough to give me nightmares.

The section of the Oregon Coast Trail I decided to hike (alone I might add) was in Oswald West State Park, near the town of Manzanita, about a two hour drive from Portland. I was planning an out and back and decided I would turn around when I got tired. So I did an about face and headed back towards the trailhead after two uneventful miles, due to a cold wind and tired legs. As I was descending the overgrown and narrow trail, I heard noises ahead of me that I have never heard before in the forest. Granted, I was in a different part of the country and there are always unique and unfamiliar sounds in the wilds of a different region, but what I heard was what sounded like a baseball bat striking wood, but this didn’t overly concern me. My initial reaction was that there was a black bear ahead of me turning over logs looking for food and/or crashing through the brush, but the sounds didn’t quite match what I could rationalize as being a bear. As I approached the section of the trail where the sounds were at their most intense, I stopped to see if I could see anything moving in the thick underbrush, at this point still expecting a black bear. I saw only thick green vegetation.  After only a few seconds, I heard what sounded like three or four objects being dropped from the trees in different spots. This too did not make sense to me since I could imagine maybe a single pine cone falling from the trees but not three or four in rapid succession. I was very confused about what might be making these sounds. Maybe squirrels were dropping little pine cone bombs onto a bear below them to scare it off? This seemed plausible but not likely.

What happened next was one of a few times in my life that I have literally felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. As I continued looking into the dense forest, an object that looked like a rock came flying out of the thicket and landed about 20 yards away from me. This had an effect on me which I have never had on a hike in my lifetime, it was such a disturbing feeling I couldn’t get to the trailhead and my car quick enough. I hauled ass out of there and made it to my car without further incident and didn’t hear or see anything else, but was still rattled by what transpired.

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So what was it? Maybe it was a bear (but bears don’t throw rocks.) Squirrels can drop things on unsuspecting life on the ground below them but the object that came towards me didn’t fall from a tree. In Colorado, where I live, a mountain biker was killed last year while he biked on a trail near Colorado Springs and the person responsible has not been caught. At the time of this writing, a college student is missing on the same mountain and I hope his disappearance is not related and that he returns safely. It makes me think though that there may be someone that doesn’t want people in the area. So maybe there was someone up there who is trying to scare off hikers because they are getting too close their property, or they don’t like the hikers passing through. Maybe it was someone just having a little fun at my expense? I had just passed two hikers, the only two I saw on the entire hike.

Or maybe it was Bigfoot?

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